I had hoped to start my first new post for the new year on a positive note, to break away from what has almost become an obsession with political commentary, and get back to writing on all the other topics that this blog’s header promises.
But I have been horrified at the massive destruction that is being inflicted on the people of Gaza and feel compelled to add my own voice in protest. What is currently happening in Gaza can only be called an atrocity. I am not only talking about the air strikes and shelling that has been rained down upon the people of that area in the past weeks, I am also talking about the long standing embargo imposed by Israel that has highly restricted their food, medicine, electricity, water, and other supplies and which has had the effect of slowly destroying the people there. It is an appalling crime, provoking worldwide mass protests.
To understand the conditions in Gaza, one must realize that 1.5 million Palestinians are crammed into just 139 square miles. If Gaza were an independent country, it would have the third largest population density, after Monaco and Singapore. But whereas the other two countries are developed states that enjoy autonomy and have a high standard of living, Gaza is effectively an Israeli prison that controls their borders and has imposed a siege on it that has highly restricted even essential supplies.
Ellen Cantarow describes the appalling situation that existed even before the current massacre.
As Israel nails shut the coffin that is Gaza under a siege that has lasted nearly three years, steadily intensifying so that malnutrition rates rival those of sub-Saharan Africa, sewage runs raw in the streets and pollutes the ocean, homes are still being bulldozed to super-add collective punishment upon collective punishment; men, women and children are still being sniped at and killed; children are deafened by continuing sonic booms, the vast majority of them suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and many of that majority have no ambition other than becoming “martyrs,” Israel in mid-December denied entry to Richard Falk, UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the occupied territories.
As Falk himself noted in his statement about Gaza to the UN (see “Gaza: Silence is not an Option” at The Heathlander and other Internet sites), the Secretary General of the UN, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have all condemned Israel for its monstrous siege. “Karen AbyZayd,” stated Falk, “who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid.”
The Israeli military has even rammed relief boats bringing much needed medical supplies, physicians, and other volunteers.
Johann Hari describes what life in Gaza is like:
To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall – as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 – there is nowhere to hide.
All this was before the current horrifying assault on the defenseless people of Gaza. Even the New York Times, always a dependable and loyal apologist of Israel’s policies against the Palestinians, could not avoid reporting on the scale of the violence that is currently occurring.
There was a shocking quality to Saturday’s attacks, which began in broad daylight as police cadets were graduating, women were shopping at the outdoor market, and children were emerging from school.
The center of Gaza City was a scene of chaotic horror, with rubble everywhere, sirens wailing, and women shrieking as dozens of mutilated bodies were laid out on the pavement and in the lobby of Shifa Hospital so that family members could identify them. The dead included civilians, including several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.
By afternoon, shops were shuttered, funerals began and mourning tents were visible on nearly every major street of this densely populated city.
But even those reporters were pulling their punches. Philip Weiss quotes an eyewitness to the carnage:
People are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The streets are strewn with their bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion…hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.
And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It’s truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine. The floor is filled with blood, the injured are propped up against the walls or laid down on the floor side by side with the dead. Doctors are working frantically…
I am not going to post the photos of the carnage. The words are gruesome enough. This is what is being done by the massively powerful Israeli military against a defenseless population and it is largely underwritten by the US. These are our tax dollars at work.
POST SCRIPT: Election winners and losers
James Wolcott writes a review in his own entertaining style, ending with:
[Sarah Palin is] America’s first and probably last prelapsarian drama queen, a brassy object of fascination whose unsheathing of presidential ambitions and personal entitlement will be breathtaking to behold in the years ahead, akin to watching Godzilla eat breakfast. Well, it beats listening to Joe Lieberman ooze. Aligning himself with the wrong team, having the effrontery to show up grinning on the stage at the Republican convention, Lieberman was the loser’s loser of the 2008 election—in the immortal words of Groucho Marx, Go, and never darken our towels again!
You should read the whole thing.