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Understanding Gaza

As the reports keep coming in about civilian casualties as schools and hospitals keep getting shelled by Israel, here is a more detailed map of Gaza so people can have some idea of where the deaths are occurring. The map also gives more details about the blockade by Israel and the few entry points in and out that has made Gaza into a prison camp.

But such detailed maps can give the misleading idea that Gaza is larger than it actually is. To compensate, I have said that Gaza has roughly the same size and population density as Philadelphia. John Metcalfe has driven home the point about how small the area is by superimposing Gaza onto major American cities.

As Jon Stewart once grimly said, war is how Americans learn geography.

Comments

  1. thewhollynone says

    That’s a pretty good map, and I also read the Vox article it came from, and a linked Vox article about the tunnels and about how the Egyptians have shut down most of the Hamas tunnels into Egypt thereby putting extreme pressure on Hamas because it can’t get resupplied with rockets from Iran and with rocket parts. It seems that Hamas is once again on the wrong side of Egyptian politics. I wonder what would happen if Hamas aimed its rockets at the Egyptian military guarding that border?

  2. says

    Thousands of casualties versus a handful. It’d be a great – but lopsided – military victory, if the victims weren’t civilians.

    Hey, israelis who are so proud of your army: COWARDS!

  3. kenbakermn says

    I’m not going to argue that Israel is sinless in this conflict, but it seems to me the one thing Hamas wants more than anything else, paradoxically, is lots of dead Palestinian civilians. Admittedly, I’m not a scholar of the conflict so I could be blowing smoke, but is Hamas trying to get the rest of the Arab world to support their cause by luring Israel into killing civilians? Would Hamas be above blowing up one of their own schools to make sure there are plenty of pictures of bloody children? And why would Israel be stupid enough to play along? If Hamas really did not want dead Palestinians, wouldn’t they stop firing rockets at an enemy with about 100 times their military strength? Somebody please help me out here.

  4. aashiq says

    There was a truce between Israel and Hamas, and it is Israel that provoked Hamas by breaking this truce and attacking and killing Hamas. This gave Israel the pretext for the current attack on Gaza.

    Why did Israel provoke this war? Because the US indicated its willingness to work with a unity Palestinian govt….Hamas +Fatah. This could have spelt peace, and a requirement that Israel draw borders.

    Israel doesn’t want peace. It clearly wants to annex the West Bank and Jerusalem, and destroy Gaza with war crimes, as it is doing. We are complicit in this plan.

    Shame on those Americans who blindly support Israel.

  5. Mano Singham says

    kenbakermn,

    In the case of asymmetrical warfare where one side has much greater military power than the other, from time immemorial the weaker side has engaged in actions knowing the risk of a reaction, since the only alternative was to do nothing even in the face of massive repression. This has been true since time immemorial but we can look to recent examples.

    Take Vietnam. Why would the NLF challenge the US when they knew that the US would unleash massive actions such as carpet bombing with chemical agents and even massacring entire villages (such as My Lai) killing millions of people? This happened over and over again.

    Or take any other guerrilla war against a government. The weaker side does so because they could see no other way of challenging the superior power. You can find any number of examples in which the government retaliated against its weaker opponent by killing large numbers of people, often indiscriminately, thinking that it would stop the guerrillas. Such polices rarely work.

    But the idea that the weaker side would deliberately kill its own people to garner sympathy is grotesque and must be viewed with deep skepticism until confirmed. Such stories are based on an implicit racism, put out as part of the propaganda narrative by the dominant power to dehumanize their enemy, suggesting that they are so immoral (“Those people are not like us and do not value life as much as we do.”) that they would kill their own people in order to score political points. It is also unnecessary since ruthless governments have no hesitation in killing indiscriminately in response to challenges and the US and Israel are no exceptions, much as they would like to claim that they are.

  6. Anton Mates says

    kenbakermn,

    I’m not going to argue that Israel is sinless in this conflict, but it seems to me the one thing Hamas wants more than anything else, paradoxically, is lots of dead Palestinian civilians.

    I’m not seeing it. The one thing Hamas wants more than anything else is to end the occupation. Clearly they think this is worth a high civilian body count, either because the occupation leads to constant civilian mortality anyway (which it does) or because it’s worth some civilians dying if the rest can live free. Feel free to criticize that attitude, but there’s no reason to think that they just enjoy having corpses scattered around their neighborhoods.

    And really, how is Hamas supposed to fight a war in a way that doesn’t endanger civilians? Smush almost two million people into an area the size of Detroit, and you severely constrain their military options. Hamas doesn’t have the space or the manpower or the money to build a bunch of military installations at “safe” distances from the rest of Gaza.

    is Hamas trying to get the rest of the Arab world to support their cause by luring Israel into killing civilians? Would Hamas be above blowing up one of their own schools to make sure there are plenty of pictures of bloody children?

    Honestly, why would they need to? That’s a lot of work and guilt for the payoff of boosting Israel’s apparent body count from “several hundred” to “several hundred and change.” Pictures of bloody children are not hard to come by in Gaza, and it’s not like the Arab world needs further convincing that Israel’s willing to kill civilians.

    I doubt it would work anyway. Gazans can recognize different types of bombs by sound at this point. Unless you credit Hamas with enough conspiracy mojo to fake the moon landings, I don’t think they could demolish a hospital themselves and convincingly frame Israel for it.

    And why would Israel be stupid enough to play along?

    1) Because Israel, like Hamas, considers massive civilian casualties to be an acceptable side effect of achieving its military goals

    2) Because Israel expects the Arab world to despise it anyway

    3) Because Israel trusts in its “This is all Hamas’ fault for not moving the civilians out of the way” rationale to blunt criticism from the nations it does care about

    Pick any or all of the above.

    If Hamas really did not want dead Palestinians, wouldn’t they stop firing rockets at an enemy with about 100 times their military strength?

    No, because that’s how rebellions and insurrections work? Slaves and peasants have revolted throughout history, despite having far less military strength than their masters, and taking far more casualties.

    When the powerless rebel against the powerful, they expect to suffer for it. They also expect their friends, relatives and neighbors to suffer for it, because the powerful usually retaliate in a fairly indiscriminate manner. That doesn’t mean the weaker side wants massive retaliation to occur; it simply accepts that outcome as unavoidable. (Again, you can certainly criticize that moral choice, but Hamas is not unusual in making it.)

  7. md says

    The one thing Hamas wants more than anything else is to end the occupation.

    Anton,
    Israel’s occupation of Gaza ended in 2005. Hamas has run Gaza since 2007.

  8. Holms says

    md, I don’t think Anton is saying that they want the settlers out of just the Gaza strip, so much as the Palestinian Mandate region altogether. Or at least, since they have variously entertained the idea of a two state solution, they want and end to Israeli oppession of Gaza even if Israel remains.

  9. Anton Mates says

    md,

    Israel’s occupation of Gaza ended in 2005. Hamas has run Gaza since 2007.

    To quote a UN report:

    “Israel remains an occupying Power in respect of Gaza. Arguments that Israel ceased its occupation of Gaza in 2005 following the evacuation of its settlements and the withdrawal of its troops take no account of the fact that Israel retains effective control over Gaza by means of its control over Gaza’s external borders, airspace, territorial waters, population registry, tax revenues and governmental functions. The effectiveness of this control is emphasized by regular military incursions and rocket attacks.”

    Also, as Holms says, “occupation” generally refers to the entire Palestinian territories. Even if Israel genuinely relinquished control of Gaza, the occupation continues as long as it retains full control over much of the West Bank.

  10. aashiq says

    The occupation of Gaza has NOT ended. Israel controls the entire perimeter. This is why the Turkish ship was attacked.

    What Hamas and Fatah want is a unified Palestinian state. What Israel increasingly wants is a Jewish only state where non Jews have inferior rights. Tel Aviv is such a place, it is rare to see any Palestinians, they have been “removed”.

    Israel doesn’t draw borders because it intends to keep expanding until its borders can officially include the West Bank and Jerusalem, so that the ethnic cleansing (of the Tel Aviv type) can be accelerated. The only thing holding it back is global pushback, and what is providing cover is the US, guided by the Israel lobby.

    This makes the Palestinians expendable irritants. Note that neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Jordan are fine with this approach by Israel…which pays the part of victim while victimizing.

  11. kenbakermn says

    Mano and Anton, thanks for the response and insights. Just to clarify one point, I wouldn’t suggest that Palestinians generally, or that all members of Hamas, want a large body count. That would indeed be grotesque and racist to consider, as Mano said. But I don’t think it’s impossible that there could be elements within Hamas radical enough to consider it. I could be wrong, and probably am.

  12. thewhollynone says

    At #12, aashiq, I agree with you that Israel wants all the land up to and including the Jordan River; they would take the eastern bank of the Jordan if they could get it. That land overlies an aquifer of fresh water which Israel absolutely needs to control. There is also the question of defensible borders. The possible promise of a two-state solution has simply become a delaying tactic used by the Israelis until they become strong enough and have a good enough excuse to expel most of the Palestinians who are resistant to living in an Israeli state.

  13. Anton Mates says

    kenbakermn,

    But I don’t think it’s impossible that there could be elements within Hamas radical enough to consider it.

    I think you’re correct. Marwan Qawasmeh’s faction probably qualifies–that’s the rogue Hamas branch that abducted and murdered the three Israeli teenagers. I’m pretty sure they see even the rest of Hamas as traitors and collaborationists, and would consider it a net plus if a large body count caused Palestinians to rise up and intensify their resistance.

    I suspect the same thing is true on the Israeli side, though. There are factions of the Likud who see the Israeli settlers in Palestine as “civilian warriors,” sacrificing their comfort and security to strengthen Israel’s claim to the occupied terriories. Those guys also find it convenient when settlers are killed or injured, since this can be used to whip up Israeli anger–as we saw with the three teens.

    So anytime you’re wondering, “Why does Hamas keep putting civilians in harm’s way?”, maybe also ask, “Why does Israel keep putting civilians in harm’s way by having them live in freaking Palestine?” To a large degree, both questions have the same answer. (And to the degree that the answers differ, I don’t think Israel comes out looking more justified.)

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