While attention has largely been focused on other issues, there has been a major escalation in the conflict in Gaza where the Israeli military has used excessive force, including live ammunition, on unarmed demonstrators, killing many. For those who are unaware, Gaza is sometimes referred to as the world’s largest open air prison, a small piece of land blockaded on one side by Israel and the other by Egypt and with the Israeli government intent on punishing the people who live there for the ‘crime’ of electing Hamas as their representatives. This article describes the history of Gaza and how it came to be.
Gaza hospitals, running low on blood and overstretched by the huge number of wounded, were reeling after one of the enclave’s bloodiest days outside of open war, in which Israeli soldiers shot 773 people with live ammunition, according to the ministry of health.
Fifteen of the wounded died, said the ministry spokesperson Dr Ashraf al-Qidra. “Most of the dead were aged between 17 and 35 years old,” he said. “The injuries were on the upper part of the body.” He added that the remainder of the wounded, some of whom were in a critical condition, had been “shot with live ammunition”.
The Israeli government has deployed over 100 snipers to fire on the demonstrators. While the Israeli government has tried to depict the people killed as armed and violent, the facts are different, as this compilation of the names of some of the victims shows.
Philip Weiss says that this latest use of heavy force by Israel has resulted in a public relations debacle for Israel, with criticisms coming from quarters that had tended to be silent before.
Something has shifted in the discourse of Israel since the Friday killings of 17 Palestinian protesters in Gaza, many of them plainly unarmed, by Israeli snipers from across a security fence: the hasbara– Israeli propaganda– is not working.
The country has plainly done something indefensible. The usual defenders are silent, and the criticism from the left/center is stronger than ever. Senator Bernie Sanders’s sharp criticism is actually leading the U.S. discussion of the event.
Mainstream news organizations in the US, usually reluctant to criticize Israel, are now starting to do so and Weiss says that the sheer injustice of what has just been witnessed, including videos of people shot while walking, running, or praying, has silenced those who normally use their media platforms to rush to Israel’s defense.
Why did the dam break and what does it mean?
It happened because the left is applying all the force here, largely through social media; and the rightwing advocates are silent. Bill Kristol, Jeffrey Goldberg and Jennifer Rubin seem to have taken one look at the awful videos from Gaza and, finding the Israeli actions indefensible, turned back to Trump.
It is hugely meaningful: The American Jewish love affair with Israel is over. We are going to see more and more outright signs of the breakup in the discourse and in our politics too in coming years.
Let’s consider the dynamics first. The mainstream editorials appeared only after social media, alt web sites, and human rights groups said emphatically for several days what was plain as the nose on your face: that these were war crimes. And more important, the mainstream spoke after seeing there was no pushback from the Zionist center/right.
The Onion did as much for the narrative as anyone. “Teen On Birthright Trip Hadn’t Expected To See So Many Dead Palestinians,” it mocked. The Onion‘s fictitious young Jew, Sarah Caplan, said she was “surprised that there were so many people her age in the Israeli Defense Forces killing Palestinians.”
The most important element of the reaction to the massacre was the fact that the neocons and rightwing loudmouths were quiet. They know they cannot defend Israel’s conduct, so they sat on their hands. Bill Kristol is silent. Jeffrey Goldberg silent. Jennifer Rubin silent. Bret Stephens silent. Bari Weiss silent. Tamara Cofman Wittes, silent.
The Onion parody is worth quoting in full because it captures the cluelessness of many Americans about the state of affairs in Gaza and the occupied territories. (‘The ‘birthright’ trips mentioned are the highly subsidized and sanitized trips to Israel given to young American Jews in order to build allegiance among them for Israel.)
JERUSALEM—Saying they were pretty hard to miss during her two-week visit to Israel, teenager Sarah Caplan told reporters Monday that she hadn’t expected to see so many dead Palestinians on her Birthright trip. “My friend Kate who came over last year said she noticed a couple, but this is way more dead Palestinians than I ever imagined,” said Caplan, who explained that her tour group was prepared to see a few scattered bodies while driving around the country, but were completely caught off guard when they stumbled on entire groups of dead Palestinians near the Gaza border. “It was cool to see the Western Wall, and we all got to ride camels in the desert, but we still saw a couple bodies there, too. At first you think it’s just this one-time thing and you don’t worry about it, but pretty soon, you realize they are kind of everywhere. They didn’t really mention anything about this during the orientation.” Caplan was also surprised that there were so many people her age in the Israeli Defense Forces killing Palestinians.
Whether this signals a shift from the immunity and protection that Israel usually gets from mainstream US media or is just a temporary phase remains to be seen.