The siege of Gaza

Gaza has frequently been referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison, housing about two million inmates. If anyone thought that this was just hyperbolic language, the events of the past week would have put paid to that since Israel was able to instantaneously cut off all food, water, and electricity to everyone living there. That kind of action can only be done with the kind of control that prison authorities have.

The attack by Hamas that killed large numbers of ordinary Israeli people and took many as hostages was a horrendous act that has deservedly been widely condemned. But those of us who are familiar with the history of the region knew that Israel routinely enacts collective punishments and would react to this with disproportionate force, just as it has done in the past. But to cut off the basic elements of existence to two million people, essentially causing an entire population to die slow and painful deaths of thirst and starvation, is an unconscionable act that violates not just the laws of war but the norms of basic human decency.

Immediately after the Hamas attack, several Israeli government spokespersons repeatedly referred to this as their equivalent of the 9/11 attacks and one knew that they were deliberately laying the foundation for rallying American public opinion to their side in anticipation of their carrying out an extreme response, because the 9/11 attacks were used by the US to justify massive attacks that resulted in the deaths of huge numbers of people in many countries, far out of proportion to what the US suffered, using the language of revenge as an excuse. It was clear that Israel was going to use the same rationale for a similar over-reaction. But I did not expect them to seek such an extensive and cruel form of retribution as cutting off food and water to two million people.

As usual, the US political establishment has come down firmly on the side of Israel, using the familiar trope of ‘Israel has every right to defend itself’ , though they never say that ‘Palestinians have every right to defend themselves’ whenever they are under attack.


  1. says

    A difference is that even the nazis didn’t bomb their own death camps. They might have, if they thought of it, but they weren’t, apparently, evil enough.

  2. lanir says

    I guess it’s easier to commit atrocities if your definition of who does and doesn’t get to be a person is somewhat flexible. There seems to be a bit of a competition going on to see who is more ready to write off the biggest group of humans as animals or some other type of non-person.

    The fundamental lesson I learned from the Holocaust and stories of other genocides and even slavery in the US is that it’s a terrible idea to start rewriting the definition of who gets to be people. Whose lives matter. Who gets to have rights. I always thought that pushing back against the idea that a border or someone’s race could be used to exclude them from being a person was the best long term way to keep terrible things like that from happening again.

    I wish Hamas and the Israeli government agreed with me. But they do not.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    ” I did not expect them to seek such an extensive and cruel form of retribution”

    Why on earth not? I’m frankly surprised they haven’t firebombed the people heading south. Mind you, I haven’t seen today’s headlines yet.

  4. jenorafeuer says

    Problem is that Hamas and Israel are basically both in it to ratchet things up right now, because the worse the tension and death rates get, the more the ordinary people at the ground level have no choice but to stick around one of the strongmen if they want to survive.

    I remember a talk where someone described that as the real fundamental difference between ‘terrorist’ and ‘freedom fighter’. A freedom fighter has goals to achieve and will usually be willing to lay down arms once they’ve achieved them and the conflict can end. For terrorists the only goals are terror and the control that terror grants them, so they don’t want the conflict to actually end, because then people will have options.

    What we’re seeing here is basically terrorism and fascism actively supporting and reinforcing each other for their mutual goals of having an enemy to fight and nowhere for the people caught in the middle to go.

  5. Silentbob says

    Here’s where some idiots call me an apologist for terrorism or some such shit:

    The Israeli propaganda depiction of Hamas as brutal terrorists is not so much wrong as only part of the picture.

    Yes, they are brutal, terrorists, rapists. They are also the largest supplier of humanitarian services in Gaza. They see themselves as defending their people against a more brutal oppressor.

    By all means condemn terrorism. Don’t lose sight of the fact countless Palestinians owe their lives to Hamas.

    Hamas developed its social welfare programme by replicating the model established by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. For Hamas, charity and the development of one’s community are both prescribed by religion and to be understood as forms of resistance. In Islamic tradition, dawah (lit. transl. ”the call to God”) obliges the faithful to reach out to others by both proselytising and by charitable works, and typically the latter centre on the mosques which make use of both waqf endowment resources and charitable donations (zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam) to fund grassroots services such as nurseries, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, women’s activities, library services and even sporting clubs within a larger context of preaching and political discussions. In the 1990s, some 85% of its budget was allocated to the provision of social services. Hamas has been called perhaps the most significant social services actor in Palestine. By 2000, Hamas or its affiliated charities ran roughly 40% of the social institutions in the West Bank and Gaza and, with other Islamic charities, by 2005, was supporting 120,000 individuals with monthly financial support in Gaza.

  6. lanir says

    @jenorafeuer: You’re not wrong but I’m not sure that this has the kind of meaning you think it does for this kind of conflict. I agree that some people are pushing things to get worse because the longer there’s uncertainty or terrible things happening the more power they’re given by their own people who are afraid. This is definitely happening on both sides.

    But you can’t build a movement around “give me more power.” It just doesn’t work if you’re the only one getting something out of it. So despite the personal motives of people at the top, even they have to pretend there’s a goal. Or they have no support. The more fearful their people are the less accountability they have when it comes to reaching that goal. But it has to be there and then you’re getting into territory where Overton windows and how accountable leaders are for fulfilling their promises and that’s a whole can of worms none of us can unravel right now.

    But that can of worms is what hope for a resolution looks like. It’s messy and no one likes it but it’s the only path available.

  7. lanir says

    @Silentbob: Yeah, I got the “you’re an antisemite” nonsense, too. For criticisms of Israeli government politics of all things, which they claimed was code for something else but then couldn’t tell me what that something else actually was. I guess it’s easier to pretend it’s a simple situation with black hats and white hats when your chosen side hasn’t been in the headlines lately for doing awful things.

    Humanitarian aid seems like something the Israeli government could choose to do. If everything else was the same it’s not as if that alone would make the people living in Gaza like Israel. But it’s harder to hate people who keep you from starving. That’s why churches do it. It’s PR.

  8. friedfish2718 says

    I am amused by backseat social media generals attempting to defeat Israel by “concern trolling”, by “empathy trolling”. Please, please IDF soldier, do not engage with Hamas!!! Hamas will massacre all of you!!!
    Ah!!! The most celebrated subterraean maze of tunnels!!! Impregnable!!!
    Well, Hamas is now reduced to being rats in the sewer. Hamas will die as rats in the sewer.
    Israel controls the air waves: Internet has been cut. Any Hamas radio and video broadcasts can be and will be jammed.
    Israel controls the air: no more Hamas drones. But, but, but Hamas will bring out missiles from underground and shoot them!!! Yep. 20% of them missiles will land in Gaza, killing their own people (aka Gazans). Already the rate of missile firings has slowed down. Israel is tracking the locations of these missile launches keeping in mind that the tunnel entrances are nearby. Israel is tickling, provoking Hamas to keep firing missiles out of false bravado, to have the missile stocks to be depleted. Overall the missile attacks are doing minor damage to Israel , so in this regard Israel is playing cat to the Hamas rat in the sewer. Also Hamas can no longer use the paragliders. Also Hamas can no longer use kites with explosives/incendiaries.
    Israel controls the sea: all Hamas attempts to infiltrate Israel by scuba divers or boats have failed. and continue to fail. All attempts to break the naval blockade have failed. Will Iran try to break the naval blockade? The 2 American CVBG’s in the Middle East will answer the Iran question. Remember when President Trump had Iranian General Suleimani killed? The American Left screamed: Do not antagonize Iran!!! Trump is taking us to war with Iran!!! Iranian response: silence of the fearful.
    Israel controls materiel inflow in Gaza: all the Egypt-Gaza smuggling tunnels have been closed and many filled with sewer wastes. Israel controls the gates at the Israel-Gaza border. Egypt announced: No Palestinian refugees in Egypt. Hamas is currently forced to cannibalize its own people: the Gazans will be stripped of their funds, food, fuel. Hamas has not, is not, will not share their tunnels with the civilians of Gaza.
    Israel controls the ground In Israel: all tunnels that crossed the border into Israel have been detected and destroyed. On Oct. 7 Hamas was forced to attack above ground (paragliders, blasting out the border fences, drones, missiles) since the tunnel attack route has been negated by Israel.
    Remaining issue: the control of ground inside Gaza. Hundreds of miles of tunnels. Many 1000’s of tunnel entrances (in schools, mosques, clinics, hospitals, private residences, shops, restaurants, etc.). So what? War is not a television gameshow: there is NO time limit in hunting for sewer rats (aka Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, etc.). Time is on the IDF’s side. The IDF is much more aware of the tunnel situation than any Youtube backseat general. Israel will not be dissuaded by the brittle snowflakes at the UN, USA, and EU. The hunt for sewer rats will take months. During these months the food and fuel stores in Gaza will be depleted. Tunnels need ventilation: Israel will control -- slowly at start -- the air intakes. Slowly starve and asphyxiate the sewer rats.
    But, but, but Hamas will have all these snipers!!! And the IDF has its corps of snipers. This is the age of drones. The Hamas drone threat will be negated pretty quickly. To fly drones one has to leave the tunnels and Israel will be playing Whack-A-Mole, well more correctly: Whack-A-Sewer-Rat. This is the age of drones. Swarms of Israeli drones will be scanning buildings and landscapes for suspected IED’s and snipers. This the age of IoT (Internet of Things): the IDF will sow a multitude of sensors throughout Gaza; the IoT technology integrates all the data (Big Data!!! AI!!!) will track many (if not most) of the 2-legged sewer rats scurrying about on the Gaza surface. The hunt for sewer rats is a war of attrition: slowly but surely the surface population of sewer rats will become zero.
    At the end Israel will control the ground (surface, sub-surface) of Gaza.
    What about the gazan civilians? The IDF should vet all military-aged males (fortunately there are no gender-confused gazans). Many IDF members are native Arabic speakers so nothing will be lost in translation. The interrogations will produce much info on locations of tunnel entrances.
    What about the hostages? Unfortunately War is Tragic.
    Will Hamas end up imitating Adolf Hitler’s personal last act? Will there be a “Battle of the Bulge” event, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad committing suicide by IDF? Would Hamas discover woke-ism and become trans-women?

  9. Silentbob says

    @ ^

    Note Holms, the bizarre twist at end. People are very rarely bigots against only one persecuted minority.

  10. Holms says

    Your crusade is very silly. Such a shame your tireless approach never led you to good data on the subject.

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