The massacre of Gaza

Just over two weeks ago, a rocket fired by radical Palestinian militants killed an Israeli citizen. The rocket was fired from inside the Gaza Strip, the most crowded and defiant of Israel’s Arab reservations. It killed someone outside the strip. This was wrong, of course.

Israel responded with a full-scale military assault that quickly killed more than 300 Palestinians. It kept bombing the Gaza Strip for two weeks, and shows no sign of letting up. As of today, more than 800 men, women, and children have died, and another 3,300 have been injured. The entire population of one and a half million is living under the threat of attack by fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, or the army.

This is wrong, of course.

Correction: It would be wrong if any nation but Israel were doing it.

Israel is the Holy Land. Israel is the Mideast’s only democracy. Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. A living rebuke to the Nazi Holocaust. The little country that smashed a dozen or so Arab armies all by itself, so we’re told. Israel is David, and the Arabs are Goliath.

These are the Chosen People we’re talking about here. Criticize them, and you support the Nazis and anti-Semites who tried to wipe them out. Fail to support them, and you support the terrorists who hate our way of life. Question Israel’s actions, and you question the God who gave them this land. It’s all in the Bible.

Nevertheless, about two hundred of us gathered downtown today to protest Israel’s attacks and call for an end to the killing. It must be said that most of these were from Muslim families and were already convinced of the justice of the cause. The most enthusiastic of all were the teenagers and young adults, Muslims born and raised in the United States — proud of their right to express their views, but frustrated with a government that backs Israel and its ethnic cleansing policies without condition.

We were told that the U.S. House of Representatives just passed a resolution in support of Israel’s actions, with only five votes cast in opposition. Another $3 million of military aid has also been authorized. The massacre in Gaza has Uncle Sam’s seal of approval. Taken solely in political terms, it is an impressive show of Israel’s almost unassailable position in American politics. For the incoming Obama administration, it is the equivalent of a warning shot across the bow. The State of Israel is showing the president-elect how much it can get away with.

Gaza was already “the largest prison on earth,” according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Israel “disengaged” from Gaza in 2005, dismantling Jewish settlements and withdrawing military forces. But Israel retained control of Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and the election of Hamas in 2006 brought punitive actions from governments that had promised at first to support the weak Palestinian economy. This was followed by fighting between Hamas and its political rival, Fatah, which now controls the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has always been a bad joke, but the Israelis require that we take it seriously.

The PA can be compared to the “Bantu homelands” set up by the racist apartheid government of South Africa. In both cases, the world was supposed to believe that the ruling government had made a generous concession to the aspirations of a lesser people who, for some reason or another, could not be allowed to fully participate in the national government. It was a bid to maintain ethnic rule, to shore up the rulers’ claim of inherent superiority, and to control a subject population while disclaiming any responsibility for their security or welfare. Gaza cannot even feed itself, but that’s not Israel’s fault, of course. Blame it on Hamas, or on Islam, or on Arab inferiority, depending on what your audience is receptive to.

Gaza is a prison where the guards are never wrong.

Once the separation barrier around the West Bank is completed, Israel will have built a second, even larger prison. This is one reason why talk of peace gets nowhere. Why should prison guards negotiate peace terms with prisoners?

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