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Inside Gaza
November 4, 2009 10:04 PM   Subscribe

"Every opportunity for peace in the Middle East has been led to slaughter" Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker writes about the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip nearly eleven months ago, talking to Palestinians, Israelis and aid workers. Political context combined with incredibly saddening everyday civilian life.
posted by smoke (45 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ugh, New Yorker has not been cheezburgered, typo wholly mine.
posted by smoke at 10:08 PM on November 4, 2009


Only one comment?
posted by delmoi at 12:23 AM on November 5, 2009


It's a long article. Getting there.
posted by Ritchie at 12:30 AM on November 5, 2009


Well, now that I've finished it, I can't think of anything intelligent to say. What a nightmare situation they have to live with.
posted by Ritchie at 1:14 AM on November 5, 2009


The idea that a single captive soldier can justify putting an entire people under siege is just abhorrent. Israel is keeping 1.5 million people, half of them under age 18, in a de facto prison
posted by crayz at 2:03 AM on November 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Brave man smoke. Those who wish to shut this conversation down will soon be charging in here shouting. Both sides are guilty but
Israel continues to do itself no favors at home or abroad with among other things it's mistreatment of Palestinian Child Prisoners (pdf), or the proliferation of illegal settlements, many funded by foreign millionaires.
Few reporters have access to Gaza . Amira Hass is one; she writes for Haaeretz, has lived in Gaza for several years and has recently received the International Women's Media Foundation lifetime achievement award.
For those who want to keep track of I/P from a different perspective from msm / Likud may I suggest the Israeli Occupation Archive.
posted by adamvasco at 3:06 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that a single captive soldier can justify putting an entire people under siege is just abhorrent.

Did you miss the bit about the rockets?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:24 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Must resist getting involved... too late.

Did you miss the bit about the rockets?

Sigh. Let's consider the recent invasion of Gaza.
Take a look at this chart.

The rocket attacks basically stopped during the quasi-ceasefire, then started up again after Israeli troops attacked and killed 6 Palestinians inside Gaza. If the Israelis were serious about peace and stopped expanding into Palestinian territory, there would be a significant chance of a real solution.

I wrote quite a lot more initially, but I'm holding back. Don't want to get into another argument on this topic and ruin the possibility of a decent thread.
posted by knapah at 3:38 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


If there's one thing I've learned about people over the years it is that their own suffering will almost always seem to them to be greater than that of the person next to them. The Palestinians suffer. The Israelis suffer. We sit at a comfortable distance and attempt to draw up a ledger to determine who has the worst of it. In a way, this is our special idiocy. They don't need to quantify and compare suffering. They know. And they will be recompensed.

I don't ever see it ending, to be honest, unless one side ends up dying out completely. No reconciliation in my lifetime, of that I'm certain.

Hamas is exactly what the Palestinians don't need, but if Fatah had had their house in order Hamas might never have been elected. But even so, what mentality is it that elects a gang of tyrannical thugs and murderers in place of thieves and swindlers? How could people be so stupid?
posted by Ritchie at 3:46 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


What the Middle East needs is a serious and credible politician with a world standing to be a peace envoy who can knock heads together and get all the involved parties round the negotiating table. And preferably chain them there until they come up with an agreement.

What it got was Tony Blair, who seems to be content to fit flying visits there in between his speaking tours, his JP Morgan directorship and his campaign to be President of Europe and Emperor of the Universe. And isn't exactly popular in some parts of the region.
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:51 AM on November 5, 2009


what mentality is it that elects a gang of tyrannical thugs and murderers in place of thieves and swindlers? How could people be so stupid?

The reason HAMAS has so much support, particularly in Gaza, is because it provides substantial welfare and social services to the people. It funds schools, clinics, food provision, sports, orphanages, day care, youth clubs, scholarships, rubbish collection, etc. etc.
posted by knapah at 4:03 AM on November 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and the fact that it is perceived as able to stand up to the Israelis. Unlike Fatah, who are commonly perceived to be ineffective at protecting Palestinians or their interests.
posted by knapah at 4:04 AM on November 5, 2009


Yes, but Hamas also supports the removal of rights from women, as well as the indoctrination of children and youth into a particularly twisted world-view via its schools, TV programming, and extra-curricular activities. They also kidnap, imprison, torture, and murder other Palestinians. They are toxic waste. They are criminals. No sane person would ever vote for them, no matter how regular the garbage pick-up.
posted by Ritchie at 4:22 AM on November 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have reached complete Israel/Palastine apathy. It is a problem that will never be solved.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:33 AM on November 5, 2009


In a nutshell, Israel's tactics are similar to why you don't always want the most aggressive lawyer in a divorce. Sure, you get to keep the house and the assets, but your kids never speak to you again and most of your former friends judge you to be a bit of a shit.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:35 AM on November 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


...No sane person would ever vote for them, no matter how regular the garbage pick-up.

To imply that the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for Hamas are insane is to do them an almighty injustice.

I don't deny that they have a rather less tolerant view of women's rights than I do, (although in Gaza women are allowed to be lawyers, doctors, etc. and it is only recently that Hamas have been seen as pushing strict interpretations of Islamic dress code*) and that they have certain elements of propaganda in their schools and television programming (although, which country doesn't? The UK recruits child soldiers in schools for example**). And Fatah have also been involved in the kidnapping, imprisonment, torture and murder of other Palestinians.

No doubt they could conform much more to my idea of a successful Palestinian social movement, but to suggest that their supporters are insane betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation in Palestine.

* I am not suggesting that this makes them perfect or that it nullifies criticism.
** I am not suggesting moral equivalency, merely that we should attempt to understand the position that they are in.
posted by knapah at 4:48 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I might be totally off base but I'm pretty sure that this conflict is changing antisemitism in Europe. Traditional stereotypes of the jew is replaced by ones that people like to give the arabs. It's like there is this unified racist theory about everyone in the middle east being murderous and fanatical. The jews are just arabs with more guns and funnier hats. Something like that.

Not sure where I'm going with this but I think anti Israeli sentiments in Europe will rise together with the general racism directed towards muslims over here. Most Americans fail to to see this and probably most Israelis too.
posted by uandt at 4:59 AM on November 5, 2009


I liked the quote about how Palestine has lost all its wise men. War is a process, you could say, in which the wise men are all killed off.
posted by Hobbacocka at 5:00 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


The rocket attacks basically stopped during the quasi-ceasefire, then started up again after Israeli troops attacked and killed 6 Palestinians inside Gaza.

Six Hamas fighters guarding a secret tunnel into Israeli territory, not six random Palestinians. But that's just an argument about responsibility for the current state of war. Hamas is at war with Israel, right? The rocket attacks continue.

If the Israelis were serious about peace and stopped expanding into Palestinian territory, there would be a significant chance of a real solution.

The attacks are coming from Gaza, an area from which Israel withdrew. I don't believe Israel is presently expanding its borders either officially or unofficially, but in any event Hamas has not linked its attacks to Israeli settlement activity.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:03 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


All you need to know about the situation in Gaza can be easily found out, simply by looking at it on Google Earth. The lush green parts dotted with little houses that look like wealthy American suburia, that's the Israelis settlements and their golf courses. the parts that look like massive rubbish heaps shoved between the patches of green, well, I'll let you figure out what those are.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:31 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pollomacho, there are no Israeli settlements in Gaza. I don't think there are any golf courses there either.

There are only two golf courses in Israel itself. It seems that Israelis don't play much golf. So if there were an Israeli settlement in Gaza it probably would not have a golf course. It might have a basketball court; I understand that Israelis like basketball. But this is a theoretical question, because there are no Israeli settlements in Gaza.

Perhaps you would like to retract your claim that "All you need to know about the situation in Gaza can be easily found out, simply by looking at it on Google Earth"? If it misleads you on the subject of settlements and golf courses it may mislead you on other things, too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:50 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Israelis occasionally elect leaders that actually want peace, occasionally. I'm sure the Palestinians will eventually elect leaders that actually want peace too. But the Hamas won the most recent elections fair & square. So Hamas has all the legitimacy they need to carry on fighting. And that gives Israel all the legitimacy it needs to carry on fighting.

I think it's a mistake to judge either side too harshly while Hamas is in power. Americans certainly have no right to complain about the Palestinian people after giving the world 8 years of Bush. Conversely, Israel cannot be expected to treat a hostile neighboring nation with kid gloves.

Otoh, you can still bitch about U.S. military aid flowing into the middle east, but that's more about who you elect in the U.S.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Golf courses in Gaza? Where'd you pull that nugget of ignorance from?
posted by PenDevil at 6:25 AM on November 5, 2009


The UK recruits child soldiers in schools for example

wat
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2009


Ritchie: "what mentality is it that elects a gang of tyrannical thugs and murderers in place of thieves and swindlers?"

Suggestion for further research.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:40 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice to see the regulars coming out.

Yes there are two "sides" - Israel and "Palestine"... but only ONE of those parties has any real control over the situation. I learned the essense of asymmetrical warfare from my little brother - no matter how much I pummeled him, he'd still fight with all means available, fair or foul. Only the big brother can end the hostilities.

I do believe that the world has failed Israel in that there is no international appetite to give Israel a solid guarantee of protection from anti-Israeli groups, let alone provide truly neutral peace-keeping services. Nonetheless, with the US's backing, I believe Israel is content with the status quo - for the price of a standing army and a few rocket hits, they have complete control of the situation, they can act as they wish, and they can solidify and complete the annexation of occupied areas as they alone desire. yay real-politik.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:40 AM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


hamas was elected because, rightly or wrongly, they were credited for getting the settlements out of gaza. the gaza pullout was a brilliant bit of electioneering by sharon.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:43 AM on November 5, 2009


Meanwhile, the US House decides to cover its ears and shout.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:53 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do believe that the world has failed Israel in that there is no international appetite to give Israel a solid guarantee of protection from anti-Israeli groups, let alone provide truly neutral peace-keeping services.

i doubt the israelis trust the outside world enough to allow neutral peace-keeping services
posted by pyramid termite at 7:02 AM on November 5, 2009


The UK recruits child soldiers in schools for example

Inspector Gadget: wat

I was being slightly facetious, but I was talking about the cadets. Kids from about 12 to 18 are involved I believe, and of course the Ministry of Defence do say "there is absolutely no pressure for cadets to follow military careers."
posted by knapah at 7:14 AM on November 5, 2009


Artful Codger: "Nice to see the regulars coming out.

Yes there are two "sides" - Israel and "Palestine"... but only ONE of those parties has any real control over the situation. I learned the essense of asymmetrical warfare from my little brother - no matter how much I pummeled him, he'd still fight with all means available, fair or foul. Only the big brother can end the hostilities.
"

To complete the analogy, the Middle East situation is as if your mother was encouraging you to beat up your little brother - giving you brass knuckles to do so and keeping a generous allowance flowing to you as you made use of them.

If your mother cut off your allowance until you stopped beating him up, you would find a way to make peace very quickly.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:23 AM on November 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


The Goldstone Standard

Full Report (PDF)
posted by Burhanistan at 7:37 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm always somewhat baffled by how many people feel it necessary to take sides in this conflict. Whichever side you choose to support, people are dying in droves, both Palestinians and Israelis. To support either one against the other is to take sides with death. You can support the people of Gaza and the West Bank without being a Hamas supporter and you can support the people of Israel without defending the actions of the Israel Defense Forces. It is not a binary issue.
posted by Kattullus at 9:14 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I learned the essense of asymmetrical warfare from my little brother - no matter how much I pummeled him, he'd still fight with all means available, fair or foul

Indeed. Just like the Native Americans got some settlers' scalps. We still don't look back at that situation and use a "cycle of violence" analysis to understand what was happening

The oppressors in any situation have the power to stop the violence or continue it if it serves their purposes. Looking at the body counts makes it pretty obvious who's who in this situation
posted by crayz at 9:14 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the article:
Only one television station broadcasts from Gaza, Al Aqsa—a Hamas-backed channel that gained notice last year for a children’s show featuring a Mickey Mouse-like figure who was stabbed to death by an Israeli interrogator. The mouse was replaced by a talking bee, who died after being unable to cross into Egypt for medical treatment. The rabbit who followed the bee passed away in January, after being struck by shrapnel from an Israeli attack.
That show was discussed previous on MeFi (I think that there was another thread about it too, but I couldn't find it).

One a less serious note, I kinda wish the children's television I had growing up had been that crazy. I certainly would've enjoyed it more, even if I'd grown up a scarred and twisted hulk of a man. But sometimes a little future sacrifice is worth having one's mind expanded.

Also, I wonder what they'll do next? My money's on a turtle with a broken shell that gets poisened with polonium by scurrilous Fatah politicians.

posted by Kattullus at 9:23 AM on November 5, 2009


serious question here:

What if the Israeli government went overboard in terms of rebuilding Gaza (and the West Bank)? You know, bombard the Palestinians with food, medical supplies, building supplies while maintaining close watch on the smuggling of weapons?

And I'm talking about rebuilding big-time - to the point where food is literally piling up in the streets, everyone is living in near luxury, everyone has access to running water, education, TVs, ipods, internet, cars, the works.

My theory is that when people have a good enough life, they no longer become desparate and no longer feel that desparate acts are the only way out.

Look, Israel built the wall because they want to keep out the bad people - unfortunately, the good people got locked out too. Supplies continue to be scarce, people dug tunnels to get supplies, but weapons also were smuggled through. People became desparate for supplies, food, water, medicine. And when one is desparate, one is more willing to do desparate things, because there's nothing left to live for.

And Hamas loves this. If Israel is like the abusive parent or older sibling, Hamas is like the the pimp or drug dealer or mafia don - takes your side, defends you, gives you what you need to survive. It's only natural to show some loyalty.

So let Israel replace all the good things Hamas does with it's own acts of kindness. I'm sure they're doing some to start, but back to my original point, they should overdo it - heck give more to Palestine than they do to their own citizens.

If all Palestinians had a good life with enough food, running water, solid buildings, perhaps the feeling would eventually be that violence isn't necessary - life is worth living.

Is this possible? Is it plausible? To make your enemy richer than you? To give your enemy a better life than you? So rich and so better that they no longer care to hate you anymore?
posted by bitteroldman at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2009


Pollomacho, there are no Israeli settlements in Gaza.

How strange that there would be all those vast empty tracks of land complete with suburban style streets called settlements with Hebrew names all over Gaza?

Joe, they pulled the settlers out in 2005. They did not hand the 21 settlements over to the Palestinians. The settlements are still there. The Palestinians still sit in camps. It might help if you actually went and looked at Google Earth as I suggested before you call me a moron.

Golf courses in Gaza? Where'd you pull that nugget of ignorance from?

Clearly, my ass.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Brought to you by the makers of new and improved Palastainout! ethnic cleansing products, now with added Phosphorus.
posted by hortense at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2009


I just can't grasp how the US can possibly justify giving any military or other aid to Israel at all, given the current state of affairs. And if the issue is that people in Congress have unconditional Israeli allegiance, why are they serving in our government? I think Israel needs to stand or fall based on the justice of their policies. If they adopt some humility and suffer for it, we should come to their aid, and they will have world sympathy in much the same way the US did right after 9/11.

I should say also that I'm an atheist and have little sympathy for foreign policy driven by people who are slaves to religious or cultural dogma (on either side). It makes me very sad that children and other innocents have to pay for the childish, myopic behavior of supposed adults. As you might expect, this means that most encounters with the world news cause me to become extremely grumpy.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:29 PM on November 5, 2009


they pulled the settlers out in 2005. They did not hand the 21 settlements over to the Palestinians. The settlements are still there.

With respect, there are so many misconceptions in your post that I don't know where to start.

The Israelis are out of Gaza. I have no idea who is living in the former Israeli settlements, but it's not the Israelis. The Wikipedia page you linked to says that the former Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim is now a campus of Al-Aqsa university. This is a Palestinian university, not an Israeli one.

The Palestinians still sit in camps.

Some of the Gazan Palestinians live in refugee camps. Many more live in cities, towns, or rural areas. The green things you see on the map are Palestinian farms.

It might help if you actually went and looked at Google Earth as I suggested before you call me a moron.

I don't think you're a moron.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:50 PM on November 5, 2009


At a time when Israel was pounding on Gaza and Fatah was doing nothing at all, Hamas went in and set themselves up as, well, the government. They got jobs for people, created their own social services, provided food and shelter to people who didn't have it- they basically provided the services that people needed and weren't getting. If you've never had nothing- if you've never wondered, seriously, if you'll still exist at the end of the day- it's hard to understand just how powerful that is. I know pretty much my entire brain kind of screams at the concept. But while I might be able to sit here in the US and go "Are you crazy? Don't you know who Hamas are? Don't you know what they believe?", I don't have to worry that my home is going to be destroyed with me in it because the Israelis chose the moment a Hamas leader was driving by it to drop a missile on him.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:04 PM on November 5, 2009


Bill Moyers talks with Justice Richard Goldstone, who headed up the controversial UN Human Rights Council investigation into fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm always somewhat baffled by how many people feel it necessary to take sides in this conflict. Whichever side you choose to support, people are dying in droves, both Palestinians and Israelis. To support either one against the other is to take sides with death.

Maybe because the U.S. sends billions of dollars one side, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars to the other.
posted by delmoi at 9:17 PM on November 5, 2009


I have no idea who is living in the former Israeli settlements, but it's not the Israelis.

No one. No one is living in the settlements. They sit empty while the camps are overcrowded squalor. I'm not saying to check it out as an indictment specifically of the Israelis or Zionism or America's continued support for the madness or any other culprit, no, the whole damn place is completely screwed up. Here're just some of the truly screwed up things about Gaza actually visible from a quick tour on Google Earth:

- The sparkling new high-tech Arafat International airport the world sunk tens of millions of dollars into building that was then promptly bombed by the Israelis.

- The whole notion that people wouldn't get at all ticked off if you just move right in and build an Orthodox Jewish version of Orange County complete with luxury beach resort on the olive groves their family farmed since before the life of Brian while they live in a concrete box with no running water next door.

- That the former Orange County still sits empty while people are stacked in refugee camps because the Palestinian "government" hasn't or is too corrupt or is too divided or hasn't really cleared up ownership to figure out what to do with it and can't much anyway because any infrastructure that could be carried off has been carried off (I wonder what happened to all that irrigation piping? Oh, there it goes now!).

- The notion that you can just build a wall to shut out your problems in a global world and the angry, teeming hoards on the other side won't still find a way to try to kill you.

I mean, really, am I missing something in that? You can see it all right there before your eyes without a slanted journalist (slanted in any direction) telling you what you should be seeing. It's like that old move the Snake Pit where they slowly pan up and out of the insane asylum!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:21 AM on November 6, 2009


Pollomacho, you previously claimed that there were Israelis in the Gaza Strip, living in settlements with golf courses. You said that you got your information from Google Earth. Surely you now acknowledge that you were wrong.

I suggest that you not make any further claims based on Google Earth that depend on (a) an assumption that its photos are current; (b) that you can tell the difference between Israelis and Palestinians from a virtual height of some hundreds of feet; (c) that your casual reading of a photograph is a substitute for actual reports made by people and institutions based in the area. Because - and I'm still not calling you a moron - you're so obviously, flagrantly, embarrassingly wrong that you're probably scaring away people who actually know what they're talking about and who might have something interesting to say.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:29 AM on November 7, 2009


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