Here we see Israelis in Sderot – the chief target of the homemade bombs which we are told are the cause of the current ravaging of Gaza. These Hamas "terror bombs" are so frighteningly powerful and destructive that no response against them can be "disproportionate," we are told by Israeli and American leaders; everything is justified in "retaliation," including the complete destruction of the social, civic and physical infrastructure of an entire human community, and the killing and terrorizing of innocent people. It's those homemade bombs falling on Sderot, you see; they are such an overwhelming, ever-present, inescapable threat.
So threatening, in fact, that some of the Israelis in this picture drove down to Sderot from Jerusalem to sit out in the open air – on a hilltop – in plain sight of the Gaza village from which many of the rockets have been launched, and calmly sip Pepsi as they watch the military action taking place not two miles away. Shouldn't "terror" be made of sterner stuff? Especially terror which merits the widespread slaughter and suffering of innocent people? Could there possibly be some – how to put it? – disconnection between the stated cause of the military action and its true purpose?
McClatchy Newspapers relates a tale of two cities in an excellent piece on the suprisingly calm, unthreatened, unfrightened folk of Sderot – and the hell of innocent families two miles away in Beit Hanoun. Some excerpts below:
A tower of white smoke rose from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun after another Israeli bombardment Monday morning, and a half-dozen Israelis, perched on a dusty hilltop, gazed at the scene like armchair military strategists.
Avi Pilchick took a long swig of Pepsi and propped a foot on the plastic patio chair he'd carried up the hillside to watch the fighting. "They are doing good," Pilchick, 20, said of Israeli forces battling Palestinian militants in Gaza, "but they can do more."
Somewhere in Beit Hanoun, Ashraf El-Masri's family cowered in their concrete tenement home, their neighborhood surrounded by Israeli soldiers. El-Masri said that five residents had been killed by Israeli shelling that morning, and the blasts had traumatized the youngest of his nine children into a terrified silence...
On the hilltop overlooking Beit Hanoun, Pilchick squinted into the sharp sunlight. He'd taken time off from his job at a foreign exchange bureau in Jerusalem and driven down to Sderot with a friend on Saturday, the day the ground operation opened...Sderot residents — some of them carrying binoculars — have gathered on the hilltop since the offensive began for a glimpse of the fighting...
In their darkened home in Beit Hanoun, Ashraf El-Masri's children were in utter distress. No one has stepped outside since Israeli ground forces entered the town Saturday night, and more Israeli shelling awakened them Monday morning, including a strike on a nearby mosque.
El-Masri's 12-year-old son, Abdelatif, has suddenly begun to wet the bed. His 10-year-old, Ahmad, a talented soccer player and popular kid in the neighborhood, spends the days hiding in a corner of the room where the whole family now sleeps. Four-year-old Mahmoud, usually a nonstop talker, is barely saying a word...
This harrowing of innocent children and their families is not confined to Beit Hanoun, of course, as the Guardian reports in "Besieged families flee homes for shelter under UN flag":
Mahmoud Khalil looked around the classroom and decided the safest place for his children was under the desks. UN officials had reassured the father of five he and his family would be protected by the large blue and white flag flying above the UN-run school turned refugee shelter. But with the sound of large explosions on the edge of Jabaliya refugee camp, just north of Gaza City, and his children still terrified from the trauma of their escape, Khalil was taking no chances.
"They will kill us anywhere. If they can bomb the mosque, if they can kill small children, if they can blow up our parliament, why should they care if they bomb this school? They don't care what the United Nations thinks. They don't care what the whole world thinks," he said, when reached by telephone....
"God willing, [the desks] will protect them," he said. "They are terrified after what they have seen. Explosions near our house. Everybody running away. The Israelis dropped leaflets and said on the radio we must all get out or they will kill us because they are going to bomb our houses."
But where to flee? In other conflicts refugees move across borders or to quieter regions. But Gaza's 1.5 million residents are trapped behind the long Israeli fence, dotted with machine gun posts and watchtowers, that makes their home a prison. There is no way out.
But of course, all of this suffering is worth it, if it makes the audience sitting on the open hill in terrorized Sderot feel a little bit better. [Not that the Israeli assault has stopped the homemade rocket fire -- but then, it was never intended to do that. The Israeli power structure doesn't want to do that, any more than the Washington power structure wants to end, or even "win," the "War on Terror." After all, if the "terror" ends, what will happen to all those groovy "anti-terror" powers -- and the even groovier gravy of unlimited war pork?]
But yes, we all certainly want Israeli yuppies to feel comfortable as they sip soft drinks and watch children being traumatized and terrorized a couple of miles away. So this kind of thing is also worth it (from Reuters, via Antiwar.com):
The three little children lying on the floor of the overcrowded morgue looked like sleeping dolls.
"Get up, boy, get up" cried the weeping father, who lost a total of 13 close relatives when an Israeli shell hit his house east of Gaza City. "Please get up. I am your dad and I need you," he implored helplessly.
The oldest was 4 years old. Their mother was killed too.
Mourning is also dangerous in Gaza.
Jaber Abdel-Dayem was watching over the body of a nephew, a paramedic killed in an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza Strip. "We were sitting in the mourning tent when suddenly they bombed us, we ran to rush the casualties to hospital but they bombed again," he said. He did not really know if it was bombing or tank fire. Medics said three people were killed and 17 wounded.
Abdel-Dayem stood beside their bodies. "Those include my son, my nephew, my cousin. Oh God," he cried as tears started from his eyes.
"Please get up. I am your dad and I need you." Oh yes, that child's death -- and many, many, many, many more -- are worth it to keep the open-air, comfy-chaired Pepsi drinkers from feeling so threatened that they can, er, sit out in the open air in comfy chairs and drink Pepsi in the face of the, uh, overwhelming threat that terrorizes them beyond all reckoning. Yes, yes, yes, worth every drop of blood.
And yes, of course, it is wonderfully wise of Barack Obama to remain steadfastly silent in the face of this suffering. Our progressives tell us that he is being so marvelously cagey and politic, that he is hoarding his political capital now in order to bring real hope and change to the Mid-East as soon as he dons the imperial purple.
Over at Huffington Post, that hotbed of steely-eyed progressive realism, human rights lawyer Lisa Gans assures us that Obama's silence at the mass murder of children in Gaza is actually maybe probably an implicit criticism of Bush's support for the invasion. And in fact, the whole invasion itself could well be due to Israel's "sophisticated" understanding of U.S. politics: they knew that Obama would never ever let them get away with a stunt like this, so they pulled the trigger while Bush was still in office.
Why, in fact, this whole kerfuffle, this whole little spot of bother, the death of those little children who won't get up for their grieving father, could well be a blessing in disguise for "those hoping that the U.S. might once again provide moral leadership in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," says Lisa Gans, who is not only a human rights lawyer but a member of the Council on Foreign Relations too, so she is a very serious person who knows what she's talking about for sure. Gans tells us that:
There may be a silver lining to the tragic events unfolding in Gaza, as Israel's actions may suggest that it expects, as Hamas should too, greater pressure from the U.S. for serious concessions from both sides.
Well, every cloud has a silver lining, they say. In fact, I read that in one of my children's Care Bear books the other day, so it must be true. In the Bear's case, a search for a tragically lost hat led to the discovery of a perfect place for a picnic -- and the hat too, of course! In the case of Gaza, the corpses of three dead children laid at the feet of their father will probably maybe conjecturally lead to "greater pressure" from Washington for "serious concessions" from both Hamas and Israel. And they'll probably all find their hats as well!
Except for all the dead children, of course. And the surviving children traumatized into silence and torment. Oh, and also for the Israelis, who will now face the inevitable -- and doubtless clearly forseen -- radicalization of the survivors, as Reuters also noted:
Hundreds of Palestinians queued from early morning outside bakeries in Gaza City, their patience running out.
"I've been here for three hours and I will have to wait longer. Maybe a missile will bomb us so we can be rid of such a miserable life," said Abu Othman, a father of seven.
He said his sympathy was growing for the Hamas Islamists whose rocket fire into Israel triggered the offensive.
"I used to criticise the rockets. Maybe I still do but not like before. Now I want to see buses blown up in Israel," said Othman.
Mission accomplished! For this attitude actually represents a clear-cut victory for the makers of Terror War. The more radical the targeted people become, the easier it is to maintain the vast military-security complexes in their wonted (and profitable) ascendancy. It also simplifies diplomacy too. No more messing around with long, protracted negotiations with the legitimate representatives of your targets (such as the democratically elected administration of Hamas); no, all you have left are "extremists" full of "pure evil" who can be attacked and killed as your own political and financial agendas require.
This dynamic of state terror and deliberate radicalization is now the operating system for much of the world: we see it at work in the US, Israel, Britain, Russia, China, Turkey and elsewhere. And as long as our elites -- even our "progressive" elites, even our earnest "human rights lawyers" -- can see "silver linings" in state terror and sheer butchery, can see "silver linings" in a four-year-old child killed and laid out on the floor, then absolutely nothing will change.
UPDATE: Once again, Arthur Silber gives a deeper and more chilling context of the conflict in his brilliant new essay, "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals." The piece should be read in full. I tried to excerpt it, but ended up quoting the whole thing, so go there now, and read it for yourself.
UPDATE II: This morning, we linked to story telling of Palestinians in Gaza seeking refuge in a UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp. This afternoon comes word from the Guardian that at least 41 people were killed today when Israeli tanks shelled a UN-run school in the Jabaliya camp. The story does not make clear if it is the same school referred to in the earlier piece, but the results are horrific in any case:
The civilian death toll in Gaza increased dramatically today, with reports of more than 40 Palestinians killed after missiles exploded outside a UN school where hundreds of people were sheltering from the continuing Israeli offensive.
Two Israeli tank shells struck the school in Jabaliya refugee camp, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building, according to news agency reports.
The medical director of the hospital in Jabaliya told the Guardian 41 bodies had been brought in so far and more could be on the way. Reuters journalists filmed bodies scattered on the ground amid pools of blood and torn shoes and clothes.
In addition to the dead, several dozen people were wounded, hospital officials said. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
"I saw a lot of women and children wheeled in," Fares Ghanem, a hospital official told the Associated Press. "A lot of the wounded were missing limbs and a lot of the dead were in pieces."
Majed Hamdan, an AP photographer, who rushed to the scene shortly after the attacks, said many children were among the dead. "I saw women and men parents slapping their faces in grief, screaming, some of them collapsed to the floor. They knew their children were dead," he said.
"In the morgue, most of the killed appeared to be children. In the hospital, there wasn't enough space for the wounded."
The school was not the only site of mass civilian casualties today. Nor was it the only school fatally struck by Israeli fire:
Elsewehere, at least 12 members of an extended family, including seven young children, were killed in an air strike on their house in Gaza City. The bodies of the Daya family were pulled from the rubble of a house in Gaza city's Zeitoun district after it was hit by two Israeli missiles. The dead included seven children aged from one to 12 years, three women and two men. Nine other people were believed to be trapped in the rubble.
Hours earlier, three young men – all cousins – died when the Israelis bombed another UN school, the Asma primary school in Gaza City. They were among about 400 people who sought shelter there after fleeing their homes in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
The attack on the Jabaliya school was in no way an "assault on Hamas infrastructure" nor a "mistake":
The UN, which said the school in Jabaliya was clearly marked, said it was "strongly protesting these killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation".
"Where it is found that international humanitarian law has been violated, those responsible must be held to account. Under international law, installations such as schools, health centres and UN facilities should be protected from attack. Well before the current fighting, the UN had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma elementary school."
Meanwhile, conditions continue to worsen in the war zone:
John Holmes, the UN emergency relief coordinator, said Gaza represented an "increasingly alarming" humanitarian crisis, and that the territory was running low on clean water, power, food, medicine and other supplies since Israel began its offensive. Israeli leaders claim there is no humanitarian crisis.
Keep that in mind, and let it comfort you: there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are only vicious terrorists aged one to 12 years old huddling in their homes or in UN schools, building atom bombs for al Qaeda.
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