Orbiting Dicta

Blinkless in Gaza

My first lesson in state terrorism came at the hands of the saintly sisters who taught me in grammar school, where policy dictated that when a pupil guilty of some infraction failed to self-incriminate, the entire classroom would be detained after school until the cowardly culprit either fessed up or was ratted on by someone.  Snitches were very scarce, however, and collective if passive resistance usually won our release after a half-hour of repeated imprecations.


What my classmates and I gained from such experiences was an instinct for fairness and an abiding resentment toward certain authority figures, notably nuns and teachers.  Of course, they were only following orders.  But so was Adolf Eichmann.  (I think most of us outgrew our suspicion of teaching sisters, but from what I can tell, not our sense of fairness.)


Today, as the horrendous corporate punishment of the captive Palestinians of Gaza continues under the well-heeled militarism of the Israeli government, the ethical disproportion is as disturbing as the perceived imbalance of power, which is clearly reflected in the casualty figures.  The Palestinian death toll now approaches the 1,000 mark, a third of them dead children.  Over 4,000 people have been wounded.  By contrast, thirteen Israelis have been killed, almost all of them soldiers, at least three of whom died from “friendly fire” blunders.


Israel’s response to the virtually unanimous UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire was to escalate the scope of battle.  Hamas, too, rejected the resolution and continues to fire rockets into Israel every day, usually without harm.  Neither side is willing to blink first, lest the enemy claim victory.  It is increasingly clear, however, that the only way out is a mutual and simultaneous cease-fire.  But this would amount to at least a moral defeat for Ehud Olmert’s double objective – to eliminate the rocket attacks on southern Israel and to eradicate Hamas’ ability to acquire more weapons.  That the invasion has so far failed to accomplish either must be seriously humiliating.  Olmert can either escalate the violence even further, expecting eventually to wear Hamas down.  Or he might agree to a cease-fire if only to save face.  At this point, he seems determined to escalate.  And so the slaughter continues.


Israel now stands accused of denying Palestinians rights, freedoms, and protections guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions – among them security, freedom of movement, access to food and drink, fundamental health care, education and cultural enjoyment.  Physically, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have gone for months without electricity, clean drinking water, and sewage facilities.  The apparently unprovoked and lethal Israeli attack on the UN school in Jabaliya has been described as a war crime.  And not the only one.


Over the weekend, many tens of thousands of war protestors jammed the streets of capitals from Europe to Indonesia, denouncing Israel’s draconian tactics in the Gaza strip.  Here in Ireland, parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have urged the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.  Counter-demonstrations have been miniscule.


Hamas is hardly guiltless in causing the desperate plight of Palestinian civilians.  But control, based on overwhelming military superiority, lies with Israel, subsidized and protected by the United States.  Surely Israel has a right as well as an obligation to defend its citizens.  But who will defend the Palestinian civilians?  Who will protect the guiltless children?