Six weeks after 9/11, I thought I perceived a “new American thoughtfulness” in response to the attacks against New York and Washington.
“For the first time in memory, Americans are reconsidering the wisdom of supporting an Israel whose reactions to Palestinian terrorism is itself increasingly indistinguishable from terrorism,” my syndicated column for October 23, 2001 reads.
“No one wants to cave in to those who massacred thousands of our fellow citizens. But the alternative is even less attractive,” I wrote. “If we refuse to even consider the possibility that our actions abroad are sometimes less than decent and honorable, we can look forward to more such attacks in the future.”
What a fool I was! Poor hapless thoughtfulness never stood a chance against the bloodthirsty and jingoistic neoconservative foreign policy that has since held sway.
Now it’s Israel’s turn to confront the blowback from years of suppression and repression of a population of Muslims who predictably determined that “enough is enough,” consequences be damned. Israelis are already describing last weekend’s incursion and rocket attacks from Hamas-governed Gaza Strip as their version of 9/11.
Expect Israelis, as Americans did 22 years ago, to wallow in denial. Why do they hate little old us so much? Then comes more military barbarism, Bibi Netanyahu promises. The bombings will resume until morale improves.
Two million stateless people live in the hot, overcrowded, impoverished Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, subject to an Israeli blockade since 2007. Egypt, in partnership with Israel, prevents people and goods from crossing Gaza’s southern border. 70% of Gazans are refugees expelled from their homes by Jewish invaders in 1948.
The blockade has caused unbearable suffering. Gaza’s 50% unemployment rate is the highest in the world, worse than Afghanistan. Four out of five residents live under the poverty line. The water is filthy, in large part because Israel has destroyed hundreds of wells. Port closures, road blocks and Israeli bombing campaigns have sucked tens of billions of dollars out of the economy.
“The blockade restricts the import of goods, including electronic and computer equipment, that could be used to make weapons and prevents most people from leaving the territory,” reports The New York Times. Because hospitals are short of X-ray machines and other medical equipment and travel via Israel to better-equipped facilities in the Fatah-administered, Israeli-occupied West Bank is severely restricted by “a lengthy, bureaucratic regime of permits,” patients die needlessly, according to the World Bank.
Thanks to Israel, Gaza, surrounded by 40 miles of a 20-feet-high, sensor-equipped underground wall topped with razor wire and hundreds of cameras, radar and sensors, and sea wall that features sonar and remote-controlled aquatic weapons to intercept boats and submarines, has become the world’s biggest concentration camp.
Insanely, the U.S. and its Western allies think that what Israel is doing is normal. “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades,” Biden Administration national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week. Even though Israel has the farthest-right-wing government in its history Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter of Wahhabi jihadism, was moving closer to normalizing relations. The war is crazy. But not as crazy as the “peace.”
None of this is to endorse Hamas’ obscene actions on Saturday, which include shooting civilians, taking some hostage and parading and abusing the semi-nude body of a woman killed by Hamas fighters while attending a concert. Although it’s also obscene to hold a rave three miles from the perimeter of a concentration camp.
Nor must one support all of Hamas’ stated impetuses for Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, like the alleged “desecration” by Jewish visitors of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. You don’t kill hundreds of people over access to a building because a religion—which, by definition, is a fiction—claims it’s “holy.”
Following 16 years of vicious oppression, the only shocking aspects of this war are timing and scale. What took Hamas so long? Why wasn’t the assault bigger?
When assessing whether an act is ethically or morally justified, the first question to ask yourself is: would I do the same thing if I were in the position of the person or persons carrying it out? Stealing is a crime. We nevertheless identify with Victor Hugo’s protagonist Jean Valjean when he heists a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. You’d make the same decision.
Bank robbery is a crime. Most people, me included and I assume you as well, would never choose to commit that act. So we judge adults who hold up banks harshly.
Gazans faced a choice.
They could obey Israel and its supporters. They could suffer, chafe under occupation, dodge bombs and bullets, starve, watch their friends and neighbors die, with no end in sight as the world keeps ignoring them.
They could stage protest marches that no important media outlet would cover, write firm-but-polite letters to the editor no one would publish and post to social media accounts no one would read. As they engaged in peaceful protest, they would keep starving and dying.
Or they could confront the Israelis with violence.
You can argue that violence is never the answer. You can claim that you’d be docile, that you’d live under blockade and occupation, never taking up arms or cheering those who do.
Go on, judge the Gazans. We both know you’d do the same exact thing if you were them.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)