A genocide is engulfing the people of Gaza while
a silence engulfs its bystanders. "Some 1.4 million people, mostly children,
are piled up in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, with
no freedom of movement, no place to run, and no space to hide," wrote the
senior UN relief official, Jan Egeland, and Jan Eliasson, then Swedish foreign
minister, in Le Figaro. They described people "living in a cage,"
cut off by land, sea, and air, with no reliable power and little water, tortured
by hunger, disease, and incessant attacks by Israeli troops and planes.
Egeland and Eliasson wrote this four months ago as an attempt to break the
silence in Europe, whose obedient alliance with the United States and Israel
has sought to reverse the democratic result that brought Hamas to power in last
year's Palestinian elections. The horror in Gaza has since been compounded;
a family of 18 has died beneath a 500-pound American/Israeli bomb; unarmed women
have been mown down at point-blank range. Dr. David Halpin, one of the few Britons
to break what he calls "this medieval siege," reported the killing
of 57 children by artillery, rockets, and small arms and was shown evidence
that civilians are Israel's true targets, as in Lebanon last summer. A friend
in Gaza, Dr. Mona El-Farra, e-mailed: "I see the effects of the relentless
sonic booms [a collective punishment by the Israeli air force] and artillery
on my 13-year-old daughter. At night, she shivers with fear. Then both of us
end up crouching on the floor. I try to make her feel safe, but when the bombs
sound I flinch and scream
When I was last in Gaza, Dr. Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, showed me the results
of a remarkable survey. "The statistic I personally find unbearable,"
he said, "is that 99.4 percent of the children we studied suffer trauma.
Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma you see why: 99.2 percent of
their homes were bombarded; 97.5 percent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 percent
witnessed shootings; 95.8 percent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost
a quarter saw family members injured or killed." Dr. Dahlan invited me
to sit in on one of his clinics. There were 30 children, all of them traumatized.
He gave each pencil and paper and asked them to draw. They drew pictures of
grotesque acts of terror and of women streaming tears.
The excuse for the latest Israeli terror was the capture last June of an Israeli
soldier, a member of an illegal occupation, by the Palestinian resistance. This
was news. The kidnapping a few days earlier by Israel of two Palestinians
two of thousands taken over the years was not news. A historian and two
foreign journalists have reported the truth about Gaza. All three are Israelis.
They are frequently called traitors. The historian Ilan Pappe has documented
that "the genocidal policy [in Gaza] is not formulated in a vacuum"
but part of Zionism's deliberate, historic ethnic cleansing. Gideon Levy and
Amira Hass are reporters on the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. In November,
Levy described how the people of Gaza were beginning to starve to death: "there
are thousands of wounded, disabled, and shell-shocked people unable to receive
the shadows of human beings roam the ruins
know the [Israeli army] will return and what this will mean for them: more imprisonment
in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions."
Amira Hass, who has lived in Gaza, describes it as a prison that shames her
people. She recalls how her mother, Hannah, was being marched from a cattle-train
to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen on a summer's day in 1944. "[She]
saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just looking," she wrote.
"This image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable 'looking
from the side.'"
"Looking from the side" is what those of us do who are cowed into
silence by the threat of being called anti-Semitic. Looking from the side is
what too many Western Jews do, while those Jews who honor the humane traditions
of Judaism and say, "Not in our name!" are abused as "self-despising."
Looking from the side is what almost the entire U.S. Congress does, in thrall
to or intimidated by a vicious Zionist "lobby." Looking from the side
is what "evenhanded" journalists do as they excuse the lawlessness
that is the source of Israeli atrocities and suppress the historic shifts in
the Palestinian resistance, such as the implicit recognition of Israel by Hamas.
The people of Gaza cry out for better.