Mon 18 Oct, 2010 09:13 am
This review is from: The Punishment of Gaza by Gideon Levy.
This short book collects 40 pieces by journalist Gideon Levy from his weekly column in Haaretz, "Israel's most influential daily newspaper." They are listed in the Contents by title and in (basic) chronological order from June 1, 2006 to July 19, 2009. Author Gideon Levy was born in Tel Aviv in 1953, the eldest son of Holocaust survivors. He was a writer/editor in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), 1974-1978, and an aide to Shimon Perez, 1978-1982. For 28 years since then he has written for Haaretz, which has assigned him to cover "Palestinian Affairs."
A Chronology at book's gives essential background for appreciating Levy's commentaries. It lists salient political and military events concerning Gaza during the three-year time frame of these articles and the eight months preceding them. They include, (A) Sept. 2005--Israeli army withdrawal from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation, (B) Jan. 2006--Hamas win over Fatah in the first elections for a Palestinian legislature, (C) Feb. 2006--"Israeli government adopts a series of measures collectively punishing the population of the occupied territories," (D) June 1006--rabduction of a Palestinian doctor and a student, followed by Palestinian abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, (E) June-Nov. 2006--Operation Summer Rains, Israel's "huge ground and air offensive" in Gaza, (F) June-Dec. 2008--a six-month ceasefire, (G) Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan 17, 2009--Operation Cast Lead, "a massive airborne offensive against the Gaza Strip, and (H) Jan. 17, 2009 to present--the current ceasefire.
Levy points out in the Introduction that although the IDF withdrew from Gaza in 2005, "The occupation did not end. On the contrary, it is more cruel, criminal and inhuman today than ever before...the largest prison on earth, a gruesome experiment performed on living human beings...." He declares the purpose of his writing: "I am asking all Israelis to be outraged--or at least to understand what is being perpetrated in their name, so that they may never have the right to claim: 'We did not know. We didn't know that the Israeli occupation was so devastating, so brutal; we didn't know this horror was going on...."
He describes various methods for "The Punishment of Gaza" (book's title), above all, "the frightening balance of blood--about 100 Palestinian dead for every Israeli killed...." Indeed, in "The Children of [Jewish] Year 5767" he notes an even greater disproportion of death: 457 Palestinian dead (92 of them children) versus 10 Israeli dead (none of them children). "Collateral Damage" and "The Wahba's Last Meal" describe the devastation of two entire families by Israeli missiles. "Caterpillar Fashion" describes how "another weapon of mass destruction," the two-storey, armored, Caterpillar D9 bulldozer made in America especially for Israel, helps to continue the phased policy of ethnic cleansing, beginning with "the 416 villages Israel wiped off the face of the earth in 1948," with ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes and even whole neighborhoods. "The Ebb, the Tide, the Sighs" reports that Israel's land/sea/air blockade of Gaza has deprived Gaza's 40,000 fishermen of their livelihood due to scarcity of fuel, pollution of the sea, and Israeli naval attacks on Palestinian fishermen.
"War By Any Other Name" deftly catalogues "war's verbal arsenal" of words that "whip up, incite, inflame, push, urge and encourage" a military solution to political problems and "justify, validate, purify, polish and clean" the inevitable resultant carnage, death, destruction and devastation of lives. "The Little Ahmedinejads" describes 16 right-wing Israelis who urge extreme violence on Gazans. "The Silence of the Jurists" wonders why "Forty-one thousand attorneys in the State of Israel" have not deplored or opposed such incitements to violence and the actual violent executions of policy by the Israeli state. "With Friends Like These" concludes that U.S. and European "blind friendship enables Israel to do whatever it wants....Israel now has carte blanche to kill, destroy and settle." "Puppet Leader" discusses Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of "the short-sighted coalition of the royal triumvirate, Jerusalem-Washington-Ramallah...trying to promote a false vision of 'peace talks' without the decisive partners [Hamas and Syria] while the world is applauding this illusion." "Another Wonderful Summer" concludes that modern Israel has once again gone astray, as in Biblical times, "Thanks to the media and the politicians--two of the worst agents for dumbing down and blinding Israeli society....We practice the cult of security, society's true religion...." with counterproductive policies so that, recurrently, "some part of the world will blow up in our faces. And then we will pretend to be amazed, miserable victims, as we so like to be."
Gideon Levy is a sabra with "A Different Patriotism," an Israeli Cassandra, a contemporary Jeremiah who does not "write these words with joy but with sorrow and deep shame." Read his lamentations and weep, as Jesus did for Jerusalem in his day. But let us not be hypocrites. Americans as well as Israelis should share Levy's sorrow and shame because our own misguided government has been an exemplar and abettor of Israel's folly and crimes. Rather than punishment, "liberty and justice for all" is the correct basis for peace, prosperity, joy and pride rather than sorrow and shame.