New book examines catastrophe in occupied Gaza
“Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom” (2018) is a well-researched work by Norman Finkelstein, an American professor, political scientist and activist. His research focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His parents survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. This is a timely examination, given Trump’s decision to put the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel’s current bombing of Gaza and the U.S. no longer an honest broker for a two-state solution. Thus, the nonviolent protests of Palestinians throwing harmless rocks at a divisive wall as civilians are targeted by Israeli soldiers.
The author examines the facts surrounding the conflict’s historic background, Israel’s many assaults on Gaza, the lies concealing Israeli aggression, use of disproportionate military force, targeting of civilians, increasing brutality that has made Gaza an open air concentration camp.
A United Nations director described the human catastrophe in Gaza as, “They’re trapped, traumatized, terrorized.”
This conflict began in 1948 as the new Israeli state evicted 700,000 Palestinians, many fleeing to Gaza. When I traveled the Near East in the early 1970s, I heard accounts of Palestinian homes bulldozed to clear space around the Western Wall and other sites. It was painful to acknowledge the despair of Palestinians. Now, they are imprisoned by the Wall, armed borders and a punishing naval blockade. The embargo has limited food supplies to just over the caloric definition of starvation. Over 80 percent of Gaza’s scarce water is toxic and killing the population. The economy is ruined. Over half the population is unemployed.
Israel has attacked with advanced combat airplanes and weapons supplied by the U.S. Gaza has no army, air force or navy. Stones, primitive rockets and mortars are little defense. Israel has targeted infrastructure, destroying homes, schools, day care centers, greenhouses, medical facilities and water, sewage and electrical necessities.
This humanitarian crisis has destroyed over 80 percent of cultivated land. Thousands of civilians and children are dead. Sanctions against an occupied people are a violation of U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and rulings by the International Court of Justice. Finkelstein notes, “Gaza is about a big lie composed of a thousand little lies.” The big lie is that Israel does not target civilians, that such casualties are due to error and justified self-defense. The little lies are the legal fictions exacerbated by Israeli paranoia and racism concealing facts about atrocities. Many lies have been perpetuated by the U.S. Congress and others to justify Israel’s excessive destructiveness.
Respected human rights organizations confirmed that Israeli military, not Hamas, used civilians as shields and provided evidence of “grave breaches” of the Geneva Convention. The U.N. concludes that Gaza is becoming uninhabitable. This catastrophe is underreported by government and mainstream corporate media! It is ironic that Finkelstein’s parents endorsed the creation of Israel, although they later concluded Israel had “sold its soul to the West.” Readers may appreciate the tragic irony that people who were oppressed have become oppressors of the Gaza ghetto.
Pro-Israel and media establishments frequently pressure critics of “the only democracy in the Middle East.” The reader should remember that to criticize Israel is not to be anti-Semitic anymore than our critique of our nation’s history of violence and oppression makes us un-American or un-Christian. You may not want to read this book if you value the biblical admonition that “God is justice.” Americans should not want to be gullible partners to any preempting of a diplomatic settlement of this conflict. As I read this work, I gained greater respect for such agencies as the U.N. Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights and others who have had courageously observed the facts on the ground, even while suffering their own casualties.
A people cannot be scapegoated if they have a champion. Tragically, Palestine has few such allies. We may hope for a Palestinian resistance of nonviolent defiance. Large international, public support might step into this tragedy. America’s complicity in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza will only increase as Trump’s Administration stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel’s intransigence in negotiations, its continual breaking of ceasefires to provoke Hamas, and its disproportionate responses to Gaza’s symbolic and largely powerless uprisings.
A copy of this book can be obtained at the Cabell County and Milton public libraries.
David J. Dalrymple, Ph.D., is an affiliate minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, a pastoral psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst. He has been adjunct faculty in Marshall University’s Department of Religious Studies.