Opinion

In This Heat, Cry Over Gaza, Not Britney

Israelis would give Britney Spears a fan for her stage performance in Tel Aviv before they'd give Gazan residents a chance to drink their own sweat

Britney performing in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park stadium, July 3, 2017.
Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Early edition Channel 2 news, 4:30 P.M.: The weatherwoman confirmed suspicions that it was hot and humid. The breaking-news ticker noted that the all-time record in electricity consumption had been broken for the second time this week. The Jerusalem correspondent noted that there was no letup in the heat there, while the courtroom correspondent praised the air-conditioning system and the fellow on a motorbike decried the need to wear a helmet and riding suit. The news moderator complained about the long lines at passport control in Ben Gurion airport.

In all this summertime reporting, not one word was said about the most significant news of all. There is an area, an hour and a half from Tel Aviv by car, which serves as a prison in which Israel is the jailer, with the full cooperation of Egypt. Two million prisoners live there, without clean drinking water or minimal waste-disposal services. Israel dispenses less than three hours of electricity a day there.

Due to the closure, Gazans are exempt from long lineups at airport passport control points. The current heat wave is not only ours, it is theirs as well. Heat is democratic, touching everyone equally, refusing to distinguish between Israeli Jews and Gazan Palestinians. It belongs to all in about the same measure. In this heat, the important news is that there is no electricity in Gaza. There is no drinking water or sewage, and unemployment rates are above 40 percent. In terms of basic human decency, of elementary empathy for people other than ourselves, this is the news.

We should shed tears for the Gazans. But they aren’t firing missiles and the news program doesn’t even acknowledge their existence. It’s not that the channel doesn’t show any empathy as a rule. It sympathizes, for example, with elephants in Malawi, with their recovery from anaesthesia and their transfer to new grazing grounds. It sheds tears and cries out over the nightmare of life under ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The channel also empathized with Britney Spears, who was compelled to perform on Monday night in this “terrible heat,” dancing with playback, perish the thought. A multimillionaire physically exerting herself in harsh weather conditions – there is a person worthy of the Israeli public’s pity. Israelis would give her a fan for her stage performance before they’d give Gazan residents a chance to drink their own sweat.

Not one word about two million people whom Israel is keeping under subhuman conditions inside the biggest prison in the world. No recognition, no responsibility, no addressing the ramifications, no morality, no humanity, nothing. Instead, there are clips from a festive interview with India’s prime minister, who giggles when asked if yoga could solve the problems of the Middle East. This stale joke, even when viewed in an air-conditioned room, is not funny. Tell it to the Gazans. In the absence of water, let them drink yoga.

It was just another day under Israeli occupation. This is the secret of the occupation: It consists of an endless string of such days. Roger Waters is right: When Britney Spears performs here, she supports the occupation. Israelis will give Gaza a flicker of attention only when stars like Spears boycott them. Until that happens, the countdown to the next war continues.