Welcome to the Palestine Circus

The Israeli trainer and his Qatari and Egyptian assistants throw a few bones, and the caged animal in Gaza surrenders

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Palestinians wait outside the central post office to receive financial aid from Qatar, Gaza City, January 26, 2019.
Palestinians wait outside the central post office to receive financial aid from Qatar, Gaza City, January 26, 2019.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Welcome one and all; it’s more exciting than anything you’ve ever seen: the Gaza Circus. The stage is a huge cage, enclosed by iron bars and concrete barriers, both above and belowground, not far from the warships. It’s the largest prison in history, the greatest show in history, the longest and biggest experiment on humans. More than 12 years, 2 million people and a cage.

The animal trainers enter the ring, whips in hand. Whoosh, they crack the whip, whoosh, whoosh, the whistling sound echoes through the air – the main trainer, the Israeli, and his two assistants, the Qatari and the Egyptian. They wield whips and they hold a few bones to throw. They crack the whip and occasionally wave a bone. The animal looks at its trainers with craving eyes. It’s nearly starved.

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Then, suddenly, the plot changes. The whip is cracked and the bone is about to be thrown, but the trained animal doesn’t budge. It’s no longer willing to perform its dance of death. The audience responds with boos and the trainers don’t know what to do as the animal stands its ground. Then the trainer throws another bone. The reluctant animal surrenders, the crowd breathes a sigh of relief.

Introducing the Palestine Circus. Israel, Egypt and Qatar, the producers, are proud to present: the taming of Gaza, the taming of Hamas, a show we’ve never seen before.

And then the show ends, so there are long lines outside the post offices. The animal behaved itself so it got thrown a bone. One hundred dollars per family, 94,000 families waiting in line. Try to imagine it. Hours of waiting, pushing, shouting and humiliation for $100 a month per family. The Gaza Circus.

I was at the first showing of the Gaza Circus, a real circus, in the ‘90s. About a dozen trainers and Uzbek clowns were shoved in an old van with a half-dead trained bear and a few other animals. They were on their way to the circus tent put up on the ruins of Ansar 2, the Israeli detention center. It was one of the most touching shows I’ve seen, but the current circus is of course much more heartbreaking.

A good word for Hamas – and it deserves one: It tried at the end of the week to end this flea-bitten circus. But it didn’t have the strength to keep up the defiance. This revolting show had to come to an end. But the caged animal couldn’t defeat its trainers, it was too overcome by hunger, and that’s not too hard to understand. So the bone of redemption was found once again.

Gaza didn’t behave properly, though, it didn’t eat with its mouth shut, so its trainers decided not to throw it a bone for two weeks. An Israeli soldier was lightly wounded by gunfire, so the Qatari cash had to be halted.

Another crack of the whip. Israeli soldiers are permitted to shoot indiscriminately at protesters, but the protesters of course are forbidden to shoot. Imagine what would happen if American aid to Israel were halted every time Israel didn’t behave, if the aid were halted every time an Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian just like that. But you’re allowed to gang up on Gaza because it’s allowed.

Luckily, the head trainer is in the throes of an election campaign; he has no patience for Gaza. Thus, only after his base’s appetite has been satisfied is it possible to throw another bone – after Israel’s sadism and bloodthirst receive another joyful dose of seeing Gaza tortured.

Gaza should have said no to the bone. But Gaza can’t afford to turn down any bones. It’s near death. The Qataris deserve praise and admiration for their efforts to rescue it, but what they’re providing isn’t enough. Millions of dollars is only a bone. They keep Gaza quiet. But Gaza shouldn’t remain quiet about the continuous crime being committed.

Israelis love to see Gaza suffer. Remember Israelis crowding Sderot’s hilltops to cheer at the bombings of Gaza. Remember the snap videos of Benny Gantz. Remember the Gaza Circus. It should be something that makes it hard for us all to sleep at night.

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