The Eternal Cycle: Death and Destruction in Gaza

Hamas’s steadfastness in the Gaza war is proof not only of the blindness of our rulers but also of the power of the inhabitants of the long-besieged and bombed ghetto.

Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor
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A Palestinian woman stands in the rubble of her destroyed home in Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood, August 11, 2014.
A Palestinian woman stands in the rubble of her destroyed home in Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood, August 11, 2014.Credit: AP
Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor

Immediately after the occupation of the territories, Israeli political and intelligence officials began to debate the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Gaza Strip, on the assumption that it would remain under Israeli control: to El-Arish in Sinai, to Iraq, to Morocco.

As always, academics were also consulted. Prof. Aryeh Dvoretzky, a Hebrew University mathematician, suggested moving the Gazans into the homes of Palestinians who had fled the West Bank in 1967. In doing so, he explained, “you are provoking internal strife among the Palestinians themselves,” who would not welcome the influx. At the same time, this would reduce the population numbers in the Gaza Strip while also deterring the return of the “new refugees” to their homes in the West Bank.

The Gaza Strip was a thorn in the Zionist imaginaire. No one knew what to do with it. In the most “serious” effort, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol appointed Ada Sereni, who had a bit of secret work in her past, to head a team whose mission was to see to that reduction. Sereni believed it was possible to “evacuate” a quarter of a million people to Jordan at negligible cost, relatively speaking.

In one meeting, Eshkol said: “I want them all to go, even if they go to the moon.” (“1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East,” Tom Segev, 2007). But Israel is not genuinely independent, and no outside force would have permitted the state to fulfill its desire to be rid of the Gazans. This is where the destructive hallucinations that were to take shape over the years began.

Occupation engenders resistance. Cruel occupation engenders fierce resistance, and terrorism as well. For years, Israel — which did not even allow commercial strikes in the territories to go by without harsh punishments such as closing shops, arrests and torture — built the only track it was eager for, that of “operations.” The murder of two Israeli children in Gaza in early 1971 gave the signal to the Shaked special forces unit, together with the Rimon reconnaissance unit, under the command of Meir Dagan, which was established for the “operation.” Torture, manhunts, arrests, destruction, the killing of civilians in their shacks and a few dozen armed resistance fighters. Ariel Sharon coordinated the “war on terror.” Troops who took part in the “culling” returned home with horrific stories, such as the sight of corpses on the bumpers of jeeps in the streets of towns and camps.

But the consensus surrounding the oppression of the Gaza Strip was firm; no Zionist party supported Palestinian independence, and certainly not an independent state that would include the Gaza Strip. Hence the early enclosure and slow strangulation of the Strip. Hence the deception over the land bridge linking the Gaza Strip with the West Bank, as promised in the Oslo Accords. Hence also the compliments to Sharon for his “disengagement” (riddance) program, which was preceded and followed by widespread killing.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured in shelling and bombardments since 2004 in Operation Rainbow (May), Operation Days of Penitence (September-October), Operation Summer Rains (June-November 2006) and Operation Hot Winter (February-March 2008). Those with a short memory, who live only the last war, remember at least the atrocity the Olmert government brought to a peak in Operation Cast Lead (winter of 2008-09). There was never any real link between the events and the “responses” of the Israel Defense Forces. They were always opportunities for rampages. The assassination policy provided a popular trigger.

The crueler the oppression became, the more extreme the resistance that followed. Compared to Hamas, the old extreme Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine now looks like a study group for Marxist humanism. But Hamas’s steadfastness in the current operation is proof not only of the blindness of our rulers but also of the power — the result of not having a choice in the matter — of the inhabitants of the long-besieged and bombed ghetto.

Those who goad Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his failure would do well to rest. Even if we were presented with the “goals of the operation,” whether or not they are met, the planners always assume one concrete achievement: Gaza won’t disappear? We shall kill and destroy, “return them to the Stone Age,” let them deal with their grief and the burdens of life among the ruins, without electricity or water, for a few more years. Afterward, they will start firing from within their hovels again, we’ll destroy, they’ll fire, we’ll destroy. And the Israelis living near the border? The nation is with you. “Like,” you are such tasty bait.

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