Solidarity With the People of Gaza
This poster, with its image of a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian man, could almost serve as a logo for Gaza. The graphic in this stark pen and ink poster brings to mind the bleak, gritty “cartoon journalism” of Joe Sacco, who wrote a nine comic book series titled Palestine. In volume number six, In the Gaza Strip, he wrote:
Source: Fantagraphics Books, 1994
Sacco visited Gaza in the early 1990s; the situation there is exponentially worse now.
It is important to note that the poster expresses
solidarity with the people of Gaza. Sealed off from the rest of the world,
Gaza is a place that most Americans imagine as a black hole, if they think
of it at all. They rarely comprehend it is a place with schools, playgrounds,
hospitals, and neighborhoods all carved out of the barren, sandy moonscape
by hundreds of thousands of people who are guilty of no crime other than
to be born Palestinian. The man in this poster represents the Palestinians
as they believe Israelis would like to see them: silenced, shackled, and
Gaza was under the control of Egypt from 1948 to 1967 except when Israel momentarily held it during the ill-conceived British-French-Israeli invasion of the Suez Canal Zone in 1956. When Israel reoccupied Gaza during the Six Day War of 1967, it did not annex it but held onto it to neutralize the territory as an invasion corridor from Egypt. Under the 1978 Camp David Accords, the Sinai was returned to Egypt, but Gaza remained under Israeli control.
Under the 1993 Olso Peace Accords, Israel was to return Gaza to Palestinian control. Those accords imploded in 2000 and Israel now finds itself facing off against a determined and apparently implacable, adversary — Hamas (Arabic: Islamic Resistance Movement), which is based in Gaza.
The initial influx into Gaza of both of Israeli settlers and the IDF
occurred when Egypt was a very real threat to Israel. This is no longer
the case. Now, instead of protecting Israel, the Israeli occupation serves
up a daily ration of dehumanization for Palestinians and a nearly-indescribable,
post-apocalyptic life for the religiously motivated Israeli settlers,
defined by bomb shelters, bullet proof windows, infiltration alerts, armored
convoys, guard towers, walled-in houses and schools, and a general state
of fear. Living conditions for the Palestinians in Gaza are far worse
and even more dangerous, and they respond with an ever-mounting rage that
Military duty in Gaza is so unpalatable to secular Israelis that a growing number of IDF reservists refuse to serve there. Yesh Gvul (Hebrew: There Is A Limit), an Israeli peace organization founded by veterans of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, reports that since the outbreak of the second intifadah, more than 500 Israeli veterans and reservists have refused outright to serve anywhere in the Occupied Territories. More than forty of them, including twelve reserve officers, have been sentenced to military prison, usually two weeks to a month, as punishment for this refusal.
For Israel, a nation whose military is modeled on the martial spirit of Yosef Trumpeldor (see Noble to Die), such dissension in the ranks can only be traumatic. Gaza, with its steady drumbeat of gunfire, ambushes, rocket and mortar attacks, and bombings as well as its relentlessly mounting IDF casualties, has become the Israeli equivalent of the “Russian Front” of World War II — the place German soldiers feared to go more than any other because of its hopelessness and horror.
News of Israeli assassinations, raids, arrests, helicopter gunship attacks, and house demolitions is instantaneous and globally disseminated by Al Jazeera, (Arabic: the Peninsula), the Arab world’s main satellite news network. This round-the-clock, up-front-and-personal coverage makes the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank a daily feature of television and press reportage throughout the Arab world.
The devolution of the triumphalist Israeli vision of Gaza as a sanitized, neutral corridor into a deadly quagmire is a perfect example of New York Times Middle East correspondent Thomas L. Friedman’s “iron law”:
Sharon also does not want to alienate Israel’s small yet powerful settler movement. The religiously driven determination of these settlers to impose their presence in Gaza is caught in the words of one of Netzarim’s inhabitants:
Many credible religious scholars report that there is little archeological evidence of a significant Jewish presence in Gaza during biblical times. Yet Israel’s ultra-Orthodox settler movement dismisses such evidence and has fused its millennium fervor with phenomenal political clout in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The result is rending the fabric of life for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Nowhere is this rending more visible than in the barrier that surrounds Gaza and a new one being constructed around the West Bank. Stretching thirty-two miles with numerous watchtowers, the fence around Gaza is constantly and intensely patrolled by units of the IDF. The Israeli government claims that this fence is a success because it prevents Palestinian attackers from entering Israel, though this is debatable. It is now being emulated by a similar but exponentially larger barrier snaking its way around and into the West Bank. Construction of this massive, 400-mile long concrete structure has decimated Palestinian villages and agricultural fields in its path. The estimated cost is staggering: approximately $1.6 million per mile.
In yet another example of how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict generates its own lexicon, Israel’s supporters call it a “security fence,” a “separation fence,” or a “security barrier.” Its detractors call it an “apartheid wall,” a “Wall,” or the “New Berlin Wall.”
Ironically, the Israeli “security fence” has Israeli populations located on both sides — Israelis in Israel proper on one side and Israeli settlers living in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, on the other.
Many Palestinians and international groups fear that the new Israeli security fence will become a de facto border between Israel and an envisioned Palestinian state, even though Israel claims that fences are by definition not permanent. Many Americans — Israel advocates among them —are openly opposed to the barriers. And yet a series of presidential administrations and Congresses have been singularly ineffectual in applying any meaningful U.S. pressure against them.
© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.
Questions for A New
1) Given that Gaza is a miserable place to live, why do the indigenous Palestinians not leave and make a home elsewhere? Why do the refugee Palestinians not leave to become refugees somewhere else? Why do the settlers not leave to settle elsewhere?
2) The Israel solidarity movement in the U.S. claims it was never Israel’s intention to create a seething mass of anti-Israeli Palestinians in Gaza. What went wrong in terms of Israeli’s analysis and strategy? What current Israeli policies might evolve in similarly unintended ways?
3) History is replete with examples of governments building
walls to either keep people in or out:
Most of these examples, though state-of-the-art engineering feats in their time, are today looked upon as laughable follies in terms of how well they served their intended purposes. How might Israel’s walls be seen in the future — as astute policy, insane folly, or something in between?
5) Much of the controversy over Israel’s new barrier is semantic. In what ways has the Palestinian-Israeli conflict been a contest over language? What are other examples of word games this conflict has generated?
Please send us your questions and comments (English only please!)
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