The Destruction, Starvation and Death in Gaza Are Israel’s Defeat

The Destruction, Starvation and Death in Gaza Are Israel’s Defeat

The Jewish state was defeated because its politicians and public officials are causing 2.3 million human beings to go hungry and thirsty.

by Amira Hass, reposted from Haaretz, June 4, 2024

Israel was defeated and is still being defeated, not because of the fact that at the start of the ninth month of this accursed war, Hamas has not been toppled. The emblem of defeat will forever appear alongside the menorah and flag, because the leaders, commanders and soldiers of Israel killed and wounded thousands of Palestinian civilians, sowing unprecedented ruin and desolation in the Gaza Strip. Because its air force knowingly bombed buildings full of children, women and the elderly. Because in Israel people believe there is no other way. Because entire families were wiped out.

The Jewish state was defeated because its politicians and public officials are causing two million three hundred thousand human beings to go hungry and thirsty, because skin ailments and intestinal inflammation are spreading in Gaza. The only democracy in the jungle was overwhelmingly defeated because its army expels and then concentrates hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in increasingly smaller areas, labeled safe humanitarian zones, before proceeding to bomb and shell them. Because thousands of permanently disabled people and children with no accompanying adults are hemmed in and suffering greatly in those targeted humanitarian areas.

Because mounds of garbage are piling up there, while the only way to dispose of them is to set them on fire, spouting toxic emissions. Because sewage and excrement flow in the streets, with masses of flies blocking one’s eyes. Because when the war ends, people will return to ruined houses chock full of unexploded ordnance, with the ground saturated with toxic dangerous substances. Because thousands of people, if not more, will come down with chronic diseases, paralyzing and terminal, due to that same pollution and those toxic substances.

Because many of those devoted and brave medical teams in the Gaza Strip, male and female doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics and yes – including people who were supporting Hamas or on its government’s payroll – were killed by Israeli bombs or shelling. Because children and students will have lost precious years of study.

Rafah (photo)

Because books and public and private archives went up in flames, with manuscripts of stories and research lost forever, as well as original drawings and embroidery by Gazan artists, which were buried under the debris or damaged. Because one cannot know what else the mental damage inflicted on millions will bring about.

The defeat, forever, lies in the fact that a state that views itself as the heir of the victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany has generated this hell in less than nine months, with an end not yet in sight. Call it genocide. Don’t call it genocide. The structural failure lies not in the fact that the G-word was affixed to the name “Israel” in the resounding petition filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. The failure lies in the refusal of most Israeli Jews to listen to the alarm bells in this petition. They continued supporting the war even after the petition was filed in late December, allowing the petition’s warning to become a prophecy, and for doubts to be obliterated in the face of additional cumulative evidence.

The defeat lies with Israel’s universities, which trained hordes of jurists who find proportionality in every bomb that kills children. They are the ones providing military commanders with the protective vests, of repeated cliché: “Israel is abiding by international law, taking care not to harm civilians,” every time an order is given to expel a population and concentrate it in a smaller area.

The convoys of displaced people, on foot, in carts, on trucks overloaded with people and mattresses, with wheelchairs carrying old people or amputees, are a failing grade for Israel’s school system, its law faculties and history departments. The debacle is also a failure of the Hebrew language. Expulsion is “evacuation.” A deadly military raid is an “activity.” The carpet bombing of entire neighborhoods is “good work by our soldiers.”

Israel’s monolithic nature is another reason for and proof of utter defeat, as well as being emblematic of it. Most of the Jewish-Israeli public, including opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu’s camp, was taken captive by the notion of a magical total victory as an answer to the October 7 massacre, without learning a thing from past wars in general and from ones against the Palestinians in particular.

Airstrike on a safe-zone in Rafah
Airstrike on a safe-zone in Rafah (photo)

Yes, the Hamas atrocities were horrific. The suffering of the hostages and their families is beyond words. Yes, turning the Gaza Strip into a huge depot of weapons and ammunition ready to be used, through an imitation of the Israeli model, is exasperating. .

But the majority of Israeli Jews let the drive for revenge blind them. The unwillingness to listen and to know, in order to avoid making mistakes, is in the DNA of the debacle. Our all-knowing commanders did not listen to the female spotters, but they mainly failed to listen to Palestinians, who over decades warned that the situation cannot continue like this.

The seeds of defeat lay in protesters against the judicial overhaul rejecting the basic fact that we have no chance of being a democracy without ending the occupation, and that the people generating the overhaul are the ones striving to “vanquish” the Palestinians. With God’s help. The failure was inscribed back then, in the first days after October 7, when anyone trying to point out the “context” was condemned as a traitor or a supporter of Hamas. The traitors turned out to be the real patriots, but the debacle is ours – the traitors’ – as well.

P.S. This isn’t the reason, but it is time for this column to take a temporary break. ~Amira Hass

Amira Hass is the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Territories. Born in Jerusalem in 1956, Hass joined Haaretz in 1989, and has been in her current position since 1993. As the correspondent for the territories, she spent three years living in Gaza, which served of the basis for her widely acclaimed book, “Drinking the Sea at Gaza.” She has lived in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1997. Hass is also the author of two other books, both of which are compilations of her articles.


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