Of mass suffering in Gaza there is no end.
As of this writing, the death toll there, in the wake of four weeks of ferocious and at times seemingly gratuitous air strikes, has topped 10,000, many of them women and children, while an estimated 2,300, including 1,250 children, are known to be buried underneath the debris of destroyed buildings.
How ferocious is this at times gratuitous bombing campaign? In its savagely merciless air strikes on the densely packed neighbourhood of Jabaliya north of Gaza City, Israel dropped two 2,000-pound bombs there, with their impact leaning craters 40 feet wide.
And because of severe fuel shortages (fuel being a vital lifeline in resource-strapped Gaza), nearly half of the Strip’s hospitals have shut down entirely, while the ones still open are providing minimal care.
As for displacement, a cruel fate three generations of Palestinians have repeatedly endured in their lifetimes, close to 2.3 million people living in this little, tormented strip of land we call Gaza — once known as a prison camp but now as a death camp — have been run out of their homes, twice as many as those Israel had displaced in 1948 during the Nakba. And as we well know, the way Palestinians see the world is shaped by their inherited trauma of that event.
This is where Gaza is today, as we speak. The Israeli prime minister has been true to his word. In his infamous “mighty vengeance” speech, delivered the day the war broke out, in which he gave Israelis his pledge that “We will turn Gaza into a deserted island” — a pledge that, incidentally, much of the US media chose to omit from its coverage.
At no time in the modern history of the Arab world have we witnessed this. The bone-chilling, heart-wrenching and mind-boggling images from this exclave, cut off from the outside world as it is, have, however, touched a deep nerve not just in people found in our part of the world but touched an equally deep nerve in the universal archetype of human beings everywhere, far and wide, East and West, across the globe.
Last weekend pro-Palestinian protesters in the tens of thousands crowded the streets of their capital cities in Europe. Even across the United States, in cities from coast to coast, in states such as New York and California, Ohio and Utah, Pennsylvania and Maine, they came out in the thousands.
And, Oh, yes, also in Washington, my hometown, where I, an old geezer but still an unrepentant activist, joined the roughly 40,000 demonstrators gathered in Freedom Plaza in downtown DC, a few blocks from the White House.
There, alongside the standard placards with the standard slogans held by the demonstrators, such as “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire Now”, there was the full-throated chant by the crowd, “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide, you have signed up for genocide”.
Accusing President Biden of being complicit in genocide for refusing to call for a ceasefire — indeed for instructing his ambassador to the UN to veto a Security Council Resolution that would’ve formalised one — is not considered these days altogether unusual.
The truth be told, credible agencies across the world have called the events in Gaza nothing less than genocide. Respected commentators have called it just that. And even the United Nations is on record as saying just that, with the international body’s own Human Rights Office calling Israel’s attacks on Jalabiya ones that “could amount to war crimes”.
So, let’s take a reflective minute here, away from the carnage in Gaza, and consider a well-established thesis in “radicalisation studies”. Research in that field holds that the more you impoverish an oppressed people, be they occupied, colonised, enslaved or otherwise victimised, the more you enrich their will-to-meaning, that is, their determination to struggle against oppression.
So what’s in it for Israel to stand behind the pathology of Netanyahu’s stated goal of “mighty vengeance” in Gaza, and by extension the West Bank? Simple answer — a more radicalised generation of Palestinians more implacably committed to wresting control of their political destiny from their occupiers.
You can’t cow people like that into submission. Not even by dropping 2,000-pound bombs on their densely packed neighbourhoods.
— Fawaz Turki is a noted academic, journalist and author based in Washington DC. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.