Andrew Lodge: Like shooting fish in a barrel

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      Modern images of conflict invariably include pictures and footage of displacement in some form or another. The massive numbers of Syrians streaming across borders into neighbouring countries in a bid to escape the violence—the number now tops 2.5 million, according to the United Nations—have become a vivid symbol of the brutality in that conflict. Similar images emerge from war-torn regions around the world.

      The current conflict in Gaza is striking in the absence of any such exodus. Within the territory, which is roughly 360 square kilometres or one-eighth of the size of Metro Vancouver, there has been massive dislocation—the United Nations estimates that over 200,000 are displaced as of July 29. However, only that fraction with foreign passports has the opportunity to actually leave the territory, and even they often encounter substantial hardship when attempting to do so.

      The land borders of the Gaza Strip, controlled by Israel and Egypt respectively, have been sealed shut. The northwestern border of the territory abuts the Mediterranean Sea, controlled by heavily-armed Israeli gunships. There is, simply and starkly put, nowhere to go.

      Consequently, while many have been forced out of their homes due to the violence, the vast majority of these can only circulate within the small territory, the entirety of which has become a war zone. They cannot leave. If they are to avoid the deadly assault, it must occur within these very limited confines.

      In a cruel twist of history, most Gazans are already classified as refugees in what amount to permanent camps. That semblance of permanence, however makeshift, has now been shattered and the displacement renewed.

      The images of refugees from other conflicts fleeing their homes, their land, sometimes their loved ones—certainly their dreams—are indisputably heart-wrenching. That their destinations are improvised, overcrowded, dangerous, and disease-ridden camps, often in unwelcoming or even hostile new lands, speaks volumes to the desperation and fear that drove them to escape in the first place.

      But at least in those conflicts escape is possible, however difficult that must be.

      In Gaza, no such avenue exists.

      Almost two weeks ago, towards the outset of the most recent war in Gaza, Jonathan Whittall, the head of humanitarian analysis for the well-known aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), openly questioned the ethics of providing medical care to a population which is repeatedly subjected to aggression and oppression, implicitly comparing MSF's activities in the Gaza Strip to patching up torture victims between interrogation sessions.

      Whittall went on to say that "an entire population is trapped in what is essentially an open-air prison...[and] the prison guards are the ones who have the capacity to launch large-scale and highly destructive attacks on the open-air prison.”

      That was said in the early days of the conflict, prior to the most horrific levels of violence now being rained down on the territory. Since then, the situation has worsened on several orders of magnitude.

      On a very basic and human level, arguments over territory, and worse yet, accountability and blame, become almost vacuous. Of course, the details matter, and immensely so.

      But right now, on a humanitarian level, the catastrophe has reached an almost childlike simplicity. People can't even run away. And worse, the inhabitable territory is being shrunk, slowly squeezed by a virtual hyper-military now with an overwhelming ground presence, making this already tiny tract of land—home to 1.8 million people (minus 1,200 casualties at the time of writing)—even smaller.

      The old western analogy of shooting fish in a barrel could hardly be more apt.

      The situation has now gotten so out of hand, so beyond the pale, that one is left wondering, hideously, how far things will go. We were given a hint earlier this week, when Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, warned that all should be "prepared for a protracted campaign".

      Few sensible people would deny any nation, Israel included, the right to self-defense. Framing the current operation in the context of self-defense, however, requires a level of intellectual, and indeed moral, gymnastics of a most distorted and perverse form.

      Andrew Lodge is a physician from British Columbia who is teaching at a nonprofit medical school in Nepal.


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      Jul 31, 2014 at 1:46am


      First Israel forces them off their ancestral land.
      Then they concentrate them.
      Then, they regularly round them up and hold them without trial or accusation (children included).
      Then, when they fight back with pathetic firepower that Israel can neutralize without human intervention, Israel announces their defence offense.

      300 F16's, 100 helicopter gunships, 2400 tanks, >50,000 troops and all the lead Obama can supply.

      Conveniently, there is nowhere to hide. So every target can be classified as a Hamas human shield, that's all the propaganda the world needs to support the so called democracy of Israel.

      As the Israeli public chant songs about the death toll in Gaza, the worlds leaders stand behind the most obscene and grotesquely one sided battle ever fought - the worlds 4th largest military raining down with all their might on women and children that have nowhere to run.

      Well done Israel, how brave your soldiers must feel. How accomplished your generals are, and how peaceful your contribution to the world has become.

      And when one considers that after all the carnage, the maimed and psychologically disturbed children, the homeless and orphaned families and the utter utter ruin of their society, the freedom movement will not stop, the names may change, but the fight will continue, only the new members of the Palestinian 'terrorist group'
      will have even greater reason to hate Israel - far greater than having their land stolen and being concentrated into an open air prison.

      And Israel knows this, because this is not the first time they are indulging in their so called 'mow the lawn' exercise. That's right, the fact is that many many such attempts at genocide have not reduced the threat to Israel one iota - it was a pathetic threat then, and it remains a pathetic threat now - but it serves it's purpose as a pretext for war sufficient enoug

      Wake up world, everyone has a right to live, but this is not protection or defence.
      The Israelis have imprisoned these people and taken away their rights of movement, then when they fire rockets back, they decimate them mercilessly with firepower infinitely greater.

      One day in the future when Israel has succeeded in removing every last non-Jew from their God-given land, the world will look back on these times and judge, and their judgement will be devoid of propaganda - which side do you want to have been on then

      true speech

      Jul 31, 2014 at 9:28pm

      Firing rockets at Israel can also result in the killing of children.