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Thursday, July 17

Israel’s war on civilisation
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The evidence suggests collateral damage is not an unintended byproduct of Israeli military exercises but their primary purpose 

Belen FernandezThe recent Haaretz headline “Hamas rockets spur births in southern Israel” might raise a few eyebrows. After all, isn’t the reason for the current demolition of the Gaza Strip supposed to be that Hamas rockets endanger Israeli life, not “spur” it?
According to the article, the staff of Be'er Sheva's Soroka Medical Center observed a 10 percent increase in births in the days following the debut of Operation Protective Edge last week. The “surge” was attributed to the stress of air raid sirens and other centrepieces of life in Israel whenever the state is pummeling its neighbors.
Soroka maternity ward director Eyal Sheiner is quoted as follows: “People talk a lot about the connection between body and soul. In the wake of Operation Cast Lead in [2008-] 2009, published research indicated a connection between stress and birth, and we showed a significant rise in premature births”.
Cast Lead, of course, was that 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip that eliminated the bodies of approximately 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. One can speculate about the repercussions of this venture on Israel’s “soul”.
In this latest round of bloodshed, Haaretz notes, various newborns have been harnessed with the names “Tzuk or Eitan, which together comprise the Hebrew name of the current military campaign” - an additional indication of how thoroughly military destruction permeates the Israeli essence.
Disrupting the life cycle
Unlike Hamas’ birth-spurring rockets, Israeli weapons tend not to be endowed with life-giving qualities. In Palestine, there’s a pretty consistent correlation between incoming projectiles and death.
When four-year-old Sahir Salman Abu Namous was killed on 11 July in an airstrike on his family’s home in northern Gaza - yet another incident suggesting that collateral damage is perhaps not an unintended byproduct of Israeli military exercises but rather their primary purpose - Ali Abunimah reported the pleas of the boy’s father: “Wake up, my son! I bought toys for you, please wake up!”
Also quoted is the father’s cousin, who describes Sahir as “just [a] kid who wanted to play and be happy[;] he wasn’t just a number”.
But the number of young children and babies taken out by the “Protective Edge” confirms Israel’s adverse effects on the Palestinian life cycle. Over 200 persons have already perished in Gaza, with casualties standing to soar as international media trips over itself to toe the Israeli line—that Hamas is to blame for the continuing carnage since it rejected a ceasefire agreement about which it was not consulted.
As part of its general focus on the destruction of Arab life, Israel maintains a strong tradition of targeting life-saving entities and equipment (see, for example, direct hits on Red Cross ambulances in Lebanon, in which missiles penetrated the very centre of each cross).
A rehabilitation centre for the disabled in Gaza recently came under Israeli bombardment - to be sure, people who can’t move make excellent human shields! - and the Israeli military has threatened to stage a repeat strike on al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City.
Meanwhile, Palestinian health care services don’t enjoy the option of relocation to bomb shelters, a luxury reserved for Israeli maternity wards and other medical facilities.

‘Civilised’ slaughter

Of course, no bout of bloodletting by Israel is complete without a charitable intervention by former Harvard Law School institution Alan Dershowitz to absolve the country of any wrongdoing. During the 2006 assault on Lebanon, his tightly-crafted defense went something like this: civilians killed by Israel often just aren’t that civilian-like.
Dershowitz acknowledges that two-year-olds, for example, are more deserving of the “civilian” label than other demographic cohorts. But as it conveniently turns out, Israel is not even at fault for killing youngsters; in a new Newsmax dispatch titled “Israel Defends Entire Civilised World”, Dershowitz reminds us of Hamas’s “dead baby strategy”, which “deliberately puts Israel to the tragic choice of attacking [Palestinian] rockets and killing some children who are used as human shields, or refraining from attacking the rockets and thereby placing their own children at risk”.
Things thus appear to be going pretty well for all involved parties: Israel is engaging in mass child-saving devastation and premature labour and Hamas is racking up dead babies.
According to Dershowitzian delusion, Israel has taken great care to limit civilian casualties: “They drop leaflets, make phone calls and even send noisemaking bomblets to warn civilians to leave areas to which rockets are being fired”. Indeed, according to the United Nations, a mere 80 percent of the fatalities in Gaza are estimated to be civilian. It’s meanwhile unclear where civilians are supposed to go when everything in the territory is a potential target and when the Israeli military has a habit of ordering people to flee and then bombing them as they do so.
Dershowitz concludes that “the entire civilized world should be standing behind Israel”. If this is what civilisation looks like, any civilised person should want nothing to do with it.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.

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