The Nation, January 5, 2009 - ... What did manage to unnerve me in the broadcast was one short sentence made by a reporter who covered the entry of a humanitarian aid convoy into the Gaza Strip on Friday.
My mother and I--like other Israeli viewers--learned that 170 trucks supplied with basic foodstuff donated by the Turkish government entered Gaza through the Carmi crossing. That the report had nothing to say about the context of this food shipment did not surprise me....
While the fact that this information was missing from the report did not surprise me, I found myself completely taken aback by the way in which the reporter justified the convoy's entrance into Gaza. Explaining to those viewers who might be wondering why Israel allows humanitarian assistance to the other side during times of war, he declared that if a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe were to explode among the Palestinian civilian population, the international community would pressure Israel to stop the assault.
There is something extremely cynical about how Israel explains its use of humanitarian assistance, and yet such unadulterated explanations actually help uncover an important facet of postmodern warfare. Not unlike raising animals for slaughter on a farm, the Israeli government maintains that it is providing Palestinians with assistance so that it can have a free hand in attacking them. And just as Israel provides basic foodstuff to Palestinians while it continues shooting them, it informs Palestinians--by phone, no less--that they must evacuate their homes before F-16 fighter jets begin bombing them.
One notices, then, that in addition to its remote-control, computer game-like qualities, postmodern warfare is also characterized by a bizarre new moral element. It is as if the masters of wars realized that since current wars rarely take place between two armies and are often carried out in the midst of civilian populations, a new just war theory is needed. So these masters of war gathered together philosophers and intellectuals to develop a moral theory for postmodern wars, and today, as Gaza is being destroyed, we can see quite plainly how the new theory is being transformed into praxis.
Neve Gordon is an Israeli who teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University. His new book, Israel's Occupation, is due out this fall from the University of California Press. Additional writings are available at israelsoccupation.info.more.