By Saree Makdisi, CounterPunch.org, January 7, 2009
Israel has killed and wounded almost four thousand men, women and children so far in its assault on Gaza; it has entombed whole families together in the ruins of their homes. As I write these words, news is breaking that Israeli bombs have killed at least 40 civilians huddling in a UN school which they mistakenly thought would be safer than the homes from which Israel’s relentless barrage—and its deliberately terrorizing “warning” leaflets and prerecorded phone calls—had already driven them. (I still have one of the leaflets the Israelis dropped on besieged Beirut in 1982 and the language is exactly the same—“flee, flee for your lives!”). Mosques, schools, houses, apartment buildings, have all been brought down on the heads of those inside.
All this death and destruction comes supposedly in retaliation for rocket attacks that had not inflicted a single fatality inside Israel in over a year. What happened to “an eye for an eye?”
As horrific as the toll of dead and injured already is, the scale of Israel’s bombing, and its targeting of ambulances and medical and rescue crews—several doctors and paramedics have been killed or wounded so far—means that the true totals are actually unknown. Countless numbers of victims have bled to death in the streets or in the ruins of their smashed homes. Calls for help aren’t getting through Gaza’s phone networks, battered to pieces along with the rest of the civilian infrastructure—its water, sewage, electricity systems, all already crumbling as a result of the years of siege. The victims that are evacuated—as often, these days, in civilian cars as in the remaining ambulances—make it to hospitals that are overwhelmed; many will die that might have otherwise been saved.
Any hospital would be overwhelmed under the circumstances: how then for a hospital that has already been cut off by the three year old Israeli blockade of Gaza from urgently needed supplies, medicines, drugs, anesthetics, spare parts, fuel for generators? In fact, the true story of what Israel is doing to the people of Gaza is to be seen in the besieged territory’s hospitals: the smashed, burned, dusty bodies of children being carried in on makeshift blankets (there aren’t enough stretchers to go around); the morgue drawers full of bodies; the emergency rooms with badly hurt, crying people scattered on stretchers, on beds, on the blood-washed floors, as the doctors run from one to another trying to figure out who can be saved and who must be attended to first—the boy with his feet blown off? the old woman with the huge gash in her head? the young man with his guts hanging out of his stomach? the anguished little girl thrashing about in pain, in fear, in agony and begging for her mother who vanished in some monstrous explosion? And outside, on the crowded sidewalks, the other side of the human suffering that Israel has chosen to inflict on an entire population: the wailing mothers, fathers and children; the weeping young men; the panicked people rushing around trying to find loved ones after each new Israeli bombing.
All this to make Israelis feel secure? What security is this kind of barbarism ever likely to gain them?