Eyeless in Gaza

July 27, 2006

While Lebanon and northern Israel suffer, the suffering in Gaza hasn’t stopped. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz summarizes activities there. the last couple of days. (The story is a little bloglike; they keep adding paragraphs at the beginning of the page.) Note this part of the account (my emphasis), from Wednesday:

Wednesday’s death toll in Gaza was the highest in two weeks.Medics said two girls, one an infant, died when a tank shell struck a house near Jabalya, a Hamas stronghold. A three-year-old girl was killed earlier in the day.

Nearly 60 people were wounded, including a cameraman for Palestinian television. Six were in a critical condition.

IDF troops have pursued an offensive in Gaza while fighting on a second front in Lebanon, but have failed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.

Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, called on the world to remember the plight of the Palestinians despite the conflict in Lebanon.

“This is the forgotten war,” he told Reuters. “We urge the international community to intervene.”

The IDF, which withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005, confirmed that it had carried out strikes against miliants.

At least 30 IDF tanks and other armored vehicles pushed more than two kilometers into the northern Gaza Strip overnight as part of Operation Samson’s Pillars. The troops clashed with militants on the edge of the Jabalya throughout the day.

What struck me was the name the IDF chose for the operation.

In the book of Judges, Samson was a mighty warrior against the Philistines (after whom Palestine is named.) A name could have been chosen from other Samsonian (Samsonite?) episodes – Operation Righteous Jawbone, Operation Burning Brand. When Samson pulled down the pillars of the Philistine temple, he destroyed the Philistine elite; but he himself died with them. And, incidentally, he was in chains and blind at the time. His enemies had put out his eyes years before.

So what kind of gallows humor was this, on the IDF’s part? Was it an acknowledgement that they were going into the operation blind? Or even of the way that mutual hatred has blinded both sides for decades? That for all their military supremacy they feel chained, imprisoned by history, grinding year in and year out at the same bloody mill wheel? Were they expressing a worry that things have escalated so far that, no matter how many Arab murderers and Arab innocents Israel crushes, she herself will be doomed by those same apocalyptic victories?

Maybe it’s just me. But I sense a different feeling in the air from any preceding stage of the long rapacious melodrama. It’s as if none of the combatants any longer expects any good end, any fruit from their pain. They are just reflexively, robotically, going through the motions of war, the motions of rage, the motions of grief. They can do this in their sleep by now. They can do it with their eyes closed.

Except for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the neocons. The worst remain full of passionate intensity.



  1. do you think that people truly hope to achieve “good” through war?

    or is it more of “vengeance”?


  2. Motives vary. In any war, at least some individuals will imagine that it can achieve “good”; at least some will want it in order to get even for some real or imagined injury.

    In the Israel/Palestine standoff, the driving motivations seem to be fear, habit, weary distrust, and desperation. Though each new “leader” seems to feel an imperative to kill a few folks on the other side, just to establish his or her bona fides as enough of an alpha to head up the pack.

  3. i think that there are very very occasionally people who are trying to do good through war. but most of the time i find people are just in it for vengeance.

    maybe i am just cynical, but i havent seen to many soldiers (in the past 6 plus years i have been in the army) who truly care about good, but just want to get back at the people who have killed americans.

    as far as Israel and Palestinians go, they definitely (both sides) seem to be completely focused on vengeance and not good through their war.

    just my opinion though.


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