A Gazan man kisses the foot of his dead baby, killed in an Israeli strike

A Gazan man kisses the foot of his dead baby, killed in an Israeli strike

(Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

A War Against Humanity Itself

Amidst the ongoing, unfathomable slaughter, hunger, maiming, razing in Gaza at the hands of Israel's "voracious death machine," its leaders now openly vow "total and utter destruction" by what they still grotesquely call "one of the most moral militaries in the world," murdered newborns and all. But the hypocrisies and protests mount. "One of this genocide’s aims is to drown us in our own sorrow," says one of Balfour's "savages." Part of their resistance, in turn, "is to talk about tomorrow in Gaza."

The litany from Israel's mass killing, "monstrous and largely indiscriminate," to date: Almost 35,000 dead Palestinians, including well over 14,000 "ungrievable" children; more than 77,000 wounded, half children; at least 17,000 orphans, 5,000 children whose limbs have been amputated, thousands more buried under rubble, a child killed or injured every 10 minutes; hundreds of dead journalists, doctors, teachers, poets, aid workers, academics; most homes leveled, along with 400 schools, 12 universities, over 30 hospitals; starvation levels "the highest ever recorded." Thanks in part to $26 billion more the U.S. just awarded  Israel, its "most decisive vote of confidence in genocide since the Indian Removal Act of 1830," the hellfire still rains down. Each day, the count grows: Air strikes kill 22, mostly children, kill 20, mostly children, kill 13, nine of them children, kill eight children and two women from one family, kill three women and six children. Fathers sob over small bodies, mourning "a world devoid of all human values." A strike killed a man, his very pregnant wife, and their three-year-old; doctors saved the baby. A sniper killed a West Bank man for going up on his roof; days later, his wife named their new son after him as their toddler played in sand strewn with his father's blood.

When upright IDF forces retreated from Nasser and Al-Shifa hospitals after mindlessly pulverizing them, rescue workers uncovered mass graves - up to 400 bodies in one, over 200 in another - of bodies mutilated, beheaded, hands tied behind them. The IDF detain medics, block Red Crescent ambulances, storm hospitals and attack staff even as new victims "pile up," bloody and stick-thin, in rubble-strewn facilities with no supplies. "You can't imagine it unless you see it," says an Egyptian doctor working in the north. His most haunting memory: One orphan, an arm amputated, a leg broken, almost entirely burned, "constantly asking where her father, mother and siblings were." Say other doctors, Gazan and foreign, of amputating limbs without anaesthesia, delivering babies at risk of starvation, laboring beneath the relentless noise and threat of drones where there is "no safe plae, even in our minds," "We are alive, but we are not OK." One Gazan doctor recalls a broken fellow-psychologist, leaning his head on his knees, in tears. "He asked me what he was supposed to do, where he was supposed to go," he said. "I had no answers to give him."

Still, Israel, "whose founders longed to be a light unto the nations," persists in its "gallop into the abyss" by blocking food aid and facilitating "catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation," a preventable famine “unprecedented in modern history." Rights workers say Gaza's entire population of 2.2 million do not have enough available calories; half are on the brink of starvation; a third of Gazan infants are acutely malnourished. In Rafah, where half of Gaza has taken shelter, dazed people spend their days "in a perpetual state of survival," seeking or standing in line for water and food. The trickle of aid is grossly inadequate, and often fatal: Having survived an air strike that killed 17 relatives but only wounded him - "God saved him," said his grandfather - Zein Oroq, 13, was killed when a pallet of beans, rice and other food dropped by an unopened parachute hit him in the head; the stampede of people "were also hungry" and didn't stop for him. When a pharmacist mother of three, displaced six times, got a text message of an UNRWA food voucher, she stood in line five hours to get two eggs. En route home, crying, she met her 70-year-old aunt who had lost her husband and two chiuldren in an airstrike. She gave her one egg; at the tent, "We divided the egg into portions to share."

Last month's targeted killing of sevenWorld Central Kitchen aid workers in a well-marked convoy - "it was very clear who we are and what we do" - seemed a sort of turning point: In what some called "a story of Western racism." The deaths of white foreigners, who "risked everything to feed people they did not know and will never meet," caused an outcry that many, while not diminishing their generous courage, couldn't help but note: "We need not delude ourselves that (media) would have run the story on its front page had the dead carried Arab names, (when) countless Palestinians, equally heroic and innocent, have been slaughtered by Israeli forces’ actions in the same way." The workers - a Palestinian, Australian, Pole, three Brits and a dual US-Canada national - were "the best of humanity," saidWCK founder and chef José Andrés. "The seven souls we mourn today were there so that hungry people could eat," he said at a remembrance. "There is no excuse for these killings." Angrily rejecting Israeli claims of "mistakes" - "the perpetrator cannot be investigating himself” - he argued "the death of one humanitarian, one child, one civilian is too many." "This doesn't seem anymore a war about defending Israel," he said. "At this point, it seems it’s a war against humanity itself.”

In the midst of Israel's far-right "Kahanist Spring," its political and military leaders are astonishingly unshy on that genocidal score. This week, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich openly called for "total annihilation" of Gaza: "There are no half measures - Rafah, Deir al-Balah, Nuseirat...'Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek'...There is no place for them under heaven." Echoing fellow war-monger Itamar Ben-Gvir - "God forbid, Israel does not enter Rafah, God forbid, we end the war" - Smotrich is so opposed to "strategic concessions" that would mean "the surrender of the State of Israel," he's threatened to boltNetanyahu's coalition if he doesn't invade Rafah: "I will pursue my enemies and destroy them. We should deliver the decisive blow." "In any normal country," notedHaaretz' lead editorial the next day, five minutes after his remarks (Netanyahu) would have convened a press conference, fired the minister in disgrace, and publicly declared (that) people with such a worldview have no place in the Israeli government." Instead, in Netanyahu's Israel, "the leader of the far right is openly advocating genocide, but there's not one person in the government willing to stand up and say 'enough'." Because, in Netanyahu's Israel, it apparently never is.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calls for ‘utter destruction’ in Rafahwww.youtube.com

The grisly evidence is everywhere. On Friday, the eldest daughter, two-month-old grandson, and son-in-law of beloved Palestinian poet and mentor Refaat Alareer, assassinated last year in a targeted airstrike that also killed his brother, sister, and her four children, were reported killed in another strike in Gaza City. "I have beautiful news for you," wrote illustrator Shaima Refaat Alareer to her slain father after giving birth. "Do you know you have just become a grandfather? This is your first grandchild, Abdul Rahman...I never imagined I’d lose you so soon before you got to meet him." Heartbreak upon heartbreak, much like the murder of six-year-old Hind Rajab, who became a symbol of the carnage visited upon Gaza when she called for help - "I'm so scared, please come" - while trapped in a car with dead relatives under Israeli fire; weeks later, her decomposed body was found alongside them and an ambulance crew sent to rescue her, because in Netanyahu's Israel, nothing is still ever enough. "For too long, Palestinians have been lectured about the value of human life and dignity," says Gazan AFSC worker Yousef Aljamal of the "deafening international silence" on Israel's atrocities, "only to discover that the value of their lives and their dignity are exceptions to the rule."

Finally, though, the horrors have "struck a chord" on American campuses with the largest student anti-war protests since the end of the Vietnam War. Nationwide, dozens of solidarity encampments have sprung up, from UCLA to New York's NYU and Columbia University, where protesters unfurled a banner renaming the historic Hamilton Hall "Hinds Hall,” for Hind Rajab. Insisting they'll remain "inescapably visible," students cite the hypocrisies and contradictions "between what our governments say they stand for in terms of democracy, human rights, freedom, and (the) actions they are supporting in Gaza" - ostensibly promoting human rights but enabling genocide, supporting free speech but siccing violent police on peaceful protests, etc. Some schools - Northwestern, Johns Hopkins - have successfully negotiated compromises, like agreeing to review college investments in return for limiting protests; laudably - "This is democracy at work" - Brown agreed to a formal divestment vote from Israel. Still, the "unhinged" response by many school administrations and riot-geared law enforcement, including a Strategic Response Group meant to combat public unrest and “counter-terrorism," aka young people opposed to genocide, has been blasted as "an authoritarian escalation."

Speaking of: Netanyahu, meanwhile, clings to the rabid, rigid rhetoric he's used since Oct. 7, declaiming his "iron-clad determination to achieve the goals of our war" against "an outrageous assault on Israel's inherent right to self-defense" by "barbarians" and "genocidal terrorists," which evidently include newborns, six-year-olds, entire families and thousands of children, journalists, doctors, aid workers and other innocents. Reportedly worried the ICC may soon issue arrest warrants for himself and other Israeli leaders as "war criminals," he's made the "very unusual appeal" to families of the hostages - whom in his venomous investment in war he's declined to free when he repeatedly could have - "asking" them to lobby Hague officials not to arrest him. Posting a surreal speech with, "You have to hear this to believe this," he argues "trying to put Israel in the dock" for genocide would be "an outrage of historic proportions," the "first time a democratic country fighting for its life according to the rules of war is itself accused of war crimes," "fueling the fires of anti-Semitism already raging on campuses" and, by targeting "the democracy called Israel, (the) targeting of all democracies" in their fight against "savage terrorism and wanton aggression." Yes: phantasmal pot/kettle.

As he harangues, lest we forget, the head of UNICEF just declared of the harrowing conditions in Gaza, "Nearly all of the some 600,000 children now crammed into Rafah are either injured, sick, malnourished, traumatized, or living with disabilities." A UNICEF spokesperson began an op-ed with, "The war against Gaza's children is forcing many to close their eyes. Nine-year-old Mohamed's eyes were forced shut, first by the bandages that covered a gaping hole in the back of his head, and second by the coma caused by the blast that hit his family home. He is nine. Sorry, he was nine. Mohamed is now dead." In central and northern Gaza, surviving Palestinians seeking to return to their homes have found "only ruins, and the smell of death...The streets have turned to sand....It is not fit for life." And still they are terrorized: Rights groups say the IDF is luring returnees into the open with recordings of cries and screams to be shot at by snipers or drones. At Nuseirat refugee camp, a 35-year-old "son of this city" found only "mountains of rubble." Yet Gaza, he insists, has risen before: "I will wait for the water lines to be extended in the area, and I will put up a tent and sleep in it with my children." Says another former resident, "We will teach our children in tents, under the sun, and anywhere else."

"What does the liberation of Palestine mean?" asks philosopher Judith Butler, when "the grief over Jewish lives lost is very often humanized and memorialized in ways that Palestinian deaths are not." Simply, she offers "a vision of cohabitation," that Palestinians and Jews and other inhabitants of that land find a way to live together. Either next to each other or with one another, under conditions of radical equality," where occupation is dismantled. As a Jew, she also dismantles the myth that Jews, having suffered genocide, cannot be enacting genocide: "There is nothing that keeps a people who have suffered massively in life from afflicting massive suffering on others...There is nothing in the history of the world that precludes that." Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, newly installed as Glasgow University Rector, has seen and lived that reality. Except for himself, all his forefathers were born in Palestine, a land given away by Arthur Balfour, a former Glasgow rector who in his 46-word declaration announcing British support for Palestine noted, "A survey of the world (shows) a vast number of savage communities." After a lifetime as a war surgeon, said Abu-Sittah, students at the school once headed by Winnie Mandela reached out to him, and "one of Balfour’s savages" was elected.

"Students understood what we have to lose when we allow our politics to become inhuman," said Abu-Sittah of what he views as a vote of solidarity with too-long-ignored Palestinian suffering. Citing "the ravening beast" that is "the genocidal erasure of a people," he argued Gaza is the "axis of genocide" by western powers: "The quadcopters and drones fitted with sniper guns - used so efficiently (one) night at Al-Ahli hospital we received over 30 wounded civilians shot outside our hospital - today in Gaza will be used tomorrow in Mumbai, Nairobi and Sao Paulo." For those who have "seen, smelt, and heard what the weapons of war do to a child’s body," have "amputated the unsalvageable limbs of wounded children," have witnessed the "othering" by which many would be horrified by "the barbarity" of Israel killing 14,000 puppies or kittens, but not children - for all those, somehow, he urged hope. "When powerlessness is at its most acute, the determination to think like a human being, creatively, courageously, complicatedly matters the most," he said. "It is your world to fight for. It is your tomorrow to make." Dedicating his address to dead family and colleagues, "but mostly to our land," he ended with the words of Bobby Sands: "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

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