Get to Know Gaza Before the Next War

With a severe humanitarian and economic crisis, another Gaza war could well be on its way. But Gaza is not only the packed, imprisoned and impoverished strip of misery. It is a place where high school students learn Shakespeare, whose residents have been to hell and kept their pride. Why isn’t it a Singapore by the sea, and is there any hope or route to improvement? Veteran journalist Donald Macintyre brings years of firsthand reporting to his deeply informative and equally colorful book Gaza: Preparing for Dawn.



This season of the Tel Aviv Review is made possible by The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, which promotes humanistic, democratic, and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel.


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One comment on “Get to Know Gaza Before the Next War

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    “…a mentality turned on itself through closure.”

    –the interviewee, speaking of Gaza

    … the outside closing hand turning on itself as well, its tightening grasp truncating the future it can see. Dominance takes a toll on both sides of the relationship–just look at long term behavior in prisons.

    In 1982 the US Supreme Court ruled (5-4) in Plyler v. Doe that the State of Texas could not charge admission for illegally resident children in primary or secondary (high) school. The majority said in part that the Texas law was “directed against children, impose[ing] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control,” ultimately “creat[ing] and perpetuat[ing] … a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.” The law lacked foresight, harming the long term interests of Texas, so no “substantial state interest” could exist. The four dissenting Justices replied that “[t]he Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem.” Essentially, the majority was applying a shock the conscience test for constitutionality without textual basis. (Justice Brennan wrote for the majority, and indeed his wide-scope jurisprudence lead in opposition to the rise of an originalism, personified in Scalia and Thomas, still impacting the Court.)

    The dissent could have been muted with a shift of majority grounds. “Creat[ing] and perpetuat[ing] … a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries” produces a class in involuntary servitude relative to employment and that which the horizon of upward mobility can bring; such would be forced into jobs of less income, with less chance to defend themselves in their lives for virtue of their lack of education otherwise guaranteed by all [U.S.] State constitutions–schooling through high school. This subpopulation, handicapped by the State, would be that upon which educated citizens could walk upon for their own success. The US 13th Amendment reads

    “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

    this a prohibition of any social structure inducing involuntary servitude. Plyler could have been decided by invoking the Amendment, obviating any call to conscience, but “involuntary servitude” in the Amendment has remained largely dormant since the case defeat of Slaughterhouse in 1873.

    As in the Texas law, the trickle closure of Gaza has a State significantly limiting the social and economic horizon of a class of people, inducing involuntary servitude as social structure. Gaza servitude purportedly goes to enhancing the security of Israeli citizens. But, as in the case of the Texas law, those subjected to servitude are not at all responsible for the well being of the beneficiary class; the Gazan population is not Hamas. (Nor is all of Hamas those effectively controlling Hamas. Every time we label we subjugate someone somewhere, no matter how necessary labels may be.) Neither the illegally resident children nor the Gazan population are responsible for their plight. As the Plyler majority pointed out (above), this is what shocks the conscience.

    Yet dominance is unavoidable, and this the 13th Amendment honestly admits–“except[ing] as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Law enforcement is dominance inescapable, restricted to individual responsibility, and dominance will throw off that shackle unless checked by an overlapping dominance–the courts, both “duly convict[ing]” and, in the last quarter of the 20th Century or so, intervening in custodial care via lawsuit.

    Dominance against Gaza has little check, so grows into what we are anciently capable of, nothing to do with being Jewish or Palestinian or Muslim or whatnot. The brutality is incremental, so acceptable, unto the near darkening of Gaza as political punishment, lost the ability to say “this we will not do.” No one checks us, and so we are sorely in need. The UN sanctions against Iran were similar to those against Gaza, less draconian for scope of control, but also for Security Council internal agreement and individual country cooperative enforcement. Civilization is the evolution of checks upon one another, yet not unto mutual impotence–for sociality also requires lived efficacy as a form of freedom, freedom and check in dialectic.

    There is no God to stay our hand, to show us the way–only ourselves, several ourselves, none of identical viewpoint nor identical form of power. God is out there, not up there, in the others decrying to stopping what we would do, we the same for each of them. Gaza is bereft this human hope for progress. And now Israeli security services ask for more aid therein, fearing as much what Israel might become in response as what Gaza might soon endure. Mistake not: Israeli security is asking for help against itself; where is my 13th Amendment, who will enforce it upon me, here the Stanford Prison Experiment writ all too large. We will always be in a fight with and within ourselves until entropy discards us into oblivion, sole mercy that no single I endures the whole of this struggle entire.

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