‘No Electricity, No Food, No Water’

“No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel.”

That’s the situation facing Gazans. The quote is from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Israel on Monday declared a “complete siege” of the beleaguered coastal enclave.

If you’re inclined to ask, wryly, “What else is new?” no one will blame you. Well, actually, some people might. Tragedy galvanizes. It also radicalizes. A galvanized, radical polity is an opportunity. Leaders and politicians are never so swept up in grief as to let that opportunity pass.

One of the most widely-circulated videos from Hamas’s weekend attacks on Israel depicted Noa Argamani, a twentysomething woman, being abducted by militants on a motorcycle. She had attended a music festival which became the site of a massacre. Her father was, naturally, beset with fear and grief. And yet, while speaking to reporters, he offered a reminder to the world. “They have also lost loved ones in the war,” he said, of Palestinians. “They also have captives. They also have mourning mothers.”

Gaza is 140 square miles. More than two million Palestinians live there. Every one of them isn’t “a militant.” If they were, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would command the single-largest army on Earth. Gazans are regular people. Men, women and children, trapped in a giant ghetto suffering under a seven-year blockade. Unemployment is 50%, the healthcare system is chronically short of medicine and the already crumbling infrastructure can ill afford another prolonged bombardment by Israeli warplanes.

Whether or not Israel is being disingenuous when it describes airstrikes as “targeted” is largely (completely, even) irrelevant. Gaza is among the most densely populated places in the world. For illustrative purposes, let’s say the civilian-to-militant ratio is 70:1. Given the population density, that still means you can barely walk without stepping on a militant’s boot (“Sorry, I didn’t see you there”). That, in turn, means you can’t heed the advice of the Israeli military when they warn civilians to steer clear of militants and places where they might be congregating. And you can’t leave either. Nobody’s allowed out.

That’s a decidedly suboptimal situation: Trapped in a ghetto that’s under siege by a modern military not famous for mercy. At least 78 children are dead in Gaza since Saturday. That’s already more than the 67 kids who died in the last major round of fighting between the IDF and Hamas in 2021.

Plainly, Israel has to respond to the attacks. More than 700 Israelis were killed over the weekend. The first day of the assault counted as the single deadliest day in any Palestinian attack since Israeli statehood. The massacre at the music festival seems destined to go down in history as a singularly heinous act of wanton, politically-motivated murder — the very definition of “terrorism.”

My only point is to emphasize that if Israel does intend to make this Hamas’s last act, it’s hard to see how that can be accomplished without a staggering loss of life in Gaza, where the majority of the casualties will be civilians, including scores of young children. The human toll of such a campaign — an operation aimed at dismantling and eliminating Hamas altogether — and the accompanying scenes of desolation, could have far-reaching consequences. Tragedy galvanizes. It also radicalizes.

More broadly, religious acrimony in the 21st century is a sad testament to how little progress our species has actually made. As I put it Sunday evening, there’s no more damning indictment of humanity than the persistence, over centuries, of wars and violent conflict rooted in competing branches and interpretations of superstitious myths.


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17 thoughts on “‘No Electricity, No Food, No Water’

  1. Unfortunately this will be yet another case where Israel spawns a new generation of terrorists, because people who had nothing to do with Hamas will be severely impacted. Comparisons to 9/11 are apt, and certainly drastic actions need to be taken against Hamas, but “bombing the shit out of Gaza” is probably not useful in the long run, all things considered.

  2. As I explained to my children when they were little, more people have been killed in the name of religion than any other cause, and every religion has blood on its hands.

      1. At least the underlying trend seems to be headed in the right direction. By way of an inelegant financial market analogy, I see interest rates (religious extremism) increasing rapidly, while underlying debt levels (those holding strong religious feelings) diminishing. So are higher religious interest rates causing a deleveraging in religious debt levels? I’m already debt-free in that sense, so just asking for my friend who leaves no footprints. The WP had a good recent summary, if I may — https://wapo.st/3ROmmWL

      2. As a former 25 year cleric, H., you have hit the nail on the head. Religious belief, all religions, are a curse on the earth, the plague that never stops giving.

    1. Israel’s reaction is obvious and therefore was anticipated by Hamas. If they knew it was coming, than the blood of their own people is also on their own hands.

  3. It is important not to lose one’s humanity at big inflection points. The conundrum looks like this to me- Perma war is the background…The middle east seems to be particularly afflicted by the winner take all approach….Israel was founded as a Jewish state- the 1967 war put a major contradiction into that vision…A Palestinian state would inevitably result in a huge competition to be the most warlike and possibly genocidal candidate. Israel itself also seems to suffer from a right wing populist virus. The answer is a return to basics and more discipline. When I look at a lot of the smaller wars breaking out all over the world I see nationalist ethnic and religious conflict. The big boys are busy fighting and this is encouragely all sorts of risk taking…Serbia/Kosovo, Azerbaijan/Armenia, Niger, Sudan, etc….This to me shows a road to chaos that probably won’t subside till 2030 or later. I see the invasion of Ukraine as the catalyst, but there was, and is, dry timber all over the world. What can the US do? First and foremost, consign Donald Trump to the dustbin of history…

  4. Even if the IDF seeks to “take control” of the Gaza strip, as some reports suggest, and succeeds in doing so, I don’t think it can sustain control for very long. Yes, the US controlled Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, but that was with a cooperative local government, and Russia has controlled Ukrainian cities and towns taken in 2022, but that is partly because those places were de-populated as many Ukrainians left (esp fighting-age), an option unavailable in Gaza.

    Let’s assume Israel occupies and semi-controls Gaza for some months, eliminates whatever Hamas infrastructure, weapons, tunnels, etc it can find – then what? What is the Netanyahu government’s ultimate plan? Build a bigger buffer zone along the border? Occupy southern Gaza bordering Egypt to ward off new tunnels? Build and hold IDF firebases (aka rocket targets) in Gaza? Or no plan, just reactive?

  5. Blame Iran and Hamas. The US didn’t hold back after 9/11. Neither would any other civilized country. Hamas was elected by Gazans. As unfortunate as their suffering is, they brought this upon themselves and now it will take Israel and the West (if it’s willing) to free them from Hamas forever. My fear is that we’ll soon be hearing from the civilized West to hold Israel back before it can finish the job. Biden’s 6 billion release of funds to Iran certainly helped Hamas in this case.

    1. You’re right. The US invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, and in very “civilized” fashion, destroyed the damn place forever. The idea that Gazans “brought this upon themselves” is like me coming to your neighborhood with 500 armed men and saying, “Hey Hector, We’re having an election now. Do you support us?” or like suggesting the Boston neighborhoods where Whitey Bulger reigned for decades were “to blame” for Whitey Bulger. It’s an absurd contention. Also, there’s no evidence for your claim that Biden “helped Hamas” with that funding release. Keep this kind of nonsense out of my comment section. Period.

  6. Folks, I’m going to ask all of you to do me a favor: Don’t make me choose between chastising (or deleting) your comments and letting the site become a place where people can blame civilians (women and children) for something that plainly isn’t their fault. That’s unfair to me as an editor (not to mention unfair to the women and the children). The comment above (from “Hector”) is an example of what I’m talking about. I shouldn’t have to police a community of intelligent adults (and I hope that’s what we have here) to be sure you’re not blaming innocents for wars. Google frowns on comment sections where that kind of thing is pervasive. I won’t have it here, and it shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t care who you blame as long as it’s not the civilian population in war zones. Don’t be that guy or gal. Don’t be the person who’s blaming civilian populations for wars in online forums.

  7. H-Man, spot on about superstitious myths spawning unbelievable chaos for thousands of years. You would think at some point mankind would simply get everyone on the same page and move on. Wishful thinking.

    1. Exactly. I mean, if we just can’t resist the urge to kill each other, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of other excuses that are at least grounded in objective reality. If we want chaos and violence, we can still have it without the fairy tales.

    2. Modern religions evolved as the adoption of agriculture made possible denser populations (cities), creating the need to organize and control large numbers of people, who did not necessarily share a family or tribal connection. The tenets of Christianity and Islam, especially, made it possible for ambitious leaders to sway their subjects towards a common objective. As a teenager I believed that if we could only get past religion, people could work together and solve real problems rationally (as in John Lennon’s “Imagine”). But I have since come to understand that religion is only a symptom of what ails us. We arrived where we are as the dominant force on earth because we were the most clever, ruthless, and violent species on the planet. If we didn’t have religions, we would have other systems of belief that allowed us to see our own group as righteous, and other groups as sub-human. Communism, ultra-nationalism, ethnic pride, Crips, Bloods, drug cartels, Christianity, Islam—all reflections of the same urge to wipe out people outside of our own group.

  8. Long term security requires first rate thinking. I think the inevitble humanitarian crisis here is not going to help Israel. Israel needs to figure out how to completely disrupt Hamas without getting stuck ina ground war in Gaza or southern Lebanon. I think it’s pretty clear that the Israelis have a very good understanding of Iran. They need to bring their Hamas and Hezbollah game up to this level…Unlike many, I don’t understand why a 20 year insanity inAfghanistan is ok, but not plenty of assassinations. I would follow the top20 or so leaders of Hamas ala Munich.
    I would hack every bank account they have. I would make it clear that intelligence and the hiving off of Hamas will take time…

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