Can you call it a war if . . .

by The Palimpsest Staff on January 6, 2009

Can There Be Politics in Tragedy? Or in Gaza?


I’m immersed in long-range writing and leave tomorrow for six months in Berlin, but the Gaza war provokes me to share a brilliant essay by Darry Li, a doctoral student in anthropology and Middle East Studies at Harvard and a student at Yale Law School who has worked in Gaza for Human Rights Watch, B’tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

The essay appeared last February in Middle East Report, but it’s making the rounds again because its clarity and comprehensiveness outweigh its blind spots. Below I post half of it with my comments, but click the link and read it all.

Li writes that Israel’s promises to avoid a “humanitarian crisis” reflect its long descent from treating Gaza as a Bantustan to abandoning yet controlling it as a holding pen. He gets polemical at times, and some of his analysis is wrong. But he’s right that Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005 is, not “a one-time abandonment of control” but “an ongoing process of controlled abandonment, by which Israel is severing the ties forged with Gaza over 40 years… without allowing any viable alternatives to emerge.” This strategy seeks “neither justice nor even stability, but rather survival — as we are reminded by every guarantee that an undefined ‘humanitarian crisis’ will be avoided.”

A chilling charge. Li doesn’t mention Israel’s donation of greenhouses and housing it left behind in 2005, but he notes coldly that “Since its beginnings over a century ago, the Zionist project of creating a state for the Jewish people in the eastern Mediterranean has faced an intractable challenge: how to deal with indigenous non-Jews — who today comprise half of the population living under Israeli rule — when practical realities dictate that [Palestinians] cannot be removed and ideology demands that they must not be granted political equality.”

Continue . . .

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