There’s a difference between running an unfair piece which once again points the finger at Israel for this or that failure of its Arab neighbors – and actually contributing to the suffering and hopelessness of those same Arabs. Iyad Abuheweila and David Halbfinger on Sunday actually joined the forces of repression which have been devouring the Arabs of the Gaza Strip since 1948.
Their story, For Gaza Protester, Living or Dying Is the ‘Same Thing,’ focused on Saber al-Gerim, 22, a Gaza Strip Arab whose grandmother fled her home in what is today the city of Ashdod in Israel. One of the thousands of Gazan youths who threw themselves against the border fence over the past five weeks, al-Gerim’s dispair has reached a level where he tells the Times’ writers: “It doesn’t matter to me if they shoot me or not,” because “Death or life — it’s the same thing.”
The CIA World Factbook in 2017 offered a grim analysis of things inside the Gaza Strip: “Movement and access restrictions, violent attacks, and the slow pace of post-conflict reconstruction continue to degrade economic conditions in the Gaza Strip,” goes the report. “Israeli controls became more restrictive after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007.”
The reason for that tightening of the controls had to do with the fact that Israel, which had let go of every last inch of Gaza in the summer of 2005, watched helplessly as the partner with which it had signed a peace agreement, the PLO, was being roughed up, its members thrown off rooftops, by the zealot terror group Hamas whose primary goal, above all else, was and has since remained the annihilation of the Zionist state.
Indeed, over the 11 or so years since the Hamas takeover, Israeli civilian populations were targeted by thousands of rockets, aimed at schools and kindergartens, private homes and synagogues. The fact that the Israeli response was devastating – disproportionate, according to some international bystanders – colored the aggressors as the victims and the injured party as the villain.
When I read the reports about the devastation of Gaza by the wrath of the IAF in 2014, I’m reminded of the Germans who complained about the firebombing of Dresden and the obliteration of Cologne. Knowing those fierce bombings were carried out while my father, skeletal and bewildered, was being tortured by Germans and all their Polish, Ukrainian and whatever other trash in Auschwitz, my heart sings the praise of those B-17 Flying Fortresses that rained divine justice on Germany.
The IAF devastated the Gaza Strip? Good, I’m thinking, let it avenge the four-year-old Israeli toddler Daniel Tragerman who was murdered by a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon, August 22, 2014, outside his home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Let it be a warning to Hamas the next time they wish to provoke us: we will rain divine retribution on you, on your wives and on your children.
“Under Hamas control,” goes the CIA report, “Gaza has suffered from rising unemployment, elevated poverty rates, and a sharp contraction of the private sector, which had relied primarily on export markets.”
The reason fewer goods are being let into Gaza is that Hamas usurps them to promote its efforts to dig terror tunnels stretching into Israel, manufacture rockets to be fired into civilian neighborhoods across the border, and plant explosive charges by the border fence to trap and kill Israeli patrols. Several times each month, the IDF Spokesperson’s office disseminates stories about cleverly disguised instruments of death which alert Israeli customs officials at the Ashdod harbor have discovered in one of those trucks destined for Gaza.
But Hamas has been at war not only with Israel, but with the Palestinian Authority and Egypt as well, reports the CIA World Factbook: “Since April 2017, the Palestinian Authority has reduced payments for electricity supplied to Gaza and cut salaries for its employees there, exacerbating poor economic conditions. Since 2014, Egypt’s crackdown on the Gaza Strip’s extensive tunnel-based smuggling network has exacerbated fuel, construction material, and consumer goods shortages in the territory. Donor support for reconstruction following the 51-day conflict in 2014 between Israel and Hamas and other Gaza-based militant groups fell short of post-conflict needs; only 53% of pledged aid had been delivered as of December, 2017.”
It’s as if God’s designation for Ishmael, father of the Arabs, in Genesis 16:12: “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers” has been gulped in by Hamas and shared generously with all its miserable subjects. Indeed, Gaza today is the epitome of the Heart of Darkness notion, where it would make perfect sense for a young Arab to fail to recognize the advantage of being alive versus the alternative.
Had Iyad Abuheweila and David Halbfinger made even a half-hearted effort to provide just part of the context above, their depiction of Saber al-Gerim could have been a magnificent, Pulitzer-prize worthy condemnation of the death cult of Hamas, perhaps helping to steer a few responsible adults in the West to end Gaza’s reign of terror. Instead, naturally, they put the blame on the Jewish state.
“The protests, with an outdoor festival’s schedule of fun and games, performances and creative programming — and carnage every Friday — is meant to build to a climax on May 15, the day Palestinians mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, of their flight and expulsion when Israel was established 70 years ago,” they report, depicting the obvious reason: “Israel continues to treat the tiny coastal enclave like a deadly virus to be quarantined and, other than that, more or less tunes it out.”
Never mind that the main source of power in Gaza, when its Arab providers fail, is the Israel Electric Company, which uses Israeli customers’ fees to feed Gaza’s lines; never mind that Israel remains the only reliable shipping source for Gaza, forgiving the terror-smuggling and processing the goods on truck convoys to the crossings; never mind that Israeli hospitals continue to take in critical patients from Gaza when no one else would. Makes no difference how much or how little Israel is doing, every failure and every measure of cruelty of Hamas against its people and of the PA against the people under Hamas is ignored in favor of casting the blame on the Jewish state.
Al- Gerim doesn’t have a girlfriend, and no prospects for marriage, because “Marriage is not free.” Which is why he assembles kites from sticks, clear plastic and paper, to which he would attach soda cans full of gasoline-soaked rags, to sail over the fence and set fire to the Israeli fields across the border.
Makes perfect sense. His kite might even ignite the field the belongs to the parents of little Daniel Tragerman who would have been eight this summer.
Later, al-Gerim crouches behind the barbed-wired fence, whirling his slingshot, aiming at Israeli soldiers “again and again.” Maybe he’ll hit one of them, maim or kill him. Why not? Death and Life – it’s all the same.
Around 5 PM, he sees a group of men a few hundred yards to the south, who had breached the barbed wire, and were trying to get to the main border fence, risking being shot. One of them collapses, apparently hit by a grenade fragment, the local version of a friendly fire.
“I could be shot or killed anytime,” al-Gerim tells the two nice reporters from the Times, “It doesn’t matter.”
Imagine, I’m thinking, if 10,000 Gaza Arabs, instead of hurling themselves at the barbed wire fence of a neighboring country, were to storm the offices of Hamas and drag out their dozens upon dozens of ranking tormentors and tied them up and declared: We’ve had enough of a life of nihilism and hopelessness. We ask for help. Please come in through the crossings with your bulldozers and your big spools of electric wire and your construction plans and your money, and help us rebuild our lives.
Someone should tell Iyad Abuheweila and David Halbfinger that if, say, that fantasy-storming of the Hamas offices were to take place at 2 PM, right after the afternoon prayer, the first Israeli rescuers would be at the gates of Gaza by 4 PM, max, probably sooner. But that’s just my private fantasy, knowing the quality and love in the hearts of my fellow Israelis.
Of course, the NY Times has no interest in such a scenario.