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Tony Gentry

Circle Game

Updated: May 17

Eventually, one imagines, we will understand why Hamas attacked Israel, though they had to know from experience what the end result would be. For example, this from the late great art critic (and great soul) John Berger:

“Gaza, the largest prison in the world, is being transformed into an abattoir. The word ‘Strip’ (from Gaza Strip) is being drenched with blood, as happened sixty-five years ago to the word ‘ghetto.’

Day and night, bombs, shells, GBU39 radioactive arms, and machine-gun rounds are being fired by the Israeli Defense Forces from air, sea, and land against a civilian population of one and a half million. The estimated number of mutilated and dead increases with each news report from international journalists, all of whom are forbidden by Israel to enter the Strip. Yet the crucial figure is that for every single Israeli casualty, there are one hundred Palestinian casualties. One Israeli life is worth a hundred Palestinian lives. The implications of this assumption are constantly reiterated by Israeli spokesmen in order to make them acceptable and normal. The massacre will soon be followed by pestilence; most lodgings have neither water nor electricity, the hospitals lack doctors, medicines, and generators. The massacre follows a blockage and seige.”

You would be forgiven if you thought this was today’s reporting, but Berger (who died in 2017) wrote this in 2009, as part of an essay about the Palestinian artist Randa Mdah (see the highly recommended essay collection Portraits: John Berger on Artists (2015)). What he witnessed was a minor operation, compared to what is happening now. Known as “Operation Cast Lead”, you can look it up (here’s a brief timeline of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, btw).

Point being, of course, that the current so-called war is nothing new. As always, the masters of war count on our goldfish-like memories, on our always eager arms merchants, and on the West’s, let’s face it, disrespect of all things Islam, to do it all over again. We can also count on President Biden, who I voted for, to hem and haw until that 100 to 1 ratio is achieved. He’s been around through a whole series of these operations; he knows the rules. At some point, Biden will call for a cease-fire, and the Israeli’s will withdraw, having achieved the requisite kills. Having signed off on billions of dollars in military aid to Israel and a paltry hundred million in humanitarian aid to the Gazans, all will go back to normal. Which is to say, simmering war, and Gaza and the West Bank ever more repressive quasi-prisons. Your tax dollars at work, the painted ponies going up and down….

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