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Pride, Fury, Fire

Last week I received a press release from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel about a sharp increase in child burn victims in the Gaza Strip. This was before the Israeli air campaign began. After what’s happened in the last couple of … Read More

By / December 31, 2008

Last week I received a press release from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel about a sharp increase in child burn victims in the Gaza Strip. This was before the Israeli air campaign began. After what’s happened in the last couple of days, PHR’s email now seems like a message from another historical era, a time so calm that it was a major concern that

"In December alone, 16 Palestinians were hospitalized who were burned while trying to heat their homes. Most of the cases reported to the NGO were of children playing with fire, following attempts to light bonfires for heating and cooking and lighting candles in order to illuminate homes."

The fires, that is, were the result of the siege of Gaza, which included fuel shortages and power outages. The head of the burn unit at Shifa Hospital in Gaza reported that his unit was collapsing under the strain. I can only guess that Dr. Nafed Abu Shaaban is having a much harder time this week.

Nonetheless, the problem of kids getting burned can help to understand why all of Gaza and southern Israel are in flames at the moment.

Israelis don’t see the effects of the siege in Gaza, or the way it was maintained during the six-month "calm." Israeli journalists have a far easier time covering Mumbai than covering Gaza. What Israelis saw during the "calm" were Palestinian violations. Israel claimed that Hamas wasn’t keeping the agreement. That was true. It was also true that the Israeli government continued hoping, against all evidence, that the siege would provoke popular uprising against Hamas rule. Hamas regarded the calm as a failure in relieving siege conditions.

When the six months ended, Hamas decided that those Israelis would only understand force. To a man with a hammer, as the saying goes, everything looks like a nail – especially to an angry man. With a little careful thinking, anyone on the Hamas side could have figured out that no Israeli politician wanted to agree to reduce the siege in response to rocket fire. That would be giving in.

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