Saree Makdisi writes: The statistics coming out of Gaza as Israel’s most recent bombardment of that hapless territory gradually winds down are on the scale of a natural disaster, but they capture the nature of a catastrophe methodically inflicted by one people on another.
In a month of indiscriminate bombardment, Israel has killed or injured almost twelve thousand people, including thousands of children. It has severely damaged or destroyed the homes of some 17,000 families (over 100,000 people). It has terrorized half a million people into flight from one corner of the tiny coastal enclave in which they are trapped to another, leaving them in urgent need of food assistance merely to survive. Schools, clinics, refugee shelters, hospitals, ambulances, a university campus and Gaza’s only power plant have all come under Israeli fire, sometimes repeatedly. UN schools designed to accommodate 500 people as emergency shelters have been packed with up to 3,000. The social infrastructure — already strained to its limits by years of siege — is close to breakdown. Hospitals have run low on urgent supplies including water and fuel for emergency generators. Morgues were filled; the broken bodies of Palestinian children ended up in ice-cream counters that — in a just world — would be those same children’s sources of delight.
Of the fatalities whose identity and status have been verified so far, 86 percent are civilians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Of those tabulated in its most recent update, 226 are members of armed groups; 459 are children.
Despite the sheer scale of the catastrophe it has inflicted on Gaza, Israel failed to attain a single one of its ever-shifting array of declared objectives (which ranged, according to Israel’s whims, from stopping rocket fire to completely demilitarizing the Gaza Strip). [Continue reading…]