GAZA CITY — The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, setting off a humanitarian crisis that is touching nearly every civilian in the crowded enclave of about two million people.
Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline.
The New York Times 5/19/21
Is there anything really new to say about the current Israeli assault on Gaza, except déjà vu? Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel, aimed as they are at the civilian population, are criminal acts, against which Israel of course has a right to defend herself. But you really have to be a fervent believer in eternal Israeli righteousness to believe that the suffering, death and destruction being inflicted on Gaza is a reasonable and necessary defensive response. (As of two days ago, the death toll was 12 Israelis and 212 Palestinians.)
There will undoubtedly be investigations and reports by multiple human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, etc.), but there is no reason to expect that they will significantly differ from the small mountain of such reports generated after Israel’s assaults on Gaza in 2008 and 2014: Israeli armed forces consistently demonstrate a callous indifference to Palestinian Arab lives. Of course, the Israelis claim that their targets are military and that they try to minimize collateral civilian damage, but the numbers, and numerous anecdotal reports, always tell a different story. Yes, there is usually (not always) a military target to provide justification for the carnage, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the collateral damage isn’t just an unfortunate, unwanted side-effect. The Israeli objective is not just to degrade Hamas’s military capabilities but also to punish Gazans for their support of Hamas. Collective punishment is generally regarded as an act of terrorism, which makes the Israeli government a terrorist organization.