Gaza as Israel’s Gimp

In Quentin Tarantino’s camp noir classic, Pulp Fiction, the Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames characters have an altercation and one chases the other into a pawn shop, the proprietor of which is a Maynard who has a friend Zed. They capture Marsellus (Rhames) and have their way with him as a man in a bondage suit (the “Gimp”) watches. It has long struck me that the Israelis are playing Maynard to Gaza’s Gimp or Marsellus. They are keeping the Palestinians of Gaza in their metaphorical basement, dressed up for abuse, which they visit on them regularly. The Israeli blockade of Gaza is not a policy. Policies are rational, have bounds, have attainable goals. What has the blockade accomplished? When will it end? How can it be justified given it breaks about ten major international laws? How can it be justified given that it is contrary to everything in Jewish ethics (would Israelis like to have their children blockaded that way, is the question Rabbi Hillel would ask). It is not a policy. It is a piece of sadism on a mass scale.

Gisha.org recently managed to get released Israeli documents that spell out the blockade policies in Gaza and what underlies them. There was a deliberate policy of under-supply, of not letting in quite enough fuel to keep electricity going, of denying people ‘luxuries,’ of punishing them in petty ways that have nothing to do with Israeli security. Of treating the Palestinians of Gaza, including the little children, like so many Gimps.

Sixteen international aid and human rights organizations have again blown the whistle on Israel’s blockade of the entire civilian population of Gaza (pop. 1.6 million), including innocent children.

The Likud spinmeisters made the issue go away in the press after the aid flotilla of late last May shed loads of illumination on the slow brutalization of the Palestinian people. The magic words for this act of prestidigitation? An “easing” of the blockade.

There has been no significant easing of the blockade. Virtually no goods made by Palestinians in Gaza may be exported abroad, by Israeli fiat. As military occupier, Israel controls Gaza’s shore, its waters, and bombed its airport into smithereens. Two-thirds of Palestinian businesses have been shuttered by the baleful Israeli siege since 2007. Those that remain function at much reduced capacity, often denied the raw materials they need to produce made goods.

Map of Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Israelis destroyed 1/8th of the family homes in Gaza during their brutal bombardment in winter 2008-2009. But they won’t let in the materials needed to rebuild. One can only conclude that they want Palestinians to be homeless, to live in the street.

None of the justifications typically given for the blockade hold water in international law. That Hamas was voted into power in the January, 2006, elections sponsored by the Bush and Olmert administrations is no reason to deny a small child permission to leave Gaza for medical treatment. (1/5 of Gazans’ application to leave for medical treatment are much delayed or denied by Israeli authorities). Not letting Palestinians make clothing for export is an illegal policy in the law. Only directly military goods may be blockaded.

What is truly disgusting is not only that the Israelis pursue this beastly policy toward Palestinian children and other civilians. It is that the major world powers are complicit in it. If the United Nations Security Council amounted to anything, it would order (and I mean order) the Israelis to desist. And don’t get me started about the US government, which is playing Zed to Israel’s Maynard in abusing the captive Gimp.

People who don’t think massive long-term sadism toward a million and a half people will cause trouble for the perpetrators are adopting an ostrich policy. Gaza’s conditions are on Arabic satellite t.v. daily. Nothing can be hidden. It is wrong in itself, but even more wrong if we consider the potential consequences.

36 Responses

  1. thank you Prof Cole for another outstanding post on Gaza. I have used a small part of it as my Facebook status, crediting your blog. Maybe you can create short paragraphs for your readers to post en mass as their facebook status to raise even more more awareness.

  2. “What is truly disgusting is not only that the Israelis pursue this beastly policy toward Palestinian children and other civilians. It is that the major world powers are complicit in it. …”

    No what is REALLY DISGUSTING is the fact that my two Senators in MN, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have not even responded to my HAND WRITTEN letters to them in which I had asked why our Government is allowing Israel to act with impunity in Gaza. Truly, truly disgusting…..

  3. Surely in those 250,000 cables made public by WikiLeaks there must be at least a few that remark on savage treatment of the Gazans. But maybe not, since our most serious “diplomatic” effort seems to be oriented towards getting a consensus to deliver the same sort savagery to the Iranians. Of course our tactics are intended to only affect the ruling class, so any killing, maiming, dislocation, and starvation of the rest of the Iranian populace would be collateral damage, a.k.a. noble self sacrifice by the victims in order to advance the altruistic goals of the USA to make the world a better place.

  4. The unbiased observer would observe that the phrase “Jewish ethics” are to say the least more complex than your assessment, especially with regard to the rights of the non-Jew.

    Here is Rabbi Meir Kahane quoting from the Talmud on Jewish ethics towards the other:

    link to youtube.com

    Then there is the Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who recently observed,

    “Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.” quoted here in Haaretz

    link to haaretz.com

    These are the voices of ordained rabbis, and they claim to be expressing Jewish values. Are you saying they are wrong in their professional assessment, Professor Cole?

    • Madrid:

      You omitted the most important part of the Haaretz story, the headline: “ADL Slams Shas Spiritual Leader for Saying Non-Jews were Born to Serve Jews.” Both in the U.S, and abroad, the ADL has a much stronger following that Shas’ spiritual leader. Quoting the late radical Meir Kahane doesn’t do much to advance your argument, any more than insisting that Osama bin Laden represents Muslim Ethics.

      It’s a clever trick, this–pick a crank, radical, or somebody who is simply disturbed and make him/her the representative of an entire group. Thus are Muslims slimed each time radical Islamism turns violent; Jews get it when Bernie Madoff steals billions; well-meaning Christian evangelicals got when Rev. Terry Jones decided to burn a Koran.

      Madrid, it’s tiresome. But if you want to make a real contribution to discourse, here’s a problem to consider: identify a large faith group that has existed longer than fifteen minutes and who also can boast that not one of its members has ever said or done something really stupid.

      • So far as Shas is concerned, the fact that makes them relevant is that they hold 11 seats in the Knesset, and are therefore a political force in Israel.

        • Bogwart:

          You make a good point. However, as you may know, Rabbi Yosef as “spiritual leader” of Shas (and not a MK) does not actually speak for Shas’s MKs. The differences are legion, and here’s a rather controversial one that came as a shock to those who assume that Shas (or most other political parties) act as unit:

          link to jpost.com

          If you have the time, read the article. Defiance of Rabbi Yosef on core issues by senior Shas leaders is not unheard of–and the above article describes a real doozy.

      • Pretty funny stuff, Mr. Richard F. Miller.

        I guess, in addition to defending American Jews from the countless anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated by American Christians, defending the glorious cause of Israel in the public sphere, and being a bunch of all-around good guys, the ADL also now claims rabbinic authority to overrule the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. When are these guys going to cure cancer and solve the problem of global warming?

        Incidentally, I could have quoted the original story in Haaretz in which Ovadia Yosef is quoted saying what he said, but I just picked the first one that came up on that website, and I figured that readers of this site would be able to distinguish between a supposedly secular organization like the ADL and a religious authority. But you disabused me of my errant ways– I now understand the ADL is the authority on all matters pertaining to Judaism.

        On a more serious note, I don’t think your strategy of diverting attention to the foibles of every other religion or people is really doing you much good. I know a great deal about the Abrahamic faiths, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine any Islamic or Christian authority announcing to the world that non-Muslims or non-Christians were expressly put on this earth to serve that adherents of that particular faith. Yes they have their faults– all religious institutions are human institutions, after all, for which they have to atone, but diverting attention from such despicable comments by pointing to the faults of others does not really address the question of why one of the most important religious authorities in Israel is announcing to the world that Jews have a superhuman status with respect to the rest of the world’s people.

        • I agree with Madrid. I have never heard any other religious leader but jewish ones express such delusions of servitude.

    • Modern Judaism is not very hierarchical. These rabbis are entitled to their opinions, and to issue whatever statements or rulings they see fit. That does not make them authorities capable of defining Jewish values. With a few years of studying, any Jew can be ordained as a rabbi and make ridiculous statements like Kahane and Yosef’s recent rants. Furthermore, even the universally-accepted guiding Jewish texts contradict themselves all over the place.

      Jon Yoo is a Bar certified lawyer. Are his torture memos thereby a definitive interpretation of US law and American values?

      As far as I know, there is only one title in the world that supposedly makes its holder infalible: Pope.

      • re: “As far as I know, there is only one title in the world that supposedly makes its holder infallible: Pope.”

        (Fixed your spelling)

        Actually, not even that — doesn’t make him infallible, only on matters of faith, and ONLY in particular cases.

    • Maybe Mr Cole was referring to the ethics of the Old Testament prophets (who were rejected…) or the ethics of one jewish carpenter from Galilee some 2000 yrs ago…(his ideas were rejected too) The rabbis you mention are really just carrying on tradition… I mention this not to imply they deserve some kind of anti-semitic punishment/retribution but to acknowledge a sad truth in the hopes of encouraging remorse, repentance and a change of heart/action

      • Your ignorance of Jewish ethics is quite apparent.

        Jewish ethics is not limited to the Hebrew Bible (and any mention of Jesus regarding Jewish ethics is laughable).

        Professor Cole mentioned Rabbi Hillel, a person I suspect you never heard of.

        If you want to know about Jewish ethics, the authoritative text in Jewish tradition would be the chapter Avot in the Mishnah — link to en.wikipedia.org

        Some excerpts:

        “The world stands on three things: On Torah, on prayer (“avoda”; can also mean sacrificial offerings), and on kindness to others” (1:2)

        “Your house should be open wide, and you should make the poor members of your household.” (1:5)

        “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow”

        “Be amongst the students of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace.”

        • David, your Pirkei_Avot citations deal with intra-Jewish morality and even so are not very representative. You should present a fuller picture of Jewish Law, for example see:

          link to talkreason.org
          link to israelshamir.net
          link to israelshamir.net
          link to israelshamir.net

          Note that in Jewish Law terms like “your fellow”, “Man” etc always refer to another Jew, never to a gentile. Reform Judaism may be different but here in Israel it’s considered heretic by everyone except its very few practitioners who are usually immigrants from the US.

        • This is a reply to “A disillusioned Israel”:

          Actually, my quotes from Pirkei Avot are very representative of that entire work. You say it is not representative, but you have nothing to back up that claim.

          Also, if you want a quote from Rabbinic literature specifically dealing with Gentiles (although you have cited no proof that Pirkei Avot does not deal with Gentiles — it does not say to pursue peace with only Jews, rather it says to pursue peace), here is one (I can bring more if you like — you won’t find them in the polemical links you cited):

          “Our Rabbis have taught: ‘We support the poor of the heathen along with the poor of Israel, and visit the sick of the heathen along with the sick of Israel, and bury the poor of the heathen along with the dead of Israel, in the interests of peace’. ”

          I learned Pirkei Avot in an Orthodox institution and no rabbi there ever said it applies only to Jews.

  5. The Ghazza blockade is very easy to understand. The message is simple to the Palestinians. Leave and migrate to the rest of the arab world. Otherwise it makes no sense to deliberately keep someone under house arrest and torture him unnecessarily.

    The only thing is that the Palestinians, vast majority of them, wont leave.

    • Why should they leave? It’s their country, after all. You’re just saying might is right.

    • re: “The only thing is that the Palestinians, the vast majority of them, won’t leave.”

      (Fixed your grammar.)

      I’d speculate at the vast majority of them, being forced into and now held in abject poverty, have no such option available to them.

  6. Professor, truer words were NEVER spoken. I tip my hat for your insight, courage, and wisdom.

  7. .
    Speaking of daily provocations, Dr. Cole,
    does Arabic satellite TV also provide regular reports on the detention of innocent men at Guantanamo ? The US Government formally declared about half of the remaining detainees to be “cleared for release” more than a year ago.
    I’ve been told that it does, but I don’t watch Arabic TV.
    .

  8. Excellent comment.

    The siege of Gaza is nothing more or less than sadism. As you say, there is no strategic rationale to it, even by Israel’s standards. Neither the leaders nor the people of Gaza have not been told what they must do for the siege to end, which leads one to believe that the GAzans are being punished simply for existing. I suppose if there is any ‘rationale’ to it, it serves to ‘divide and rule’, a cautionary tale to the Palestinians of the West Bank: step out of line, and you too could be like Gaza. So those living in the occupied West Bank are encouraged to think of their goal not as liberation from occupation, but as maintaining an even half-way acceptable living standard, even if they are hemmed into ever smaller parcels of land.

    As you say, the ‘international community’ is totally complicit in this wanton cruelty, as are the bulk of the Israeli electorate, who voted for the parties who imposed the siege and – with a few honourable exceptions – evince not the remotest concern for the great suffering visited on the people of Gaza.

  9. Prof Cole you sure do not mince words. Always bothers me when the map of the West Bank does not show the illegal settlements. Stewart shows a contiguous map of the West Bank all of the time.

    Stewart was on the Wikli leaks are all about lets go after Iran bus.
    link to huffingtonpost.com

    As well as Robert Segel who had Jeffrey Goldberg on to discuss the Wiki leaks release. Real fair and balanced over views (choke)
    “Leaks reveal Arab worlds concerns about Iran”
    link to npr.org

    Guy Ras was the co host last night. He has been focused on feel good about Israel stories a great deal. No agenda at NPR. No slant.(cough)

    When will Segel have Prof Cole on to discuss this issue? Or Flynt Leverett?
    Because NPR clearly has an agenda and it is to push for a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

  10. I’d argue that the Gimp in Pulp Fiction is more like The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, with Gaza being Butch and Marsellus, since the villains try to use the Gimp to guard their prisoner. Even though the Gimp is also a victim he has been enslaved and does the bidding of his masters. In the film he turns out to be an ineffectual minion and we can only hope that the Gazans manage the same trick of Butch’s escape from bondage.

  11. Is Gaza a lot different than what happened to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto?

    • No. As there were Warsaw Ghetto uprisings, there are Gaza uprisings against Israel.

      However, when people of Gaza stand against Israel and are killed by Israeli gunships they are labeled as “Terrorists” by the Israeli & so-called free news media.

  12. “As you say, there is no strategic rationale to it, even by Israel’s standards.”

    The strategic rationale includes the clear demonstration that the major powers have no objections to sadistic actions, by their friends.
    Gaza is a daily demonstration of the reality that the “west” uses human rights cynically as a stick with which to beat those resisting its power.

    Gaza is merely one current reminder that the moral high ground has been abandoned; Haiti’s parody of an election is another, Egypt’s a third.

    In essence Israel is telling the world that only power matters and that the USA, NATO and all but a handful of ‘rogue states’ (ironically the regular objects of western scolding for ‘rights abuse’) agree.

    This has been apparent for a very long time, but the abandonment of the policy of pretending otherwise is starkly new, not since Mussolini and Hitler sneered at morality have we seen this sort of modernity. Vice no longer troubles itself to pay virtue any tribute. No doubt it feels that, with the Soviet Union no longer there and Labour opposition no longer a political factor, it can take off that uncomfortable mask and reveal itself in all its natural ugliness.

  13. Great post, Professor Cole. Just a small note re: the Guardian article (“Sixteen international aid and human rights organizations have again blown the whistle on Israel’s blockade of the entire civilian population of Gaza (pop. 1.6 million), including innocent children.”) – the article actually states “21 international organisations”, and I count a few more on top of that figure (25 altogether) in the actual report:

    link to unispal.un.org

  14. I think you are wrong. There is a rationale to the siege. It is simply this: the aim is to utterly destroy any glimmer of hope that any Palestinian might have for the future. The message is everything: “Do what you want but whatever it is understand this – no Palestinian will ever live anything like a normal life, have any civil or human rights, have a functioning economy, schools or hospitals, land or water; they will not be able to travel freely or visit relatives. Any hope you nurture for yourself or your children in this place will be crushed mercilessly, while we have every convenience and luxury afforded to us by the largesse of the US taxpayer. We can wait for an unlimited time until you understand this.”

    This is the purpose of the pitiless sadism and cruelty meted to people who are to be punished for the crime of existence in a place where a foreign people decided to make their home. It is cruelty, but because it is calculated and ruthless, planned and executed with great care and attention to every last detail it is more commonly known as the pathology of fascism.

  15. Thank you professor for writing what I have been trying to post for several years. I understand that there is the smear “anti-Semitism” whenever any person criticizes Israel, unless the person is a so-called “self-hating Jew”, but it has been at least a decade since the right thing to do has become to risk that smear, even to welcome it, until it becomes meaningless. If the loss of the defense of naming a truly hateful person an “anti-Semite” now means that Jews face exposure to unfounded criticism, then they can blame the Likudnik and Zionist zealots who have created the situation.

    There are two, wholly separate yet rational reasons for Israel’s abusive policies. One is due to the pervasive fear felt by the ethnic group that had survived pogroms, expulsions and finally the Nazi persecution. There would be a need for some sort of emotional realignment where the former victims no longer are victims, but are now perpetrators. So long as they can be perpetrators, then they cannot be victims.

    The other reason would be the physical necessity of securing enough land and water to ensure a viable state that could exist without transfusions of people and capital from the U.S. and Europe. The unfortunate truth is that such a land was never available unless the physical existence of the Arab inhabitants and their humanity could be denied.

    Both may be logical explanations for Israel’s behavior, but both are also explanations for the unsustainable nature of Israel. Without a miraculous spiritual growth where the Arabs would have been incorporated into the infant nation as full partners, Israel was doomed from the start. It would have required a miracle for European refugees to have accepted themselves as equals to the indigenous Semitic people who populated Palestine.

    There was simply never a justification for the theft of land and humanity, and without that justification, there was never an adequate political nor moral basis for the state of Israel. This lack of basis has resulted in decades of lies, manipulation and indifference.

    With the three spectres of global climate change, peak oil and the looming judgment day for our centuries of financial folicy (a Palinism meaning folly riven policy), the justification for Israel’s continued existence will evaporate only slight less rapidly than the means for its survival.

    Or, as “I’m a dinner jacket” said, Israel’s regime must eventually disappear.

  16. Population growth in Gaza is one of the – if not THE – biggest threat to maintaining the Israeli apartheid. I Would not be surprised to learn that the Israeli objective is to decrease the Gaza population by increasing childhood mortality rates.

  17. Richard F Miller: Thank you for your reply and that link. I wasn’t aware of the degree to which differences within Shas affected the party so that’s one reassuring fact. I thought the last point made by Amsalem was most interesting. It’s good to see that there are moderates even within Shas.

    • Bogwart:

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t know that Amsalem is a “moderate” as defined by any of our fellow posters–or even by me.

      I do know that one particular duty of posters–on any site–is to be critical of broad generalizations, particularly those statements that purport to claim a one-size-fits-all-humanity, or any particular segment thereof. There is no thinner intellectual ice than this. Indeed, most of what I learn that’s genuinely knew represent challenges to generalizations I thought were true.

      Generalizations about “Jewish ethics” (or any other large group) require a lot more deliberation, research and nuanced understanding than is generally available when hitting the “Post Comment” key on a blog.

      For these reasons (and in answer to Madrid), to point this out is not a distraction, but a necessity; to take his bait in order to prove that other groups have similar miscreants prepared to enslave, devalue, exploit or kill “the other” is an easy exercise but one that requires patrolling a five millennia old sewer. Alas, in my dotage, I am no longer inclined to do so.

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