Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israel’s repeated shelling in the vicinity of hospitals and clinics in Gaza has led 20 of 38 hospitals to close their doors to patients, since they lacked the electricity, medicine and functioning equipment they needed to treat patients. The Israeli government’s cut-off of electricity has killed premature babies in incubators, diabetes patients on dialysis, and other people with health crises. The al-Shifa medical complex in the northern Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City had valiantly attempted to continue to function, having had stores of fuel for its generators, and even though its gate was shelled by the Israelis on Friday and there was bombing all around it as Israeli troops advanced on it as though it were Hamburger Hill in an old Vietnam war movie. Attacking hospitals and ambulances is strictly forbidden in international law even if enemy combatants are sited there. It is a war crime. The commanders of the Serbian militiamen who cut off water and electricity to Sarajevo and bombarded it for 3 years in the 1990s ended up on trial at the Hague.
Staffers at Al-Nasr Pediatric hospital came under such heavy Israeli fire that they were forced to flee the premises, according to WaPo, leaving five premature babies in incubators behind. RIP.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports, that Israeli bombardment repeatedly hit hospitals on Saturday. The Israelis say they were only bombing in the vicinity of hospitals. But why in God’s name were they doing that? OCHA says, “Israeli shelling and ground attacks intensified around hospitals in Gaza city and northern Gaza on 11 November, with several being directly hit. According to media reports, civilians, patients, and staff were shot at while attempting to flee the Shifa hospital in Gaza city.”
It isn’t only hospitals. OCHA reports, “On 10 November, at about 17:00, an Israeli airstrike hit Al Buraq school in Gaza city, which was being used as a shelter for IDPs, killing 50 people. The Israeli military stated that the airstrike targeted a Palestinian commander hiding in the school.” IDPs are “internally displaced people.”
On Saturday morning, we learned that al-Shifa had collapsed as a medical center when the complex’s generator stopped working. No electricity, no lights, no machines, no medical care. OCHA says, “On 11 November, power at the Shifa and the Indonesian hospital (northern Gaza) was reportedly cut off after fuel for generators ran out; generators at Al Quds hospital (Gaza city) failed and could not be repaired due to the bombardment and fighting. At Shifa, two babies died when their life support stopped working and 37 babies in incubators are at imminent risk of death, according to the Ministry of Health in Ramallah.”
Some 39 of the hospital’s patients, then, could not hit the road for south Gaza as the Israeli military insisted. They were premature babies in incubators. Preemies need to be kept warm and provided with extra oxygen. The incubators that do that work don’t function without electricity.
As OCHA reported, two of the babies died on Saturday, killed by the Israeli army as surely as though they had been propped up against a wall and shot.
The other 37 are in urgent danger of dying.
These brown, Muslim premature babies haven’t made the headlines, in contrast to their fictional Israeli counterparts.
A few days after the sanguinary October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, President Joe Biden came out for a news conference and said, “I never really thought that I would see, have confirmed, pictures of terrorists beheading children.” President Biden had not in fact seen such pictures of the decapitated babies of Kfar Aza kibbutz, since they do not exist.
The incorrect allegation was first floated as a trial balloon by a journalist on the Israeli i24 channel. Then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s picked up the report, saying that it had confirmed the information. Sarah Snider of CNN, who like several thousand other Western journalists had flown to Israel to cover events from an Israeli point of view, heard the accusation from the prime minister’s press office and repeated it on screen. But then the next day someone with some common sense in the Israeli government shot down the entire talking point, saying that the report could not be confirmed. Snider and CNN apologized. Biden never did, though his staff issued “clarifications” the way Reagan’s staff used to when he said things like trees cause air pollution.
Why was it necessary to float this horror story about beheaded babies or children? Hamas committed plenty of brutal crimes on October 7, including mowing 260 people down at a music festival and firing unguided rockets at civilian neighborhoods. Hamas even killed Israelis of Palestinian heritage. Amnesty International reports that indiscriminate rocket fire killed and wounded many people and that these “unlawful attacks killed both Israelis and Palestinians. They also hit unrecognised Palestinian villages in the Negev/Naqab region, killing at least six civilians, five of them children.”
That’s right. Hamas killed at least 5 Palestinian children on October 7. Plus they killed Jewish Israeli children, and kidnapped others as hostages. The Israeli government has revised down the death toll of that gut-wrenching day to 1,200, about a thousand of them innocent non-combatants. This atrocity was a series of horrific Hamas war crimes, one after another.
So we can agree that Hamas killed children. But it didn’t behead any babies. Beheading babies was such compelling war propaganda because anyone who would do such a thing is a savage, not a civilized person. It is essential to put the Palestinians under the sign of the savage, because the lives of such people do not matter. The civilized can subject savages to genocide without repercussions.
Back in the 19th century in North America, it was the American Indians who were branded savages by immigrant Europeans. The European whites constantly encroached on Indian lands and resources, and if they fought back, as the Cree did in attacking Fort Mims in 1814, white Tennessee militiamen massacred them. That nice Mr. Davy Crockett said of the bloodbath, “We shot them like dogs!” Whom a people would destroy, they first make animals, make them less than human. Mr. Crockett was later killed at the Alamo by Mexican troops defending their territory from a land grab by white slavers. Mexico had completely abolished slavery in 1837.
So just as the European settler-colonists genocided the indigenous population, leaving less than 238,000 American Indians alive by 1900, so the Israeli settler-colonists are now wreaking a revenge genocide on the Palestinians. That the current brutal attack on densely populated Gaza has killed 11,000 people, only a handful of them Hamas fighters, shows that revenge and mass murder are the point of the exercise. I mean, I started out with my historian and journalist hats on, speaking of “reckless disregard” for civilian life. But that diction is by now ludicrous. You can’t polish off the entire population of Half Moon Bay, California, in a fit of absent-mindedness.
As for the babies, we won’t know the story of how the Israeli army was responsible for their deaths, since the Gaza Ministry of Health can no longer gather statistics from the collapsed hospital system. No US president will speak out against the unnecessary deaths of the preemies denied warmth and oxygen, which they needed to live. I guess those are savage preemies, doomed to expire before the unholy might of the civilized.