Thursday, July 5, 2018

Israel's Other Victims in Gaza

An extract from A suicide in Gaza by Sarah Helm (, 18/5/18):

"Often it has looked as if these protesters were literally throwing themselves in front of Israeli bullets. In the early days of the protests, I spoke to young people on the buffer zone who said they didn't care if they died. 'We are dying in Gaza anyway. We might as well die being shot,' said a teenager, standing at the border near the city of Khan Younis. He was with friends who felt the same, including one who had already been shot in the leg, and was in a wheelchair.

"If the world's cameras were to move a little deeper into Gaza, into the streets and behind the doors of people's homes, they would see the desperation in almost every home. After 10 years of siege, the 2 million people of Gaza, living packed on a tiny strip, find themselves without work, their economy killed off, without the bare essentials for decent life - electricity or running water - and without any hope of freedom, or any sign that their situation will change. The siege is fracturing minds, pushing the most vulnerable to suicide in numbers never seen before.

"Until recently, suicide has been rare here, partly due to Palestinian resilience, acquired over 70 years of conflict, and strong clan networks, but mostly because killing oneself is forbidden in traditional Muslim societies. Only when suicide is an act of jihad are the dead considered martyrs who go to heaven; others go to hell.

"In nearly three decades of reporting from Gaza, I almost never heard stories of suicide before 2016. At the start of that year, nine years into the full-blown siege, a British orthopaedic surgeon volunteering in Gaza's al-Shifa hospital told me that she and her colleagues were seeing a number of unexplained injuries - which they believed had been caused by falling, or jumping, from tall buildings.

"By the end of 2016, suicides were happening so often that the phenomenon had started to become public knowledge. Figures quoted by local journalists suggested the number of suicides in 2016 was at least three times the number in 2015. But according to Gaza's health professionals, while figures cited in the media do indicate a substantial rise, they vastly underestimate the true rate. Suicides are 'disguised' as falls or other accidents, and misreporting and censorship are common because of the stigma against suicide.

"However, since 2016, there have also been a spate of self-immolations across Gaza, in which men set themselves alight for all to see."


Grappler said...

That heart-rending descriptions of Gaza and the desperation of its people should shock all of Australia. I am impressed that the Guardian published it, but did the ABC or SMH pick it up?

When Gazans protest and the border fence (never crossing it), well inside the area designated as Palestine in 1947, and are shot by IDF snipers, Trumble talks about the Gazans indulging in "politically motivated violence"! He has certainly learned the meaning of chutzpah!

Slightly off-topic, MERC: Danaa, whom I regard the best of the commenters remaining at Mondoweiss now that hostage and taxi are gone, has several very good comments over the last few days. To quote:

... the near-exponential rise in the ultra-orthodox (Haredi) population comes with a major economic penalty as their contribution to the larger israeli economy is woefully low, be it as labor or as consumers. They are effectively a productivity drag on the country in almost every way one can imagine. They contribute much less than they consume, in welfare and in healthcare, and are also a net drag on the culture, that vaunted Israeli culture.

Already, the inequality index for israel is nearly the worst of all OECD countries, the US included. And that is exacerbated by the religious segment – both the haredi and the Mizrahi orthodox, which is also a major problem area.

The other dimension in the impoding culture of that israel is corruption, with the Rabbinate a major force in that. You cannot have religious authorities scrambling for maximum influence and zealosly guarding their role in civic life, without corruption being a side-effect and without the larger culture taking a major hit. This corruption is endemic to israeli culture making it a bit like Sicily, where the mafia rules over most aspects of life.

This is the economic and cultural time-bomb that our politicians would have us emulate! This is why they claim they do their regular visits there. Kissinger's prediction is looking more and more likely.

MERC said...

Re the long essay on suicide in Gaza, Guardian Australia didn't publish it.