The blockade on Israel’s heart

It’s hard to understand how one can look at tens of thousands of people in their cage and not see them. How is it possible to look at these protesters and not see the disaster wrought first and foremost by Israel?

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz correspondent

What a pleasure it was again Friday, journalists and pundits competing to be the wittiest. One tweeted that the Palestinians burned Goodyear tyres, another that the heads of Hamas stayed away due to their asthma. One referenced the “supertanker” fire-fighting plane Israel called in to battle nationwide fires in 2016. Someone posted a photo of a protester with a swastika, writing: “charming people to make peace with.” A “moderate” commentator said on television that this was a “foolish protest,” beneath his famous intellect. They all, as is their wont, praised the army on its accomplishment: No one crossed the border. The state has been saved from annihilation. Way to go, Israel Defense Forces.

As the witticisms and back-patting made the rounds of social media, 20,000 desperate Gazans were running around in the sand near the fence that imprisons them, crying out for help. Wearing rags, mostly young men, some 65 percent of whom are unemployed, breathing in the black smoke from the tires and knowing that their past, their present and their future are blacker. Some were holding the latest product of Gaza’s arms industry: mirrors. Bedroom mirrors and bathroom mirrors, meant to blind the sharpshooters. Such amusing sights have not been seen here for a long time: 1,350 people were wounded, 293 of them from live gunfire; of those, 20 are in serious to critical condition. Nine bodies as of Saturday morning.

Most were careful not to cross the death line, exactly the way it was in East Germany. The East Germans shot anyone who tried to leave the country, and it was shocking; the Israelis shoot at anyone approaching their fence, and it’s amusing. Soon there might be an electric fence, which will make the army snipers superfluous.

Among those killed was Hussein Mohammed Madi, a 16-year-old boy, and a news photographer who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest marked “press” in English, which did not protect him at all from the moral-army sharpshooter who aimed for his chest. Perhaps the sharpshooter couldn’t read English.

Yaser Murtaja was 30 and had never been out of the Gaza Strip. He recently posted a photograph showing a bird’s-eye view of the Strip. Murtaja wrote that his dream was to take such a picture. Now, perhaps his dream will come true from the heavens. At his funeral Saturday, his body was covered with his blue journalist’s vest.

He wasn’t the only journalist shot by army snipers Friday. Six more were wounded. Their blood is no redder than anyone else’s, but the fact that they were shot proves the army snipers fire indiscriminately and are not choosy about their victims. And all this led to clever comments on social media and compliments for the army in the press.

It’s hard to understand how one can look at tens of thousands of people in their cage and not see them. How is it possible to look at these protesters and not see the disaster wrought first and foremost by Israel? How can we absolve ourselves, putting everything on Hamas and not be shocked for a moment at the sight of the blood of innocents shed by IDF soldiers?

How can a former Shin Bet security service chief instigate a growing protest here over an empty speech by the prime minister at an equally empty ceremony, while this massacre rouses barely a hiccup? This time there are no Qassam rockets, no knives, not even scissors. There’s no terror except “tyre terror” and the “terror march,” as the daily Israel Hayom grotesquely put it.

This time the protest is not violent. Israel doesn’t see this either. It doesn’t see the whites of the protesters’ eyes, it doesn’t see them as human beings, it doesn’t see their despair; it doesn’t see the bitterness of their fate.

When the next natural disaster happens somewhere, Israel will once again send an aid team and everyone will laud Israel’s “Jewish” compassion and its humanity. But no one can deny the hardheartedness that has befallen it, so hard that it blocks humanity and compassion from reaching the heart, which has been scarred and blocked permanently.

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