Bibi Netanyahu’s war on Gaza is not accomplishing much in its declared intent to “eliminate Hamas.” Indeed, remarkably, there is little to no news of military targets being hit in Gaza. How strange for that to be the case in a war — if that’s what this can be called. Instead, what comes out daily are reports of schools, hospitals, UN shelters, apartment buildings, mosques, churches and bakeries being bombed. Given the saturation of the bombing, I assume we can add to this list of targets: flower shops, corner stores, mechanic’s garages, falafel shops, cafés, art supply stores, bookstores, fabric stalls, cell phone stores, women’s clothing stores, shoe stores and pet stores. All demolished. Pelted by howling missiles. Walls breaking, windows shattering, furniture and carpet catching fire — plaster dust, ashes and shards of concrete and glass inhabiting what once were spaces full of life and activity. After all, before the Hamas attack of October 7 and the subsequent totalizing Israeli military campaign, Gaza City was home to over one million people.
On October 31 at the Jabaliya refugee camp, at least 126 Palestinians were killed in order for the IDF to maybe kill one Hamas commander who was maybe there among them. The IDF bombed Jabaliya again last Saturday, November 18, killing 80 more people. One can imagine that among the dead were teachers, fruit vendors, kids who are good at soccer, kids who are bad at soccer, young ladies who like religion, young ladies who dislike religion, guys in their 20s who like hip-hop, guys in their 30s who prefer traditional Arab vocal music, a baby who just learned how to walk, a baby who was still crawling around on all fours, a mother who is a great cook, a single woman who doesn’t like to cook and on and on. Noncombatants is the technical term for these people who should not be targeted for death.
Meanwhile, every single thing that I take for granted as I proceed through my day in Berwyn, Illinois is threatened or absent for the civilians of Gaza as I write this: the calories that food provides, the hydration that comes from water, the belief I will not be killed when I go to sleep, the belief that I will not be killed as I walk to the corner store. But there is no more corner store down the street in Gaza City. It is blown up. Or the husk of the building remains, but there is nothing to sell. Or the tin shelves house only three-liter plastic containers of cooking oil that nobody buys because there is nothing to cook and there is no fuel to turn on the stove.
Hamas had no plan for how to protect Gazan civilians when they launched their attack on October 7. The far-right wing and openly fascist Netanyahu administration is either indifferent to the mass death of innocent Palestinians or, as it appears, is pursuing the erasure of Palestinian Gaza through military attack and expulsion. As many have commented, if there is any rhyme or reason to the demented IDF campaign, it seems that the objective is to obliterate Gaza, to make it unlivable. Those with the agency to end this unbearable nightmare would be Israeli leaders, US & European leaders and — perhaps— Hamas commanders (however, their cease-fire proposals have been rejected by Israel). Meanwhile, Gazan shopkeepers, college students studying English or Arabic literature, seamstresses, dog trainers and one million innocent children who have never glimpsed the Earth outside of the fences and walls surrounding the 142 square mile area of Gaza because they were born after the siege on Gaza had been declared in 2006 are being left to flee for their lives and to die.
(The title of the piece is taken from the Carolyn Forché poem, "Letter to a City Under Siege.”)