Grief and tragedy in Gaza

Published by Eric Gondella, Date: February 21, 2024

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains descriptions of violence. Please use discretion when proceeding.

Three-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim Shabat’s legs were both blown completely off his body last November, and he was one of the first children to be injured by Israeli air raids after Oct. 7. Ahmad’s entire family was blown up by an airstrike targeting their town, Beit Hanoon, in northern Gaza. This includes his parents, older brother Mohammed, his grandparents, his uncles and aunts, save for his two-year-old brother Mahmoud.

While hard to hear, Ahmad’s situation is hardly remarkable. Since Oct. 7, 2023. Israel’s military offensive, both through ground operations and air raids, have been deadly for the over 2 million Palestinians trapped in an area less than a fifth the land area of Slippery Rock’s own Butler County.

It is hard to give an accurate figure of the sheer number of lives lost in Gaza. As you read this, Israeli munitions are creating child amputees and erasing entire family bloodlines, and the number continues to grow.

Israel insists that the real death toll is much different than what Gaza’s health ministry is reporting. Israel’s estimates put the number of combatants killed at several thousand, which, even if we believe this at face value (I do not), still means that at the very least over 20,000 of the deaths recorded have been civilian men, women and children.

Israel has not even come close to defeating Hamas through its military offensive on the Gaza Strip, US intelligence officials have said. Israel’s own retired Major General Giora Eiland has stated that Israel “so far has not come close to inflicting a strategic defeat on the terrorist group.”

Over the duration of this assault, Israel has failed to take feasible precautions to protect civilians. Joe Biden has said himself that Israel has been unleashing “indiscriminate bombing.” Israeli munitions have struck schools, hospitals and even refugee camps.

These instances of civilian infrastructure being targeted include areas where Israel ordered civilians to seek refuge in, later resuming to then drop bombs on those areas of refuge.

One such case is Rafah, a city on the southern border of Gaza, where Israel is preparing to expand its operations. Over a million displaced Palestinians have sought safety there while northern Gaza was being turned into rubble over the last few months, only to now be told that Rafah is next.

Israeli and American officials have either denied that Israel has recklessly killed civilians or pinned the blame on Hamas, stating that Hamas deliberately imbeds itself in civilian areas.

Let us read a quote from Judith Butler’s 2009 book, “Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?”

“Hamas is accused of ‘cynically’ using children and civilian centers to hide its own armaments. There are several sources that can document the untruth of these claims, but for the moment, let us consider how this argument works,” Butler wrote.

“If the Palestinian children who are killed by mortar and phosphorous bombs are human shields, then they are not children at all, but rather bits of armament, military instruments and material, aiding and abetting an assault on Israel.”

“Still the hyper-defensive claim is made that this is Hamas’ fault—the use of children as human shields—and we heard the same argument against Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. I am wondering: are all children human shields? Only some? Are we supposed to understand Palestinian children as nothing but so many shields?” Butler wrote.

If there were schools and refugee camps in Gaza where thousands of Jewish Israeli children were seeking shelter, would the bombs continue to fall? How have we become so desensitized to violence that this kind of reasoning is accepted? Implicated in this immoral rationale are American politicians, academics and so-called military “experts.”

So, while liberal hawks like Anne Applebaum, who wrote an article titled “There are no rules” in response to Hamas’ war crimes (which they undeniably did), continue to publicly slam Russia for the war crimes it has committed in Ukraine, she has no similar contempt for Israel’s turning of Gaza into a slaughterhouse.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Barry Rosen has published an op-ed titled “The Devastation of Gaza Was Inevitable.” Republican congressman Max Miller stated that “Palestine will be turned into a parking lot.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated in October, “We are fighting against human animals.”

Palestinians are not collateral damage. This kind of devastation of Gaza was not inevitable. The men, women and children of Gaza are not human animals.

Women in Gaza are having c-sections without painkillers, and some have resorted to using bits of their shelter tents as menstrual pads. Over 11,500 children in Gaza have been killed by Israel, and many of those children who are spared are being orphaned and traumatized.

Israel’s government has refused to allow in flour and has allowed its citizens the right to physically prevent block food aid from entering while Gaza is starving. The horrors happening in Gaza have no explanation or justification.

Beyond the “animals” comment, Israel’s government for years has dehumanized Palestinians at-large but also Arabs living in Israel. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, the cruelty is the point.

In the eyes of Netanyahu and anyone still supporting this murderous occupation, the loss of Palestinian life is not even “damage” at all. Moving from a point of justification, the United States and Israel do not have to justify the killing of civilians if they hardly even regarded as such. It is clear to Netanyahu that the loss of a Palestinian family is not just necessary, but it is not even a loss at all.

I now speak to those who could inevitably ask, “But where is your condemnation of Hamas?”

I am for one disgusted and outraged by the killing of non-combatant civilians, sexual violence and believe the hostages must be freed.

In return, I ask, why are Palestinians so worthless to you that you call the children like Ahmad “human shields?” Is Ahmad part of Hamas? Did Ahmad deserve to lose his entire family?

Why is it so that killing Brown people is just par for the course for the US and Israeli militaries?

Why, despite all this tragedy, are democratic and republican senators proposing sending billions of dollars of military aid to Israel? Go to to send a message to your representative demanding a ceasefire. Call our own Senator John Fetterman at his Pittsburgh office, 412-803-3501.

“I wonder, if Gaza is wiped off the face of the earth, whether our politicians will look back and reflect on the reality of their unwavering support. If they had any integrity, they would mourn the innocent Palestinian lives that have been erased in the name of self-defence. They should be ashamed of their cowardice, knowing that others will pay the price for the war crimes they refuse to oppose.” – Jeremy Corbyn, Oct. 13, 2023.



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