Israel’s savagery is so shocking it’s sometimes hard to take in

Dec 1, 2023
Israeli flag covered in red handprints representing blood of Arabs at an anti-Israel protest.

Sometimes Israel’s crimes are so horrific that at first you don’t even understand what you’re looking at. You just stare at it trying to make sense of what you’re seeing for a bit, like you would if you suddenly saw a space alien or a leprechaun or something.

It happened to me yesterday when I was watching a Sky News report about a teenage boy who was shot by Israeli forces in Jerusalem for celebrating the release of Palestinian prisoners in the hostage negotiations with Hamas. I was watching it thinking to myself, I must be misunderstanding what I’m looking at. I know that Israel does gross things, but surely the story here isn’t that they shot a kid for being happy about something.

Then, as has happened so many times over the last two months, I kept watching and learned that yes, that is indeed what happened. The deputy mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum is seen defending the shooting by saying “part of the deal is that there would be no celebrations for the release of attempted murderers” (this was actually not a part of the deal, it was just a decree issued by Israel’s national security minister) and claiming dishonestly that “we’re talking about the release of attempted murderers” (the vast majority have not been convicted of any crime and have been denied any due process for the accusations against them).

The band Eve6 nicely summed up what it felt like watching the clip of the deputy mayor’s comments, tweeting, “The remarkable thing about this clip is her self assurance. Like she’s supremely confident that ‘we shot the teenager because he was celebrating’ is a thing that people will find reasonable.”

I had the same experience reading about the five premature babies who were left to die after the IDF raided al-Nasr Pediatric Hospital in Gaza earlier this month, their decomposing bodies only discovered when the temporary ceasefire allowed access to the hospital. It’s just too insane to believe — they attacked a pediatric hospital? And then they left the babies there to die? What??

The only reason we’re learning about this now is because the pause in fighting allowed journalists to get cameras into the building and show the dead infants to the world. This calls to mind the Politico report immediately prior to the ceasefire which said that the White House was worried “an unintended consequence of the pause” would be “that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”

Indeed, since the pause in fighting began the world has been receiving drone footage from mainstream platforms like Reuters and The Washington Post revealing vast expanses of urban terrain completely destroyed by a blanket of Israeli military explosives spanning from city block to city block. Looking at the blatantly indiscriminate devastation that’s been caused by Israel’s assault on Gaza since October 7 makes it clear that the IDF are not targeting Hamas but Gaza itself.

I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve been sleeping since the ceasefire started; that’s why I haven’t been writing as much. I guess spending weeks staring at unbelievable horrors unfolding on your screen can be pretty hard on your system if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, so my body’s been resting up as much as it can while there’s an opportunity.

And I’m just here watching this all unfold safely from my home in Melbourne. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be living in the midst of this horror for the last two months, trying to figure out the best way to survive while also grieving the family, friends and neighbours you’re losing along the way. These people have all been deeply traumatised in ways that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, if they survive the violence, disease and deprivation that’s to come.

This thing is so astonishingly ugly, and it could get a whole lot uglier after the ceasefire ends. If there’s anything positive to be found in this living nightmare, it’s that it’s so earth-shakingly ugly that it just might shake the world awake.

 

First published in Caitlin’s newsletter on 30 November, 2023

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