Saturday, June 22, 2024
 
 

Freedom is just another word for ‘nothin left to lose’

Two Palestinian men sit on the streets of Gaza City.

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President Joe Biden described the events taking place in Israel as “sheer evil, abhorrent, and terrorism.”  It sure is.  Husbands and wives slaughtered, children murdered, some captured and no doubt tortured.  Evil and abhorrent barely touch the nerve of what we have all seen and heard.  Gut wrenching.

How can this be? How do young Gazans turn into violent, immoral, murdering monsters?  How does humanity drop to such a low level of social existence so easily, and unfortunately, so frequently? The answer to such questions, if they can be adequately answered at all, is always nuanced and complicated.

As an American, I grew up in awe and admiration for what Israel had accomplished. Building, seemingly out of dust, a democratic nation from the ashes of the Shoah.  I was so inspired by the Kibbutz movement that I thought if I were Jewish, I would join for sure once I came of age.  Sadly, very sadly, many of those lost in Israel this week were the direct descendants of that inspirational time.

So, how did we get here?  From an inspirational story fighting against all odds, to another holocaust almost 50 years later to the day of the Yom Kippur War?

Military minds will tell you that for sure it was an intelligence failure of the highest degree.  It was.

Political minds will tell you that the Israel of 2023 is not the Israel of 1948, and that the political class ruling the country has been preoccupied with self-preservation, distracted from the core mission of maintaining the security of the nation, and consequently fracturing the cohesion of the Israeli Defense Forces at a critical time. It is.  

Regional diplomats will tell you that peace in the Middle East can be achieved through multilateral international agreements, and that the “Palestinian Question” can be resolved later.  Looks like it can’t.

Since 1948, the Arab population of Palestine has been displaced as a result of creation of the state of Israel.  No sense rehashing here how this happened, the way it happened, how it got to the situation it is today.  That’s a story replete with episodes from Biblical times to this very day.  Fact is, the displacement happened.  

A process to deal with this displacement – the Two State Solution – has been in place for many years now – and it is the official position of the United States, the United Nations, and many other countries.  But, no Two State solution is happening. What is happening is a squeezed population in the West Bank, an Iran-sponsored terrorist organization, Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, and Hamas, a terrorist led movement in Gaza.

We can parse all we want about how all this was allowed to develop.  And, for sure, the ‘leadership” such as it is in Gaza could of and should have used much of the more than one billion dollars in aid received over the years to develop a more prosperous “strip.”  But Gaza is a “strip.”  Can you imagine life in a “strip?”

Gaza is, essentially, the world’s largest concentration camp.  Gazans cannot leave or enter without permits.  Trade is highly restricted and regulated.  Food, medicine; life staples are unreliable and expensive.  Fishing is restricted.  Recently, given the shortages of fuel, trucks, and cars, even the importation of donkeys was prohibited.  What security threat can donkeys pose in 2023?

We can also debate why the people of Gaza have tolerated leadership by a terrorist group for so long.  Having rejected Fatah in the legislative elections in 2006, since that time Hamas has controlled the strip, and has had significant influence in the West Bank.  Fatah’s failure to meet expectations in the form of corruption and incompetence led people to seek a new path.  Unfortunately, that path led to a militarized Gaza, and an electorally paralyzed Palestinian Authority.  Gazans, particularly its men, gravitated to the leadership that seemed most dedicated to Israeli resistance.

For all practical purposes, more or less, the people of Gaza have been essentially abandoned – prisoners in their “strip,” deprived of the basic ingredients of Mediterranean life, without a chance at prosperity, individual development, career opportunities, and even the basics of modern urban life.  They have lived in this “prison” for the last 17 years. They have been left without hope.

Instead, they have been subjected to the occasional organized resistance from Hamas, that has subsequently resulted in a disproportionate opprobrium meted out by the IDF in the form of sophisticated bombings – causing the same level of atrocities as we see on the news screen today.  The killing of a child by bombing is no less atrocious than a killing by rifle.

The bedrock attribute underpinning American democracy, and democracy in general, is the concept of freedom.  Freedom means having a choice.  A choice to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, lawn specialist, hair stylist, to marry, or not marry, to be Christian or Muslim, whatever.  You have a choice – you can make your up own mind.  The degree to which you practically can do this, is the degree to which you are free.

Two Palestinian men sit on a Gaza City street.

Imagine Gazans watching a thousand young people partying in the desert within earshot of their metal armored cage.  The people of Gaza, especially the young men, have no choice about much of anything.  Lashing out became one of the only things they could do.

From my years of work in Camden, New Jersey – one of the poorest cities in the United States – I learned one thing absolutely.  People will not starve voluntarily.  They will seek to survive, and even thrive through whatever means at their disposal.

Without a chance, and a choice – freedom is just another word.

 

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Former Chairman of the Camden City Democratic Committee, New Jersey USA. He currently serves as the President of Sterling Business School in Kyiv, Ukraine.

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