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How to tell the stories of the siege when you cannot enter Gaza

In a new podcast, I hoped to capture the impacts of the Gaza blockade that are mostly invisible to the outside world. There was just one problem: I can’t go there.

By Lital Firestone

Young Palestinians Mohammed Ehsen, 21, Bassem Abu Ubaid, 33 , who had their legs amputated following injuries during the Great Return March, Gaza Strip, on June 3, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Young Palestinians Mohammed Ehsen, 21, Bassem Abu Ubaid, 33 , who had their legs amputated following injuries during the Great Return March, Gaza Strip, on June 3, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

When I first dreamed up the idea of doing a podcast about Gaza, I hoped to use the medium to get answers to my burning questions about life in the strip. I had seen Gaza covered in the news: military operations, billowing black smoke surrounding Gaza’s borders, and death counts of gunned-down protestors. But I wanted to understand what was happening through the eyes — or mouths, as it were — of the residents themselves.

For years, I have listened to podcasts whose investigative reporting wound tragedies around my ears. I wondered if I could get a listener, oceans away, to be similarly moved by someone in Gaza. Whether they tune in on a packed morning train or while walking their dog, as their headphones envelop them in the candid words of a people struggling for their autonomy, could their perspective shift?

Once I started my fellowship at Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, I quickly understood how difficult it would be to collect these stories firsthand. While I can easily travel the world with my American passport, the people I wanted to hear from in Gaza have been landlocked by Israel for over a decade.

I learned that under Israel’s permit regime, a stringent set of criteria regulates the limited circumstances that people can enter or exit Gaza, denying residents their basic rights. I was naïve to think I could enter the strip somehow, when authorities would not even permit a man separated from his family for 12 years to visit his father in the West Bank who had just suffered a debilitating stroke, because he did not “meet the criteria” for receiving a permit.

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So began the journey of documenting the effect of the closure on people in Gaza, with my primary obstacle being the lack of access to my subject. The first mini-series of Gaza Up Close, a podcast I eventually produced as part of my fellowship with Gisha, focuses on trailblazing women in Gaza. Even though Gisha’s office in Tel Aviv is only an hour’s-drive away from the strip, I had to do interviews over Skype. I planned to e-meet a young writer, teacher and mental health advocate in Gaza named Rawan, but right before our call, her electricity went out. There is a chronic shortage of electricity in the strip; eight hours of consecutive electricity are followed by eight hours of rolling blackouts.

After we rescheduled and finally spoke, Rawan told me that the way she copes with the constant fear of bombardments and the anxiety that grips her at the sight of rubble outside her window is to write about this reality for an online community. I was itching to hear the sounds of the environment around her and to share them with listeners. As I could not sit in on Rawan’s English class myself, she used her own phone to record a debate between two of her students over the context of globalization in their community, and sent it to me, to embed in the podcast.

We kept in touch afterward, and I was struck by how much we have in common. We are both applying for graduate school in the United States in the fall, but I realized our journeys to arrive there would be poles apart. Only after Rawan goes through the arduous process of permit applications and travel through military checkpoints will we have the chance to meet each other in person, on the other side of the world.

My next step in no-access podcasting about Gaza took me, in a roundabout way, to the West Bank. The owner of Al-Awda candy factory in Gaza, Mohammed Tilbani, is one of a few senior traders in Gaza who has a permit from Israel to exit and enter Gaza to conduct business outside the strip. In addition to his factory in Gaza, he recently opened a second factory in the West Bank, which seemed like a worthy alternative to visit if I could not see the renowned original. The day of the trip to the factory, I received a call that the Israeli authorities were holding Tilbani at Erez Crossing, without explanation. As my coworker Halah and I waited at the Tarqumiya checkpoint, where we had agreed to meet Tilbani, I nervously packed and repacked my audio recorder with new batteries, in the hopes we would still get to use it.

Mohammed Tilbani, one of a few Palestinian merchants from Gaza with a permit to leave and enter the strip, at his candy factory in Hebron. (Courtesy of Lital Firestone)

Mohammed Tilbani, one of few Palestinian merchants from Gaza with a permit to leave and enter the strip, at his candy factory in Hebron. (Photo courtesy of Lital Firestone)

After he was finally let through, Tilbani pulled up in his sharp business suit and drove us through the sunny hills of Hebron until we reached his factory. As we toured the massive expanse, with its almost 400 feet of conveyor belt, I wished I could record sounds of the workers dipping chocolate in cream and boxing up the colorful cakes to be consumed by sweet-toothed children, but the looming gray factory was deserted. Tilbani explained to us that they had to shut down production for the day because the raw materials they needed were not yet permitted to come through. Our voices echoed over the loud beeping of a factory in wait.

Despite the limitations, just the experience of meeting Tilbani in person, observing the inflections of his deep soothing voice and receiving his hospitality was invaluable to establishing the mood of the episode. I could not write a genuine script that reflected some of this man’s decades of perseverance without seeing what it was he built with his hands.

On our way back through the Israeli checkpoint, Halah and I were grilled by military personnel on why we had come to the West Bank and why we were crossing back through to Israel on foot. Passing through the checkpoint made me think about the reality of Israel’s control over movement to and from Gaza, where the effects of its barriers go mostly unseen by the outside world.

Israel uses an arbitrary, unintelligible permit regime to control countless aspects of life in Gaza, leaving people’s fates and futures hanging in a constant state of uncertainty. The attempt to do justice to this reality, given the various challenges, takes the form of a three-part series – a journey to make the unseen heard. You can hear from the people I “met” along the way by listening to the Gaza Up Close podcast.

Lital completed their New Israel Fund Shatil fellowship at Gisha, and is now living in NYC advocating for trans mental health issues.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      Not only is it hard to get into Gaza, it’s hard to get out – there’s no freedom of movement:

      Israel stops 661 Gaza patients from travelling for treatment…The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said that Israel continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of people in Gaza Strip during July, impeding 661 patients and reducing exports by 42.2 per cent….PCHR declared in a monthly report, Tuesday: “the Israeli occupation authorities refuse to allow most of the residents of the Gaza Strip to leave or return to it through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. However, it allows patients with serious health issues, subject to a lengthy and complicated process to obtain a pass and strict security measures, to pass through the crossing.”

      https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190828-israel-stops-661-gaza-patients-from-travelling-for-treatment/

      There isn’t any security reason for this, it’s gratuitous cruelty.

      Reply to Comment
      • Firentis

        Israel has no obligation to allow enemy civilians to enter its territory.

        They are welcome to go cross the border with Egypt if they want.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      Good job in centering the story about the inability of Gazans to enter the country they want to destroy on the struggles of a rich white girl from DC.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Firentis

      Greg, jeez, can you be any more American and boring? Not everything is an analogy to your country’s silly, shallow and brief history. What is it with Americans and their inane and juvenile obsession with trying to contextualize the rest of the world in an American frame?

      Gaza is “involantary servitude” isn’t a fact. It isn’t even sane. In “servitude” someone actually gets a *service* out of the servant. Israel wants nothing to do with Gaza or Gazans. We don’t want to hear them, see them, smell them, or think about them. We certainly don’t need them to provide us with labor.

      All we need is for them to stop trying to destroy us.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Firentis: Absolute baloney, this “…All we need is for them to stop trying to destroy us.” From top to bottom. I don’t know where to begin. Oh, wait, I do. With Levi Eshkol.

        Transfer of Palestinians has always been the Israeli consensus
        https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5573633,00.html

        ‘…The “senior figure” – who everybody knows is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself – said that Israel is willing, generously, to allow the residents of Gaza to emigrate, if only a country were found that were willing to absorb them. And if that were not enough, Israel is even willing to pay for it – including driving them to the airport, from which they can take off and get the hell out of our sight once and for all.

        Is this nutso? We are talking about the prime minister, who was reported to have in fact held a series of cabinet meetings on this subject. And he’s not the only one: the person who wishes to succeed Netanyahu, until recently the justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, supports it. In an interview with IDF Radio Shaked explained: “it’s called encouraging emigration.”

        Indeed, it’s “encouraging” to understand the logic behind the Israeli policy of holding 2 million people in a crowded and besieged territory, without freedom of movement, with just a few hours of electricity a day, skyrocketing unemployment rates and polluted water….

        Perhaps we could have filed away the statements of the last few days under the category of verbal escalation for the purpose of election propaganda. Until we get an uncomfortable historic reminder that actually nothing is new.

        As the protocols of cabinet discussions from the state archives demonstrate, as far back as 1967 Moshe Dayan sought to “encourage” Palestinians to emigrate, and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol expressed the hope that “perhaps the Arabs would move from the Gaza Strip,” which he called a “pen.”

        Eshkol did not mention the fact that Israel had already “moved Arabs,” thereby overcrowding the Gaza Strip with Palestinians it had turned into refugees, but he added that “maybe, if we don’t give them enough water, they will have no choice.”’

        Reply to Comment
      • Firentis, I normally don’t reply down here, and won’t to any reply to this reply. Servitude is the control or near monopolization of others’ labor. One can do either not by employing it but by disallowing its allocation elsewhere. Slavery is inherited involuntary servitude, the children of servitude parents brought into the same servitude; Gaza meets the definition of slavery. Jim Crow in the US was then a form of slavery with leakage–many escaped to the US North, there to find themselves constrained but not so much on a landed economy. It was much better than legalized slavery, but effectively slavery nonetheless for those living it. One punishment dealt to blacks both North and South was refusal of employment. The Gazan economy is in free fall, as are its health, water, and sanitation systems. You give yourself away by listing “smell them” as something you do not want; surely by this you only mean what they endure via lack of clean water and general sanitation. Otherwise, you would seem to have let your real racial stance leak out; I cannot believe that.

        I noted in the FB comment that I have no solution to this quandary of present servitude. I do acknowledge there is violence directed toward Israel; what would happen if the Gazan economy could grow I do not know, but fear there will be a lag between such growth and discarding violence. Even then, most Gazans cannot be violent toward Israel at all; they are too busy trying to exist. You know–“existential crisis.” To feel a morsel of this crisis why not listen to the three podcasts underlying this 972 post? They clock in between 6 and 9 mins. In one, the Gazan young adult woman begins to cry–which, of course, is all just propaganda.

        It is easy for me to say things like this. I am not in at all the same kind of jeopardy Gazans know as their only life. I would note that while disdaining American shallowness, that country provides Israel with a bit over $10 million US a day in military credits; the planes dropping ordinance onto Gaza are both paid for by and manufactured in the US. I suspect you joyfully receive this gift in the abstractions of your life.

        As said, I will not reply further. For am I not a coward at heart? Or I just don’t want to get involved in a spitball fight.

        Here is link to the brief podcasts: https://features.gisha.org/gaza-up-close-podcast/

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Complete and utter hogwash. Servitude is the situation of being forced to provide labor to somebody who gets benefit from that labor. Slavery is the situation of being owned by somebody who gets benefit from that labor and can buy and sell you. You have spent too much time with abstractions to understand when you have gone so far down the rabbit hole that you have no idea what reality is anymore and words have lost all meaning for you.

          Gaza is run by Hamas and is in a constant state of cold and sometimes hot war with Israel. All Israel does is to attempt to prevent Hamas from gaining additional resources or abilities to wage that war. Gazans are poor because of this situation. Each one of these cases where Israel allows any Gazans in is an act of charity towards them and instead of gratitude we get some nonsense insisting that they should all be allowed in. There is no reason for us to allow them into the country any more so than we do with Jordanians or Egyptians or Tanzanians. In fact there is less reason to do so. Most Gazans want to destroy Israel. They support attacks on Israel and Israelis. That they are too poor to put additional resources into their struggle to destroy Israel hardly strikes me as something that I should be bothered about.

          Additionally the premise that economic growth leads to discarding violence is the kind of baseless trash that pollutes intellectually ignorant leftist narratives. There is no indication that improved economic status has any impact on the level of violence in a nationalist context. If anything it is usually the more educated and well-off that participate in such conflicts because they have the means to do so.

          Israel certainly benefits from America’s welfare program for America’s weapons manufacturing industry. That doesn’t change the fact that your understanding of the situation is shallow and is primarily based on a childish obsession with analogies with American history.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “…All we need is for them to stop trying to destroy us.”

            The real complete and utter hogwash, from top to bottom. I don’t know where to begin. Oh, wait, I do. With Levi Eshkol. And I think I’m going to laugh out loud if you say that Hagai El-Ad’s “understanding of the situation is shallow.” ==>

            Transfer of Palestinians has always been the Israeli consensus
            https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5573633,00.html

            ‘…Is this nutso?….actually nothing is new.
            As the protocols of cabinet discussions from the state archives demonstrate, as far back as 1967 Moshe Dayan sought to “encourage” Palestinians to emigrate, and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol expressed the hope that “perhaps the Arabs would move from the Gaza Strip,” which he called a “pen.”
            Eshkol did not mention the fact that Israel had already “moved Arabs,” thereby overcrowding the Gaza Strip with Palestinians it had turned into refugees, but he added that “maybe, if we don’t give them enough water, they will have no choice.”’

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Yes, Hagai El-Ad’s understanding of the situation is as shallow as it needs to be to continue receiving his salary from various European governments to do his job of demonizing the State of Israel. If he were less shallow perhaps he would have to actually find gainful employment instead of writing polemics based on taking quotes out of context from a conversation that took place 50 years ago. But then again I doubt he would find a job as well paying as he has now and would have to sacrifice all of those nice trips abroad to be wined and dined by people that hate his country.

            In the meantime it is Israel that is supplying and will continue to supply water to the Gaza Strip.
            https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/1560784091-israeli-firm-constructing-pipeline-to-boost-gaza-strip-water-supply-report

            As for encouraging emigration, I fail to understand the people that feign concern for the situation of the residents of Gaza while at the same time insisting that they must all stay there. I mean, if the situation is so horrible shouldn’t you be doing all you can to find a better life for these people elsewhere? Unless of course you only care about Gazans just enough to use their plight to attack Israel? If anything it is the Israeli politicians that offer to facilitate emigration of people from Gaza that are showing true concern for their wellbeing while those that insist that Gazans continue to rot in their horrid conditions for political effect that are just horrible human beings. It reminds me of the Lebanese government that insists that it supports the Palestinians but keeps them living in horrible squalor.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I laughed out loud, for the reason I mentioned, and because even I did not think you would pull the Herr Sturmer settler council slander: “This sniveling anti-fascist Jewish traitor did it for filthy lucre and to keep his sleazy European-funded job.” You only stopped at calling him a capo. (For those who don’t know, Hagai El-Ad was born in 1969 in Haifa, is an Israeli human rights activist who has been director general of B’Tselem since 2014; and prior to that, he was director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.)

            Then I laughed a second time at your trying to pass off on us the image of Ayalet “little snakes” Shaked–Bezalel Smotrich in a dress and after finishing school–and her cohorts, as “showing true concern for their well being.” (While El-Ad and those like him are “just using their plight to attack Israel.” You know there is a genuinely neo-fascist ring to this enemies-and-traitors-insinuating thing you do.)

            What, pray tell, was “out of context”? And that it took place 50 years ago was the whole point, I rather think.

            Your Horribleness Index fluctuates all over the place inside one paragraph depending on the use to which you are putting it.

            Re: “shouldn’t you be doing all you can to find a better life for these people elsewhere”—actually, it is the legally-required duty, and humane imperative, of the military occupier to find a better life for these protected persons under occupation right now right there. The occupier has, however, for fifty years, not just since the water became a dire emergency, not just neglected this duty, but done the calculated opposite of this duty. It has been doing its calculated best to make life for these people a calculated hell just barely supporting human life. And then it wants to pose as throwing up its hands and saying “oh woe, if only someone cared!” I’d laugh a third time now at how sick this is if it weren’t so sick.

            You have everything backwards and upside down. Pointing out how you have done this is instructive.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Indeed, Haggai El-Ad is a paid agent of foreign governments. Perhaps traitor is too strong a word, even though its use seems reasonable. Lets go with mercenary with a hatred for his own country.

            What is out of context is that following the war Israel opened up its borders and allowed Gazans full and free access to its economy. No walls. No barriers. No permits. Nothing. Someone from Gaza could come to work in Israel, can go to the beach in Israel, can travel through Israel. The standard of living rose and many more Palestinians got a higher education. So much for that conversation and for Israel actually trying to get people to leave Gaza after the 1967 war. It wasn’t until the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank decided to try to murder Israelis en masse were measures taken to prevent them from doing so by controlling access to Israel.

            And from your response I gather that you don’t care about Gazans. You would rather they live in filth if it can be used as a stick to attack Israel with than to work towards giving them the opportunity to prosper elsewhere. It is sad and pathetic the moral depravity to which your hatred of Israel has driven you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Firentis: Your response has the structure of a sandwich made of ultralight stale bread, Slander brand. The top slice is The Mercenary Hater aka the Traitor. The bottom slice is The Morally Depraved Hater. Both made with standard “Anti-Israel” and auto-anti-Semitism ingredients. You think this is substantial because it consists of stock weaponized tropes but it is no more that than if I call you an England-France-&-Arab-Hater or if someone said I hate France because I opposed the continued colonization of Algeria.

            Why shilly shally? If Hagai is a conniving, paid mercenary of foreign governments, fueled by hatred of Israel and undermining Israel state security in a dastardly international leftist plot (preposterous IMO—deserving of ridicule on the face of it) then, yep, he qualifies as a traitor. Let’s take full ownership of the neo-fascist perspective you deploy here rather than just insinuate it.

            (More to follow.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Now for the “meat” in the middle of this sandwich.

            As you know, the first intifada began in the Gaza Strip and spread to the West Bank. It does not matter how ‘nice’ the occupier was prior to that in letting Gaza day laborers into Israel with the permit system each day (but not allowing them to be inside Israel between 1 and 5 a.m. on any day). I’ll just quote Edward Said here on the uses to which Israel has guided day laborers to put their hard earned money:

            “There is nothing quite like the misery one feels listening to a 35-year-old [Palestinian] man who worked fifteen years as an illegal day laborer in Israel in order to save up money to build a house for his family only to be shocked one day upon returning from work to find that the house and all that was in it had been flattened by an Israeli bulldozer. When I asked why this was done—the land, after all, was his—I was told that a paper given to him the next day by an Israeli soldier stated that he had built the structure without a license. Where else in the world are people required to have a license (always denied them) to build on their own property? Jews can build, but never Palestinians. This is apartheid.” Edward Said, in “The Nation”, May 4, 1998.

            During those years before the first intifada the Gaza strip was undergoing inexorable Israeli colonization. By December 1987, 2,200 armed Jewish settlers occupied 40 percent of the Gaza Strip, while 650,000 impoverished Palestinians were crowded into the other 60 percent, making the Palestinian portion of the Strip one of the most densely populated areas on earth. I don’t have to mention the gross violation of international law this all was. The December 1987 intifada was a spontaneous, grassroots explosion driven by the despair of the Palestinians.

            So the idea that the colonizer provided a comfy, concerned, relative paradise for the colonized–those lucky darkies down on the farm–is contemptuous of them and contemptuous of the historical truth.

            (More to follow.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The fact is that Israel has been laying siege to the Gaza Strip since 1967. It is just that that siege has taken various forms at different times, at the tactical pleasure of the occupier. Gaza is a mega-prison It has been since 1967, only the entry and exit rules and the prison-government rules for the prisoners have varied tactically at the pleasure of the prison management. And the Hamas was an Israeli-fostered device, a device manipulated ever since, to undermine the non-radicals and divide the Palestinians. I agree with Ilan Pappe about this: Israel is more accurately called a colonizer, not an occupier.

            Given all that, your response is to say, “Gee if anyone cared about these prisoners they’d let us ethnically cleanse them by mass transfer out. What’s the problem? When we do this, however, by making life too miserable for them to stay in their homeland, let’s call it a nice name: encouraged emigration.”

            And those damn Palestinians keep mucking up the picture by showing this darned sumud, anyway. It’s enough to drive a colonizer crazy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Against my better judgement (no surprise there), I will try to clarify “servitude” and “slavery.” Yes, the context will be American, but then Americans rather had slavery down to a legal science, no?

            The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution forbids involuntary servitude “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The language is taken in full from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, one of the last major acts of Congress under the Articles of Confederation–that is, before ratification of the Constitution in 1788. Jails back then could deal with inmate labor in three ways: allow the inmate to leave during the day, earn a wage, returning some of it for his upkeep therein; conscript out his labor as part of punishment (the famed chain gangs of the early 20th Century an example); or deny labor entirely, which was actually the most common. To understand what this last means, one must consider the concept of free labor–the ability to use one’s labor to what end one chooses given situated environment. Free Labor (capitalized back then) was a fundamental rallying cry of the North in the Civil War, slavery one kind of denied free labor, but not unique. Imprisonment denied free labor by definition, even if one was forced to just sit in one’s cell throughout sentence. A chain gang is positive denial of labor by forcing labor by other’s will; sitting in a cell is negative denial. At Civil War’s end, not letting someone practice his profession was often called a denial of free labor. It was a negative servitude, surely involuntary. Involuntary servitude is then the denial of free labor, positively or negatively.

            Slavery is just the inheritance of such servitude. It is another form of a bill of attainder, these latter punishing corporately, either a whole class of people or a generational line, such as the descendants of someone stripped of nobility (which happened in England at least until the Civil War). Such a bill did not incarcerate; it just precluded advantages based on prior acts not one’s own. Since advance required access to such positions, it essentially denied one the use of effort, or labor, to achieve some goals as a legal or State matter. The US Constitution explicitly forbids bills of attainder, this an early nod to later free labor ideology, while still treating slavery and servitude as property contract (although never using either term, Article IV Section 2 Clause 3 preserves “service or labor” held under the laws of one of the States). It is not even true that servitude ends within one’s lifetime; the contract can be until death, or written such that upkeep keeps one in servitude until the holder wants out. Again, slavery differs only in transmitting servitude to progeny. Attainders are a restricted form of negative slavery by denying some labor allocations across generations. Full slavery is positive denial of free labor transmitted to progeny.

            Firentis distinguishes servitude and slavery based on ownership; that is not right. A servitude contract could be sold, allocating the indentured to someone else. There were at times more legal protections for indenture relative to slavery based on the color bar–slaves were of at least partial African or Native American descent, and the attachment of indenture to progeny was restricted to these. The argument was the latter were inherently inferior, so should be treated with less notice in law. But both black, Native, and white could be sold if under labor ownership.

            Moving to Gaza, the siege negatively denies free labor, so is a negative form of involuntary servitude; all sorts of economic prospects are forbidden for want of material resources and export markets. As is often said, Gaza is the largest open air prison in the world; the siege denies free labor prospects (or opportunity) exactly as a prison does without the burden of controlling the bodies of inmates on a daily basis. Denying labor prospects outright is a form of negative involuntary servitude. Since children born under the siege inherit the same denial, it is a form of negative slavery.

            No body is bought or sold here. But the bodies caught in the siege are unable to escape save for the trickle allowed by Israel and Egypt, having basically the same goals at this point. Nor could Egypt’s crossing at all allow resource import and product export allieving this negative servitude; only Israel can open the sea and ground transport connected directly to modern economies, without desert barrier. Gaza is in effect a prison without internal guards, save for Hamas allocating labor and material as there are; these could be seen as a forced extension of kapo. If the US withdrew all guards from prisons, placing food inside daily but never entering, something would evolve therein to allocate what is provided. Gaza is so large that internal resources do exist, some land, and recycled material goods. With nigh 2 million inhabitants it will have more extended, branching, networks of distribution and control. But the principle of external control through siege remains.

            Rather than attack me for whatever list of reasons, Firentis could do better by noting that we mostly are happy with sieges elsewhere, say against Iran and North Korea. The difference between Gaza and these two cases is rather clear: the latter had security Council sanction; that is, the sieges were forms of international punishment under the UN Charter. Just as negative servitude is sanctioned in a prison after legal process, so too siege under the Security Council (by the way, as legal matter I think the US has not sanction to siege Iran once the Council during Obama’s tenure approved the Iran pact, but that is not relevant here). While siege is inherently servitude as legal matter it may still be sanctioned in law; but not presently in Gaza. Nor does it matter if I agree with either the Iranian or North Korean sieges; I also may or may not agree with laws incarcerating people in the US.

            Finally, economic development does not in itself ensure peace; I basically admitted that. But no development will ensure resistance. After all, this happened in the Warsaw uprising.

            A prisoner incarcerated for decades is not the same who entered its gates. By the time one executes someone, the one sentenced to death may be gone, name held by another. Surely more so in a siege of 2 million. Listening to the podcasts this 972 references, the young women interviewed, one tearing, are in no way responsible for rockets or much of anything else. Gaza is treated by advocates of the siege as though it is at total war with Israel via Hamas; this is just not true. Total war economies have existed: the US in its Civil War and WW II; the Soviets in its Civil War and WW II; and of course Germany and England in that war. In total war all major productive aspects of a society are at least indirectly attuned to the war effort. This is laughably untrue of Gaza. Most inhabitants, even if they desired, can not mobilize an economy in free fall toward war goals. This would be true neither of Iran or North Korea, and I submit that is why the Gazan siege differs from these. I despair of a solution to Gaza, for expense in meeting Israel’s true security requirements over imports will continue to increase–who will pay? But this is no reason to pretend Gaza is at total war. The siege forces non-legal involuntary servitude on 2 million not out of dire threat but to erase that population from any place in the connected world. As in the US, many Gazan inhabitants are the remnants of Native Americans losing encroachment against immigrants and their descendants. Natives were small in number at the end, placed in reservations. As I do not believe a Right of Return for Gazans is at all feasible, economic development or something like despair-cide are the only ways out. Despair in economic collapse, sanitation failure, malnutrition, and surely coming epidemics. Opening Gaza with regulation is the only way out. Unless you don’t want a way out–for either yourself or them.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      When it comes to Syria, the International Left is very pro-resettlement of all refugees.
      The standard progressive line is “These unfortunate people who had their houses bombed and now living in impoverised tent cities need to be absorbed by US, UK, Europe etc etc.”

      When it cames to Gaza, the same progressives go on about the fundamental non-negotoable right of these unfortunate refugees to return wherever their grandparents lived 71 years ago.

      One law for these refugees.
      A different law for those refugees.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Firentis

      Oh Greg, you must be an academic if you can shovel such a load of crap and not smell it.

      The whole underlying premise of both slavery and servitude is that it is a contract whose owner receives the full financial benefit from the labor of the person owned or serving him. Even in the case of a prisoner, it isn’t the actual imprisonment or “denial of labor” that puts the prisoner into a situation of servitude. It is the chain gang that exploits him for economic benefit that might do so. As such the idea of applying these terms in a “negative” manner, as in “negative slavery” and “negative servitude” is frankly, retarded, as it contradicts the underlying basic definition of the words in question. If you have to jump through such verbal gymnastics to make your point you should probably sit down, take a breath, and start thinking from scratch.

      Jeezus. You think the Warsaw uprising was about the lack of economic development? You are not really helping yourself here…

      Notice that you are shoveling all this nonsense to try to support analogies to American history which have zero relevance here. You have coined the stupid term “negative slavery” to try to find some inkling of connection to American history. And you post this garbage repeatedly on a site specific to a conflict in the Middle East. It is like you are incapable of seeing the word through anything other than an American lens and you will jump through the most absurd loops to make the events fit that lens. Your last post was the equivalent of a toddler trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.

      The way out for Gaza is incredibly simple. Have the leadership there agree to live in peace with the state of Israel. That’s it. That’s what it takes. After that Gaza can be opened and developed without Hamas capturing the benefit to pursue its genocidal aims against me.

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      • “The whole underlying premise of both slavery and servitude is that it is a contract whose owner receives the full financial benefit from the labor of the person owned or serving him. Even in the case of a prisoner, it isn’t the actual imprisonment or “denial of labor” that puts the prisoner into a situation of servitude.”

        1. It is quite possible to profit by denying the labor of someone else. This, to use yet another horrible American example, happened to Japanese Americans interned in WW II. They often lost their property and certainly their businesses. These mostly but not wholly citizens of the US were placed under negative servitude which benefited others. I suspect both private interests and the government benefited from the lost property. Surely you know of other cases where incarceration has lead to the profit of others without direct forced labor.

        2. Free labor holds that any suppression of labor in a situated environment without due process is servitude. Nor is it the case that forced labor, extracting economic benefit for another, is inherently worse than just sitting an individual in prison without personal outlet. Although not plausible given what dominance is, an inmate might be better off under moderate forced labor rather than sloth in the cell. In any case, anyone who has spent time in jail knows time lost on the outside hinders later life; this is negative servitude.

        3. As I said last, noting something servitude is not in itself condemnation. There will always be laws with imprisonment as punishment; I may differ on their severity and breadth, but this does imply condemning all servitude. My point has been that Gazans are under servitude. Because you want no one to hear of them you attack as you have; I rather doubt you have listened to the less than 30 mins of interview of Gazan young women who have not a jot to do with Hamas. You need must see things corporately.

        4. I am somewhat aware of the regional conflicts flaring around Israel. Because of these I expect no change in either occupation or Gazan policy. After the suicide bombing war of 2000-6 or a bit later and the Gazan so far quite weakly effectual rockets, Gazans have been blotted out as human, this done by equating Hamas with the 1.9 + million population. I cannot see this changing save for catastrophe, and the only plausible such I can imagine presently is an epidemic in the strip which might shift opinion in Israel, although probably not yours. My FB post focused on hearing the suppressed for that reason. To know there is distress is the first requirement for remedy, although I can’t see a remedy now.

        5. You enjoy insulting. This is typical national right, well exemplified by Trump and I’d say some, but not all, Israeli settlers. Political dominance is often an end in itself. It is why I stay away from internal comments.

        6. Economic deprivation signals other deprivation. Again, in the too often used American experience, lynching was possible precisely because of economic deprivation and blocks on social advance; while lynching was not very frequent at any single locale, memory and stories of them were quite effective in maintaining submission through fear for self and loved ones. Warsaw had the same signal: that people were forced into such circumstance was clear sign more could, and did, come. In the case of Gaza, the most likely analog is epidemic which UN health agencies now say inevitable. It is a refinement of older means. If it happens, who is truly responsible? There will be no executing hand. It will be all their fault. Many years ago an internal comment said something which has stuck with me: “History does not repeat itself, but it uses the same themes.” An epidemic will raise questions of genocidal intent. You are willing to apply that word to less breadth for all “Gazans.” Would you face the charge directed to yourself?

        To reiterate, I have no solution. This is why I advocate hearing the crying voices from Gaza. As I said in my FB comment, I might have no solution, but the cry may suggest solutions from others. You see, you’ve won. So we prepare the ground for after your win. I will be gone. Others will be here.

        PS If your American charges are at all related to irritation at a growing Jewish American disenchantment with Israeli policy, they are wrongly focused on me. Despite my last name, I am not, as far as I know, not knowing all that much about my father, Jewish.

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