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Let's talk about Gaza, Sderot and the racist valuation of lives

A frank discussion about everything we don’t mention when talking about rockets and bombs and Gaza. Let’s talk about fear, about poverty, about angst and about racism.

By Lilach Ben David

Let’s talk about Gaza. Let’s talk about a small strip of land that god didn’t forget about, but about which we are certainly trying to forget. Let’s talk about one of the most crowded populations in the world; or to be more precise, it was made to be one of the most densely populated places in the word, because until 1948 most of its inhabitants lived in Yaffa, in Bir al-Saba’, and in hundreds of other small towns that have since disappeared and which have been forgotten. Let’s talk about what it’s like to live in the world’s largest open-air prison, let’s talk about a million and a half people who are ruled by a foreign government from their own air, sea and land — a foreign power that decides when they do and don’t get medicines, concrete, electricity and coriander. Let’s talk about people who our government wants us to believe we are not occupying yet reserves its right to control their borders, land, water and air, and to collectively punish them when its mood sours.

And let’s talk about Sderot. A transit camp, which is a nice word for a refugee camp, which turned into a “development town,” which is also a nice name for a neglected and deprived periphery town that became the “front line,” which is a nice name for throwing the Mizrahim into the frontier between the Ashkenazis and Arabs, a theoretical category between a Zionist nationality and a Middle Eastern ethnicity, which has turned into a physical divide between “us” and our “enemy” as well as an easy target for desperate attacks from the other side — serving the same role as Jerusalem’s Musrara decades ago. Let’s ask why 13 years of bombardment against citizens in Sderot didn’t push the government to act the same way that two rockets in Tel Aviv did.

A bomb shelter in Sderot (Photo by 'Jewbask')

A bomb shelter in Sderot (Photo by ‘Jewbask’)

Let’s talk about the racist valuation of blood. In the Zionist blood market, the cheapest blood is Arab. You can spill it like water, bomb it, shoot it, fence it in, choke it, or burn it with gasoline or white phosphorus. Slightly less cheap blood, although still pretty cheap, is that of someone who hasn’t managed to find a way into the exclusive “salt of the earth” club: Mizrahim, Ethiopians, Russians and people who ride public buses and live in public housing apartments, many of which are dangerous enough even if they aren’t located within rocket range. So let’s talk about blood that isn’t cheap. Blood that requires revenge. The blood of those who’s deaths are the cause of national mourning, who are born not only as Jews, but the right type of Jew, of the right color and in the right place.

And let’s talk about the fact that that racist valuation exists for all Israeli Jews — for the cultured and educated, and especially for leftists. A wounded Jewish person at a protest against the separation barrier unites us in a show of solidarity that we wouldn’t give for even thousands of wounded Palestinians or dozens of killed. And if the Left was to react to the news of each and every one of the 1,520 Palestinian children that Israel murdered since 2000 in the same way that it reacted to the deaths of three settler youths, it would no doubt long ago have drown in its own sorrow and statements of condemnation.

Let’s talk about fear. Let’s talk about children crying from air-raid sirens and running to find a shelter within 15 seconds. And let’s talk about children whose homes sway like an out-of-control pendulum from the force of artillery shells and who don’t have any shelter to run to. And let’s talk about the more than 350 boys and girls who no longer cry or laugh or grow because they were blown to pieces or burned alive or buried under the rubble of their own homes along with their whole families during the massacre we call “Operation Cast Lead.”

Let’s talk about poverty. Let’s talk about a population that lives on the grace of international humanitarian aid. Let’s talk about more than 60 percent unemployment. Let’s talk about power outages and about the elderly and children who die because the health system is collapsing. Let’s talk about the cement factories and power plant that Israel blew up in order to create that suffocating poverty. And let’s talk about the Israeli economics minister who can’t stop talking about how he’s everybody’s brother, but isn’t enough of a brother to save the Negev Textile Plant from closing. Let’s talk about the mothers whose children don’t go school when Qassam rockets start falling, but who themselves must go to work; nobody is reimbursing them for missed work days.

Let’s talk about angst — the angst of an occupied people under siege that doesn’t see any way to have its voice heard by a world that doesn’t want to listen, that is aside from firing short-range rockets at their neighbors on the other side of the fence. Let’s talk about the angst of those neighbors who for 13 years have lived with rockets and sirens and who know that nobody cares about them. Let’s talk about Mayor Alon Davidi, an Ashkenazi invader from a group of youngsters that was sent to the periphery in order to brighten it with its wonderful pale light. Instead of representing the interests of his city’s residents, he exploits their angst in order to align himself with the war machine and the Israeli massacre and to demand more cheap blood from the other side — when the last thing the majority of Sderot residents would want now is to be sacrificed in the name of another round of violence.

So let’s talk about hope. Let’s talk about breaking the illegal siege, and thereby ending the rocket fire. Let’s talk about a common language, about joint struggle, about a shared life, about a state that doesn’t seek to banish the Arabs, and thereby ending the need to erase the memory of Mizrahi Jews’ Arab culture. Let’s talk about the day after the occupation and siege and hate and hunger and humiliation; let’s talk about justice for Gaza and justice for Sderot, justice that doesn’t come at the expense of the Other. Let’s break the siege, apathy and racism, and replace them with humanity.

Lilach Ben-David is a transgender and feminist activist based in Tel Aviv. Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Vadim

      Let’s talk about buzz words, about writing lots of pretentious words with no meaning. Let’s talk about racism. Everyone’s talking about racism, so we should too. You see, a country which Jews from Russia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Canada or France call home is racist. It’s so relieving to know the Palestinian state which promised to be Judenfrei will not be so racist. Let’s not talk about Palestinian responsibility for their actions, they have none. Israel just massacres them every once in a while for no reason. Let’s talk about the occupation, which harms the Palestinians so much but which they do not wish to end without Israel meeting their peaceful demands – ethnic transfer of Jews and RoR. Because honor and someone’s grandmother’s bathtub in the woods in more important that the lives of their children.

      I think it’ll be a lovely chat.

      Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        If the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians is appropriately symbolized a “someone’s grandmother’s bathtub in the woods,” then the Holocaust is “a bunch of ashes in a ditch.” Of course, neither of those things could be described like that with any honesty, which is why you are a deluded little man who takes solace in his nationalism. You are part of the problem as much as Hamas.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Wow, I was never compared to Hamas before.

          1. I, like the majority of the Israelis, am ready for a compromise that will allow both sides to coexist. A sane compromise, not some crap with RoR and ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of Jews. If my contempt for a way of thought that places the lives of one’s children bellow a long gone “bathtub in the woods” makes me like that Hamas in your eyes, maybe you should rethink what Hamas stands for.

          2. I don’t want to get into a historical debate about the numbers or the passive way in which you claim these people were supposedly cleansed – it won’t help us in our current situation. Your own comparison proves you’re wrong – we moved on, from the ashes and ditches – we moved on to build better lives. That’s what I want the Palestinians to do – don’t forget the bathtub in the woods, but place it in its correct place. Move on, find a compromise with us and make the lives of all of us better. Sounds just like Haniyeh, right?

          3. Y-Man, next time please try to understand what people actually mean before calling them names. You don’t know me

          Reply to Comment
        • Jean

          In my experience, deluded little men are usually those who can’t keep a conversation without getting personal and insulting. They usually excuse themselves as being too emotionally invested in the issue and consequently they never contribute anything towards a resolution though they feel they do.

          Reply to Comment
    2. rsgengland

      There is war all over the Middle East. And what is the most notable result? REFUGEES.
      All wars produce refugees.
      Anywhere and everywhere in the world.
      The palestinians became refugees during a war, like billions of people in other wars before them, and the billions that will become refugees in the wars of the future.
      Nearly a million Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Arab/Muslim lands for the sole fact that they were Jews. Israel took them in and resettled them with great difficulty after fighting against invading Arab armies and trying to develop the country with minimal resources.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Siham

      Thank you for writing this. And for giving a voice to the oppressed, on both sides.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Tamar

      Vadim, thank you for serving as the voice of reason. As for Y-Man, comparing the various wars Israel has been subjected to by its Arab neighbors ,and the UN sanctioned relocation of Palestinians in 1947, to the Holocaust means that you either need a very serious history lesson or, perhaps more worryingly, that any education will be wasted on someone who doesn’t recognize the right of Israelis, as well as Palestinians, to a home.

      Reply to Comment