Gaza: The Quality of Mercy Revisited

In these days of warmongering, peace and justice are tossed about like hot potatoes with no end to the suffering in sight. But, where is the compassion for the children, women and men who are being subjected to the excesses of power in all its guises?

Right now, some mercy for the Palestinians in Gaza is desperately needed before it is too late.

Shakespeare saw mercy as “an attribute to God himself” and above “the force of temporal power”[1], but it seems that for all the Christian rhetoric today, and particularly amongst our Western leaders, mercy towards other human beings has been well and truly forgotten. Perhaps the Palestinians do not qualify — most are Muslim and the rest who are Christian, are still Arabs. To some, that means they are not like us because we have been told as much. An Israeli prime minister referred to them as “beasts walking on two legs”, [2] and although the context has been disputed, the analogy with animals has been used often enough to give credence to the Zionist mindset. It is no wonder there are those who think that is good enough reason to herd them behind concrete walls, check and search them whenever they want to move about inside their prison, and drop bombs on them when they get out of line. Yet still not satisfied with these measures, Israel has resorted now to starving them.

On 19 September 2007, the Israeli government designated Gaza “a hostile entity” [3] and decided to impose “additional sanctions” which will reduce even more drastically the basic necessities of living for the entire population. This unrelenting aggression against every man, woman and child for having elected a government that Israel and the US do not want, is known as collective punishment and is prohibited by international law. But, rather than castigate Israel, the international community, as is its wont, may well decide to sever all ties with Gaza in case it is seen to be aiding this “hostile entity”. If this happens, the Palestinians will find themselves totally isolated and at Israel’s mercy and whim.

Gaza’s population has already been severely punished since Israel completely cut it off from the outside world and forced it into extreme poverty, making it humiliatingly dependent on international aid. Almost no one and nothing is allowed to enter or leave this godforsaken hellhole without approval from Israel. Further restrictions would be unsustainable. Without the basic necessities like electricity, fuel, water, food and medicines, the lives of ordinary people would be held to ransom. It does not take much imagination to know what happens to a population when there is no clean drinking water, inadequate sewage and waste disposal and no refrigeration for food and medicines.

Do we really want to see 1.5 million people scrabbling for food in the garbage dumps, people withering away as diseases begin to spread into an epidemic and the descent into chaos as absolute desperation forces the people to grab at anything for survival? Just in case anyone thinks that this is an exaggeration, the beginnings of that scenario are already in play. Israel is setting up a demonic experiment in human behaviour reduced to the extremes of existence. By demonising the Palestinians over the years and rendering them unfit for human compassion, these now “sub-human” people are to be kept in Dov Weisglass’ formaldehyde with the peace process. [4] Give it any name you want, this is genocide.

The situation in Gaza is so dire now that mercy is just about all they can hope for if they want to survive. Neither justice nor peace have been offered in any measure nor are likely to be if Israel has its way. The Palestinians know only too well the futility of the peace processes and the barriers to justice. The powers that be have already thrown their weight
behind Israel enough times for the Palestinians to be sure that their next generation will be suffering even worse humiliations than they have experienced themselves. But for many, the choice of being killed or living as slaves is not a choice at all. No wonder some of them are fighting back, even if their crude attempts at resistance are met with formidable and unmatchable retaliation. Only last November, the Israeli military attacked Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip with a vengeance that left 82 Palestinian civilians dead and 260 injured. [5] This was the culmination of five months of killing by Israeli soldiers which saw the number of dead soar to 382 Palestinians with 1,229 injured. In the same period, Palestinian rocket fire had killed one Israeli and injured 26 others. [6]

It is impossible to make sense of this brutality unless we understand that Israel, since its creation, has been willing the Palestinians to vanish — not only those living in Gaza, but also in the West Bank and even inside Israel itself; that what is happening in Gaza is just part of the long and unforgiving litany of crimes that is still continuing.

Over sixty years, Israel has razed Palestinian homes and villages; destroyed their historical records of existence; denied their culture and identity and even promoted elements of it as their own; terrorised the Palestinians into leaving through campaigns of massacres and military brutality; divided families and communities with a prison wall and razor wire; prevented family unification; bulldozed their cultivated lands which provided the farmers with sustainable living for centuries; obstructed education to a people long known for their academic achievements; intensified the closure on their society despite agreeing to ease the restrictions; taken their water leaving the Palestinians no choice but to buy it back at exorbitant prices; ruined their economy; demolished thousands of their homes; transferred thousands of others by force; refused them building permits while they allow Jewish citizens and settlers to build; created some 2000 occupier laws and regulations to prevent their natural growth even as they encourage the development of illegal Jewish settlements deep inside the occupied Palestinian territories; herded them into Bantustans while Israel maintains absolute control of all their movements; withheld their taxes so their civil servants could not be paid; put pressure on Western governments to impose sanctions; allowed US armaments in to stoke a civil war between the Palestinians; isolated Gaza from the West Bank and ostracised its leadership; and now, in a particularly venomous act is reducing Gaza to absolute penury while offering the interim Palestinian leadership in the West Bank “legitimacy” and another round of peace talks. And in the neighbouring Arab countries, some 6 million Palestinians are refused their right to return home – a situation going back to 1948 when Israel’s first prime minister Ben Gurion set up a “Transfer Committee” which prohibited the return of the then 750,000 refugees who had fled Israel’s campaign of terror. [7]

On the long and painful road towards resolving the injustices that are mounting with each Israeli act of aggression, mercy is very much needed. If Israel is loathe to give it, we must demand it of our governments to pressure Israel into stopping this collective punishment. Otherwise, we will be complicit in acts of calculated misery and ultimately the death of a whole people. However, mercy must extend beyond agreeing to feed the Palestinians properly, letting them have their electricity back and promising not to deprive them of water. This mercy must free the Palestinians from Israel’s occupation and allow them the justice that has long been their due. And that, according to Dr Ghada Karmi, is the dilemma
that Israel has with Palestine. [8] It would mean the end of the grand Zionist plan to establish a Jewish-only state in a land belonging to another people and the beginning of an arduous journey towards reconciliation with the long-suffering victims of its colonial project. In the process, both peoples have yet to find out that mercy “blesseth him that gives and him that takes” [9]: without it, peace will remain as elusive as ever.


[1] William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 4 scene 1

[2] The Palestinians are “… beasts walking on two legs.” Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts,” New Statesman, 25 June 1982.(Zionists claim that Begin was just talking about Palestinian terrorists.)


[4] Dov Weisglass: “The significance of our disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. It supplies the formaldehyde necessary so there is no political process with the Palestinians.” Ha’aretz, Oct. 6, 2004.

[5] As of 15 November. UNRWA Gaza Field Office data.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Benny Morris, “Remarques sur l’historiographie sioniste de l’idée d’un transfert de populations en Palestine dans les années 1937-1944”, in “Les nouveaux enjeux de l’historiographie israélienne,” ed. Florence Heymann, Information paper, Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, no. 12, December 1995. On the contradictions of Mapam’s position, see the first chapter of 1948 and After.

[8] Ghada Karmi, Married to Another Man: Israel’s dilemma in Palestine, Pluto Press, London, 2007.

[9] William Shakespeare, ibid.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. Read other articles by Sonja, or visit Sonja's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. jaime said on September 29th, 2007 at 3:26pm #

    “…Give it any name you want, this is genocide…”

    Not by a long shot, I’m afraid. You see Israel divested itself of Gaza, uprooting whole communities and withdrew to the 1967 border. Instead of reducing terror attacks and bombardment by Gazans, attacks increased. Genocide isn’t on the map. It’s not about ethnic cleansing at all. And the gazans are very well armed. They’re actually the aggressors. All of the measuresd Israel has so far taken have been defensive.

    Here’s a recent story by reuters:

    Hamas says 50,000 gunmen ready to defend Gaza Fri Sep 28, 2007

    “…Fifty thousand Palestinian gunmen and hundreds of suicide bombers are ready to repel or at least impede any large-scale Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, an official from the ruling Hamas said on Friday….A Hamas-affiliated Web site quoted Rayyan as saying that “50,000 fighters, armed and brave in the battlefield” await an invasion and that 400 would-be suicide bombers wear their explosives belts around the clock, ready to attack tank columns….”

    These people are well-armed and have lots of weapons. They could have brought in food, agricultural equipment, and been busy engineering canals and working at greenhouse operations, but instead, Hamas and the gazans have CHOSEN to make and launch missile and mortar attacks across the border.

    What do you expect the Israelis to do in defense of their population? Nothing?

  2. sk said on September 29th, 2007 at 4:03pm #

    FYI, a recent interview (link to MP3) of Joel Kovel on ‘Overcoming Zionism’.

  3. gerald spezio said on September 29th, 2007 at 4:31pm #

    Less than a week ago right here on the pages of DV, Saree Makdisi’s article, “The War on Gaza’s Children,” explained that Israel lawyer Dov Weisglass created the Abrahamic Israeli “starvation project.'”

    Lawyer Weisglass uses his Law School training to escalate any problem to a legal crescendo.
    Lawyering at its creative best.
    No food, no water, and no child left behind. A brilliant strategy for peace and justice.
    If Dov sets it up, you know that it’s legal.

    Now, you explain that lawyer Weisglass has coined a new phrase to describe his application of tough starvation under DALAW.
    Quietism or keeping the Palestinians in “formaldehyde” is called making law in the legal trade. Law can be tough.

    Making everything legal is difficult and requires administrative and legal skills that only a lawyer would be trained for. It’s a professional project, and you need to be trained lawyer to really understand it.

    Dov Weisglass has the training and the experience. Israeli lawyer Weisglass helps Israeli people who have suffered and are angry because they have been injured beyond human understanding by hurtful anti-semitism.
    Dov can right wrongs through the use of creative law.

    Dov’s C V shows that Dov is a champion of DALAW and can deliver for his government and client.

    Dov Weisglass was born in October 1946, in Tel Aviv. He grew up and was educated in 1950s Ramat Gan. At age 19, draft age, he was already studying law.

    At age 24, he was working in the Moritz-Margolis law firm. Thirteen years later he (along with his partner, Ami Almagor) bought the practice from its founders and made it one of the country’s leading law firms.

    In 1980 he represented Yitzhak Rabin against the French magazine L’Express. In 1983 he represented Sharon against the Kahan Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the Sabra-Chatila massacre. In 1985-86 he represented Sharon in his suit against Time magazine (Sharon sued the magazine over a report implicating him in the massacre).

    At first he specialized in representing security personnel who testified before commissions of inquiry (Yossi Ginossar, Shaul Mofaz, Hezi Callo, Alik Ron). He then also specialized in representing ministerial directors-general accused of corruption (Shimon Sheves, Moshe Leon, Avigdor Lieberman).

    Also among his clients: Ehud Yatom, Rafi Eitan and Avigdor Kahalani. And the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad espionage agency.

    When you need creative starvation and behavior change for your recalcitrant problems, Dov Weisglass can serve you like only an experienced professional can.

  4. gerald spezio said on September 30th, 2007 at 5:07am #

    sk, your referral to Joel Kovel is exactly what we all need.
    Please elaborate if you can. If you don’t, I will.
    Joel Kovel is a mandatory source.

  5. sk said on September 30th, 2007 at 6:13am #

    Joel’s interview is quite frank and helpful, imho, for anyone who wants to come to grips with the toxic brew of ideologies that is Zionism. His psychoanalytic insights–even if one doesn’t agree with every last one of them–are quite interesting as well. The interview available for download at his website is longer and delves deeper into the psychological issues.

  6. Ceri Cat said on September 30th, 2007 at 11:42pm #

    Sure Palastine has 50,000 warriors, but they’re not nearly as well trained or equipped as the Israeli defense force. They’ll fight and ultimately they’ll die. The simple face is the situation is nearly beyond any possible hope of redemption, and continued western involvement behind the Israeli government has escalated this situation to a point they could not have reached without such help.

    Put mildly it’s not even their land they now occupy, the Israeli state is a modern construction which never existed historically, while it’s true Jewish people have been there since before the time of Christ it’s also true that so have the muslims and arabs. The UN forced the creation of a nation that had never existed as a means of playing CYA and getting rid of Zionists who were causing trouble in other countries. If not for the UN and the Zionists the region would probably still be as relatively peaceful as the rest of the middle east instead of being an active warzone. We have a lot to answer for with our involvement in the affairs of countries in the middle east, and by we I mean the western world not just America or any other country involved but those of us who actively interfered and those who stood by and let it happen.

    Don’t mistake me, I’m not saying this as condemnation of the Jewish people. I’m just trying to help a few people with badly biased opinions understand some of the background, and express my own personal opinion which is simplified a sharp crack over the knuckles with a wooden spoon whenever a hand reaches for that cookie jar. I’m sure many of those involved in the creation of Israel and the seperation of Iraq and Iran as examples had the best of intentions, but their best of intentions over 40 years later are still giving us serious headaches.

  7. jaime said on October 1st, 2007 at 8:12am #

    “…The UN forced the creation of a nation that had never existed as a means of playing CYA and getting rid of Zionists who were causing trouble in other countries….”


    Hello? Anybody home?

    Ever heard of something called The Holocaust?

  8. Ceri Cat said on October 1st, 2007 at 9:44am #

    Which is related to the formation of Israel how? The holocaust was a tragedy, but look at the facts, Zionists had been pushing for the formation of Israel well and truly before Adolf came in and rallied Germany behind him.
    It is fact that the Jewish people have been the flavour of the millenia with the Catholic church persecuting them in particular since it’s formation ignoring the words of the one they worship who himself was a Jew. This persecution continues to today judging by the reports of hate crimes from the deep south of the USA and other countries.
    Fact thousands of Jews, homosexuals, mentally disabled, and other social misfits were killed by the Nazis as part of Hitlers final solution.
    Fact the Russians had them beat on numbers at the same time.

    About the only thing that links with Israel there is the catholic church believes Jerusalem to be a sacred site. The holocaust was exploited to force the UN’s hand despite advice from many (including the British who had Palestine under their wing at the time) that this would cause unreal friction in the area by taking land from the traditional occupants. Unfortunately just like the native Americans, and the Australian Aborigines the Palestinians seem to be fighting a lost cause too.

    Please don’t assume someone has anti-semitic leanings just because they pay attention to history, that’s as unfair to you as it is to me.

  9. jaime said on October 2nd, 2007 at 8:20am #

    “…taking land from the traditional occupants….”

    There have been Jews living in the Middle east and in the area of israel continuously for about 3,000 years. And at the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries the Zionists who immigrated to the area BOUGHT land from the locals. They didn’t conquer the place. Eventually the Zionists had to arm and defend themselves because of attacking marauders, then wars of attempted annihilation. So after having sold Jews land; and usually poor quality land which the Jews transformed, the Arabs of the area tried to take what they had sold back by violence.

    I guess it didn’t work out so well.

    The usual antisemitism that we see here on this board concerns Israel more so than Holocaust denial, and we get the conspiracy themes of Jews/Zionists, of course. One thing that kind of interests me is that the current disaster in Myanmar has gotten no play whatsoever. It’s like their persecutions don’t exist here as a concern…