A Child Dies In The Killing Fields of Gaza

by James M. Wall

History is filled with narratives about killing fields. This troubled writer looks at the killing fields of Gaza, and is driven to begin with a story:

“A man kills his mother and his father. Brought to trial, he begs for mercy because he is an orphan.”

There are times when two sides have legitimate claims to a side. The killer in this story does not have a “side”.

The story comes to mind when this troubled writer sees the deaths of Palestinians in the killing fields of Gaza and is driven to fury by the willingness of others to embrace the killer’s narrative.

I write, of course, of Bibi Netanyahu, grinning ear to ear, ordering Israeli soldiers to secure themselves behind safe mounds on the Gaza “border”, and fire into Palestinian crowds, who were protesting their imprisonment.  The New York Times, in its usual tepid “both sides” journalistic style, defends the slaughter.

On May 16, The New York Times ran a story with this headline, which on-line reads: A Child of Gaza Dies. A Symbol Is Born. The Arguing Begins.

The arguing begins?  The man who killed his parents has a side from which to argue? No, he does not. A judge who knows a phony plea for mercy when she sees one, can only utter the words, “take him away”.

And yet in this nightmare of Orwellian reality in which we live, Israel’s occupying military force continues its death-dealing ways and calls it a side.

Here is the start of the Times‘ “argument” story, written by Declan Walsh:

GAZA — Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old girl with sparkling green eyes, was in the arms of her grandmother when a cloud of tear gas engulfed them at the protest in Gaza on Monday. The child inhaled a draft of acrid gas that set off a rasping cough and watering eyes. Hours later she was dead.

The story shot across the globe, providing an emotive focus for outrage at military tactics that Israel’s critics said were disproportionately violent. [“Israel’s critics”?, “disproportionately violent”?]

Yet within hours the family’s story was being questioned. Doctors said Layla had suffered from a congenital heart defect that, one suggested, might have caused her death. Then the Israeli military issued claims, unsupported by evidence, that it held information that disproved the family’s account. [Information that she died from tear gas sent from Israel’s “side”?]–emphasis added.

A 1984 film The Killing Fields examined deaths in the killing fields of Cambodia, an earlier story of brutal, hateful, human conduct evoked by another “complicated” colonialist conflict.

Do not look for a film about “The Killing Fields of Gaza”. But look to disperse the use of “complicated” excuses to kill those who stand in the way of empirical expansion. Search not for truth and wisdom about Israel in the pages of The New York Times.

Turn instead to independent non-corporate media outlets like Counterpunch where Saree Makdisi wrote his article on the Gaza killing fields, Kill and Kill and Kill.

He begins:

Two spectacles unfolded in Palestine on Monday, [May 14]. In Gaza, Israeli army snipers shot and killed 58 Palestinians—including six children—and injured almost three thousand others amid scenes of smoke, fire, teargas, dust, agony and blood.

At exactly the same time, to the tinkling of champagne glasses at a glittering reception barely fifty miles away in Jerusalem, Jared Kushner and an elegant Ivanka Trump oversaw the opening of Donald Trump’s new embassy there.

The juxtaposition of these two contemporaneous scenes encapsulates at a single glance the entirety of Zionism’s murderous conflict with the Palestinian people.

The Palestinians targeted and executed one-by-one by Israeli snipers had gathered to demand their right of return to their lands and homes inside the rest of Palestine, from the coastal plain up to and including Jerusalem. They or their parents or grandparents were driven from their homes during the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 for the simple reason that they are not Jewish: too many non-Jews in the putative Jewish state would not make for much of a Jewish state after all.

“There could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist,” the Israeli historian Benny Morris bluntly pointed out in an interview justifying ethnic cleansing with the newspaper Ha’aretz in 2004; “a Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians . . . [therefore] it was necessary to uproot them”). They have been denied the right to return to their homes ever since for the same reason: they are not Jewish, and their presence would upset the carefully-engineered demographic tables maintained by the state to preserve its tenuous claim to an exclusively Jewish identity.

The maintenance of that demographic balance and the suspension of their political and human rights are inseparable from one another: the one enables, produces and requires the other.

The demographer Arnon Sofer of Haifa University is the architect of the current isolation of Gaza. In 2004, he advised the government of Ariel Sharon to withdraw Israeli forces from within Gaza, seal the territory off from the outside world, and simply shoot anyone who tries to break out.

“When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe,” Sofer told an interviewer in the Jerusalem Post (11 November 2004); “Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” He added that “the only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.”

There is more, much more, in Markdisi’s essay. For even more background, see his 2010 book, Palestine: Inside and Out.

Our American government opened a new embassy in Jerusalem for the sole purpose of allowing our President to satisfy the wishes of his Jewish-American financial patron Sheldon Adelson, the American casino billionaire, who attended the embassy’s opening.

Of course, American presidents, when in campaign rhetorical mode, promised to “move” the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They knew it would be an idiotic move.  Once in the White House, they ignored the promise.

The picture above of Layla Ghandour, an 8-month-old Gaza girl, appeared in the New York Times with this caption: Credit Haitham Imad/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to A Child Dies In The Killing Fields of Gaza

  1. Patricia says:

    I am utterly disgusted with the evil of ISRAEL and the USA.

  2. J. Martin Bailey says:

    You tell it truly, Jim. I’ve visited Gaza perhaps a dozen times. Always forced to go through an Israeli checkpoint, because Israel will not permit any one or any thing to go into Gaza except through its check points. It is, in deed, the world’s largest prison. The first time I was there we visited the Ali Arab Hospital, sponsored by Episcopal churches worldwide. As we sat listening to the head doctor describe the services that his staff provide for malnourished men, women and children, we heard ominous sounds outside. We looked at each other in fright. The noise continued and one of the male nurses came into the room to say that the Israeli soldiers were knocking down the gate to the hospital grounds–a gate that was wide open. They did so because they could, and to make a point. Occupation is ugly. Occupation is a sin because it is the evidence of oppression and animosity. It is also a failed policy that only summons bitterness and anger. Unfortunately I believe that our present U.S. government is intentionally complicit. We must work for change, early change.

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    I am 7 1/2 years older than Israel.
    Prior to May 15, 1948, there was no Israel for over 2000 years.
    The Great March of Return to Palestine (currently Israel) will continue no matter how long it takes.
    As a Christian Arab Palestinian, I condemn Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to return to what was Palestine from the River (Jordan) to the Sea (Mediterranean) for thousands of years. Our ancestors go back to the Canaanites, Philistines and other ancient natives of the land.
    Forget the farce of the “Two-States”. Palestine is one state and it can take all the current residents, plus the Palestinian refugees in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza. We have a God-given right to return to our native lands, plus the UN Resolution of 1948 that allows Palestinians to return to their lands, homes, farms, and orchards inside what became ‘Israel-by-force’ in 1948.
    The PA should not sign any agreement of anything less than our return to our blessed Homeland.

  4. Thank you Jim. Above comments echo my sentiments.

  5. Yvette Van Hauwe says:

    What is happening in Palestine since 1948 is so ugly and inhumane.

  6. yisraelmedad says:

    The baby was taken to the demonstration by family members. In fact, it seems that a 12-year old cousin carried her in a blanket.
    The bay was not shot. Fact.
    The baby did suffer from a heart problem. Fact.
    The baby did die from tear gas inhalation. Fact.
    Now, you’d like to blame Israel? Not a fact. Not a truth. A narrative.
    Like fence breachers are protestors.
    Like fliers of incendiary kites are demonstrators.
    Like Gaza is not a Hamastan, a terrorist-ruled regime region where Molech-like, the leadership again and again sacrifice its population, even after the 2005 Disengagement.
    Like Egypt also doesn’t close down its border.
    Like terror tunnels are not dug.
    Like rockets are not fired at Jewish civilians.
    Like, well, you really don’t know much or wish to ignore much.

  7. Kate Kallis says:

    God weeps.

  8. Richard Falk says:

    Thanks for your ethical clarity in addressing the shameless tone
    of the mainstream debate on the Gaza/Jerusalem developments,
    and bringing to our attention more illuminating voices, such as that of
    Saree Makdisi..

    The Gaza experience, which
    in its essence is ‘unspeakable,’ recalling the moral authority of
    Thomas Merton, makes prefacing the text with an evocative picture
    the best way to handle the limits of language.

  9. wallwritings says:

    Thank you, Richard, and thanks also to all others who commented above.

    To all readers, I highly commend Richard Falk’s blog, where his most recent posting on this same topic may be found at https://richardfalk.wordpress.com.

    Richard is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He initiated his blog partly in celebration of his 80th birthday.—Jim Wall

  10. Tanya A says:

    I eenjoyed reading this

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