By Gideon Levy
An Israeli soldier stands in an apartment during a ground operation in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg /AP
A photo by Associated Press’s Ohad Zwigenberg on the front page of Haaretz was worth a thousand words. It showed an IDF soldier inside a child’s room in Gaza, his foot resting on a bed. The room’s pink walls, intended to create a calm atmosphere, could not conceal the horror: the room was a mess, torn and tattered, with only a hairless doll strewn on the bed, reminding viewers that this was the room of a child, which will never serve as one again. Its inhabitants fled for their lives or were killed, or both.
The Gazan room looked exactly like the destroyed children’s rooms I saw in Kibbutz Be’eri on the morning after the massacre. One cannot avoid thinking about the fate of their little inhabitants, both here and there. If the children in Be’eri survived, they can at least hope for a better future. If the children in Gaza survived, no hope awaits them.
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Children are children, one must reiterate, and one cannot but be equally horrified by what has happened to them, both here and there. In the fascist reality now sweeping Israel, even this statement is considered treasonous, subversive and an expression of Israel hatred. How dare you compare?
- If we can’t see Gaza’s dead children’s eyes, can we see children at all?
- It is forbidden to even empathize with innocent Gazans
- These are the children extracted after the bombardment of Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp
Midday Saturday, Hamas’ deputy health minister, Yousuf Abu al-Arish, speaking from the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, announced that 39 premature babies are facing imminent death from suffocation, after generators shut down, cutting off oxygen flow to their incubators. Al-Arish cried out: “This is the moment we’ve been warning about.” Outside, there was already a pile of 100 bodies which had not been identified, covered in white shrouds. They could not be brought to burial, since the hospital was under siege, surrounded on all sides by tanks. The wounded and sick, as well as the dead, could no longer be extricated from the inferno.
Shortly afterward, Prof. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who had volunteered at the hospital in all the previous wars but was now stuck in Cairo, stated that Israeli snipers had spread out around the hospital and were shooting at it. One nurse on the premature baby ward was killed.
Photos from Al-Shifa Hospital before it was cut off showed dozens of bleeding wounded people lying on the floor, and a shrieking father rushing towards his dead infant, who was also strewn on the floor. Hell is there. Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, a physician from Doctors Without Borders, said she had no words left.
There were 4,506 dead children by Friday night. Forty thousand housing units have been totally destroyed. Half of Gaza lies in rubble. The Rantisi children’s hospital is under siege, with no one able to enter or leave. The Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital also stopped functioning and all the sick and wounded children there were evacuated, to God knows where. The Al-Buraq school was bombed on Friday night, and at least 50 people who had thought they had found refuge there were killed. The IDF reported that a Hamas company commander who had prevented Gazans from moving southwards was among the dead. Bingo.
One cannot maintain equanimity in view of these scenes. Even after the visits to kibbutzim and towns in the south the day after the massacre, even after being exposed to all the horrors that took place there. Even after all the stories of the survivors and the dead, and even after watching the movie put out by the IDF spokesperson. One cannot escape being horrified by what is now happening in Gaza, even in the knowledge of what lies underneath those hospitals.
No less horrific is the recognition that one must now take sides: You are either shocked by the atrocities committed by Hamas, or by the atrocities committed by the IDF. Decide. Choose sides. Which dead children shock you more? Which bereaved parents trouble you more? Can you not see the difference between Hamas, which came here to massacre, and an army that came to save hostages and wipe out Hamas? I can indeed, but the butchered children, and their no-less butchered parents, have little interest in the intentions of their killers.
On both sides, they didn’t deserve to die. Their killing is equally shocking, and there is no reason in the world to be apologetic about taking this stance.
Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist and author. Levy writes opinion pieces and a weekly column for the newspaper Haaretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Levy has won prizes for his articles on human rights in the Israeli-occupied territories
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Views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.