Gaza today

Image: Marek Piwnicki
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By ALEXANDRA LUCAS COELHO*

Israel has been self-destructing for a long time. Before October 7th, on the brink of a civil war between those who believe the country is a democracy and those who want an autocracy, or theocracy

1.

Gaza was once a concentration camp, back in the day, five months ago. Now it's a death camp, on our screens. I saw, on my phone, a girl from Gaza asking her cat, with celebrations: when we are killed, please don't eat us. I saw cats hanging around dead people in the middle of the street. Dogs digging up graves to eat people. People who ate dog and cat food made bread with it. That is eating grass from the street, seaweed from the sewage.

Thousands fighting for a bag of humanitarian aid flour. A girl with half a lemon because there is no bread. Children on the sand of Rafah playing kneading imaginary bread, baking imaginary bread, because they are hungry. Like that Jew who coveted his neighbor's bread in Auschwitz, and asked us – continues to ask – if this is a man.

We have never seen so much evidence of those who die. And whoever kills. Soldiers dedicate bombs to their girlfriends before pressing the button. They blow up buildings in Gaza in the best PlayStation style. They put together videos with a soundtrack, Israeli war hits, gum raves. Are they just sick, or also drugged?

Like those soldiers beating things that were already badly destroyed in a store in the West Bank: they beat and beat them, euphorically, with baseball bats, with hammers, in an orgy. One of them roared, showering everything with a jet of foam.

Many paint graffiti on houses and mosques, insults, Stars of David (I photographed dozens in Jenin). And now they rob houses in Gaza by system: carpets, cosmetics, motorbikes. One of the richest and best equipped armies on the planet, in its gang version of Israel. Behaviors I had never seen since the first time I was there 22 years ago. Just like Israelis old enough to be parents and grandparents, always loving with their children and their animals, they now say, like never before: “Fuck Gaza”.

Because for them it is October 7th. 141 days and 30 deaths have not passed in Gaza. All the compassion they have is for the 1000 Israeli dead, the more than 100 Hamas hostages still alive. People who deserve to be as alive as everyone else. Including the million and a half dying people in the barracks of Rafah, who no longer move these secular Israelites. They don't take them to the streets.

2.

And every morning I wake up and another TV star in Israel, another minister, sometimes a minister, says: “I am proud of the ruins of Gaza.” Or: “There are no innocents in Gaza, five-year-old children are not innocent.” Or: “We will starve them to death, destroy everything so they can leave voluntarily.” Or: “There will never be a Palestinian state.” Or: “How dare you criticize us? We are the children of the Holocaust.” Or: “No one tells Israel what to do.”

There is no shortage of declarations of intent, as well as supporting evidence. There is no lack of pride in this. A country that is more than narcissistic: largely sick.

The brave small minority that fights the occupation and the war, that refuses, for example, to fight, is ostracized, even imprisoned. On February 25, 18-year-old Sofi Orr faces prison. I interviewed her at her home in early January.

3.

In recent days, reports have been multiplying of women in Gaza, even grandmothers, who were taken away by soldiers, forced to strip down to their underwear, threatened, and questioned about Hamas. In its war “until final victory”, Israel is trying to extract information by torturing countless crowds of Palestinians. It had already happened to men, and it had been recorded in images for months, but everything got worse, the scale of detainees, the pressure of torture, with simulated drowning, beatings with iron bars, irons put in the mouth. Elite soldiers humiliating thousands of men, filming them naked, blindfolded and tied up, one behind the other, with their heads bowed. The fascism of the 120 days of Saló-Sodom that Pasolini portrayed in the cinema. But now there are 141 days on our phones, at the gunpoint of the descendants of Auschwitz.

So what happened after Auschwitz was Auschwitz-in-direct.

4.

Lula da Silva broke a taboo among democratic leaders by comparing what is happening to the Holocaust. The Israeli government declared it persona non grata. Saw one cartoon in which Benjamin Netanyahu called him an extremist while blood dripped from his hands. Then. Apart from Israel, and Zionist pockets here and there, I didn't notice widespread indignation against Lula. A sign of how he touches on something true. We may prefer that some of his words had been different.

We know, as Lula knows, that never before or since have six million been exterminated, with a “Final Solution” decreed by one man, and gas chambers and ovens assigned to an entire machine, and bureaucracy, of industrial death. The Holocaust of Europe's Jews has unique circumstances, and Lula does not question this. But of course the comparison he makes is in the mind of everyone with memory, with head, with heart.

Masha Gessen, a Jewish intellectual who I mentioned a few weeks ago, was also criticized for this comparison, and responded that not only can it be made, but it must be made. Of course, doing so is disturbing, but we should all be losing sleep over what is happening in Gaza, says Masha Gessen. And it must be done now, because it is now that we have to save lives.

This is what Lula realized. A statesman with the intuition of few. Lula frees the leaders to press the ceasefire, pointing to Israel the mirror that Israel fears most. And that's what's up to you, yes. I go further than saying that the comparison must be made: this is “the” comparison. Because it is Israel we are talking about. Of the exception that Israel represents in the world. From the Holocaust that Israel exploited, turning it into a weapon aimed at us to this day, in the biggest political blackmail in memory. Lula touched on the point, the wound, the horror: that it is the descendants of the greatest evil who do this. And may we be paralyzed in guilt, letting the now living die.

The comparison is not just uncomfortable for Israel. It's for all of us. What does this say about humans?

More than four months ago I wrote here that stopping the death in Gaza would finally honor the memory of the Holocaust. Soon after, an interposition force was needed in Gaza, and a world boycott of the Israeli government. Tens of thousands of deaths later, and with millions at risk of dying from starvation or disease, Gaza is the largest extermination camp in our lifetime.

Lula spoke. There is a lack of sanctions, boycott and divestment. Israel must be isolated: in the name of Gaza, of the Palestinians, of all of us, of the Jews in general. And the Israelites. Not doing so will be part of the crime and the disease. The Holocaust taboo is over. Just like Israel's utopia.

I welcomed that Minister Cravinho contradicted the sanctions on UNRWA, with a symbolic extra million in support, and talking about the isolation of Israel. Everything else is missing, to actually isolate, I hope also by the hand of the next Portuguese government.

5.

Israel has been self-destructing for a long time. Before October 7th, on the brink of a civil war between those who believe the country is a democracy and those who want an autocracy, or theocracy. It is the great divide between secular and religious Zionists. And the 7th of October, which was the greatest trauma for the State of Israel, did not alleviate this. Contrary to what tends to happen when a country feels attacked, Israel did not unite. The internal war remains latent.

One of the fruits of all these decades, and all the contradictions. From the contradiction of origin — wanting to be a Jewish State and a democracy — to continuing to occupy and colonize a people, after depriving them of their land, forcing them to become refugees.

In January, Israeli historian Ilan Pappé listed five factors for what he calls “the beginning of the end of the Zionist project”. The secular-religious divide is one. Another four: the growing support for Palestine, now in an anti-apartheid inspired by South Africa; occupation and war drain Israel's economy (and Moody's downgraded Israel a few days ago, unheard of and much talked about there); the incapacity of defense that the army demonstrated on October 7th; and more and more Jews around the world, especially in the USA, no longer believe that the existence of Israel protects Jews. On the contrary, they think it threatens them. I subscribe to everything.

Israel was a utopia lying to itself things like: “A land without a people for a people without a land.” Trapped in guilt, Europe sustained utopia. He was an accomplice, with American money and weapons. Israel reached 2023 sicker than ever. The internal wound plus the colonial gangrene rotting the colonizer. Three thousand more houses in the settlements announced the day before yesterday (in retaliation for an attack on settlers at the entrance to Jerusalem).

Benjamin Netanyahu is a crook. But it is not the origin of the evil, it is the outcome, many millions of people displaced and dead later. Hamas stuck a knife in Israel on October 7th. The knife came from outside. The disease comes from within. Israel will not destroy Palestine. Self-destructs.

*Alexandra Lucas Coelho She is a journalist and writer. Author, among other books, of Lebanon, labyrinth (Editora Caminho).

Originally published in the newspaper Public.


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