Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Its current 1.8 million inhabitants are crowded into a sliver of land 25 miles long and five miles wide….on the present trajectory, “Gaza will be unliveable” in 2020.
Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom Book Review
Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein is a thoroughly researched book which describes the hopeless plight of the residents of Gaza. Finkelstein describes Gaza as an “open-air prison” with the Israeli warden in charge. Finkelstein writes in regard to the human rights reportage on Gaza:
The sheer number of human rights reports could by now fill a medium-size library; they have generally upheld exacting standards of accuracy, and they record a ghastly tale of suffering and misery, on the one hand, and criminal excess and heartlessness, on the other. But they have been largely ignored outside a narrow cadre of specialists, and in the end the human rights community itself succumbed to the Israeli juggernaut. All the same, the reports constitute the essential resource for those who care about truth and for whom truth is precious, while even if mostly underutilized, they are the most potent weapon in the arsenal of those who hope against hope to mobilize public opinion so as to salvage a modicum of justice.
Finkelstein writes that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Its current 1.8 million inhabitants are crowded into a sliver of land 25 miles long and five miles wide. Since 1967 when the Israeli occupation began, Israel has imposed on Gaza a uniquely exploitive regime of “de-development.” Harvard political economist Sara Roy writes that Israel deprived
“the native population of its most important economic resources—land, water, and labor—as well as the internal capacity and potential for developing those resources.”
Finkelstein focuses on two recent attacks on Gaza: Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Israel during Operation Cast Lead did not merely attack Gaza’s civilian population and its humanitarian support system. It also systematically targeted Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, destroying or damaging 58,000 homes, 280 schools and kindergartens, 1,500 factories and workshops, several buildings housing Palestinian and foreign media, electrical, water, and sewage installations, 190 greenhouse complexes, 80% of agricultural crops, and nearly 20% of cultivated land.
The World Food Program director for the Gaza Strip observed after Cast Lead:
“I fully expected to see serious damage, but I have to say I was really shocked when I saw the extent and precision of the destruction. It was precisely the strategic economic areas that Gaza depends on to relieve its dependency on aid that were wiped out.”
Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed during Operation Cast Lead, of whom up to 80% were civilians and 350 children. Israeli casualties amounted to 10 combatants (four killed by friendly fire) and three civilians. The ratio of total Palestinians to Israelis killed was thus more than 100:1. Contrary to repeated Israeli allegations, Amnesty International and other human rights investigations found no evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attacks.
Israel after Cast Lead imposed a blockade on Gaza that constituted a form of collective punishment in flagrant violation of international law. On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked a humanitarian flotilla in international waters carrying 700 passengers en route to Gaza.
The flotilla’s six vessels were delivering badly needed supplies to Gaza’s beleaguered population. Nine passengers aboard the flagship Mavi Marmara were shot to death during the attack. While a UN Panel deemed the deaths caused by the Israeli commandos “unacceptable,” it did not recommend punishment for the crimes Israel committed against these passengers.
On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza. Protective Edge was a repeat of Cast Lead but on a vastly greater scale. This operation was the longest and most destructive of Israel’s attacks on Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s occupation in 1967. Since Protective Edge occurred at a time when socioeconomic conditions in Gaza were at their lowest level, this operation had a severely negative impact on Gaza’s economy.
More than 1,500 Gazan civilians and at least 550 children were killed during Protective Edge. Israel accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields to explain Gaza’s high civilian death toll. However, reputable human rights organizations and journalists found no evidence to sustain Israel’s allegation. The United States did not publicly pressure Israel to stop its attacks. On the contrary, President Barack Obama or his spokespersons dutifully invoked Israel’s right to self-defense, while ignoring Israeli atrocities and Gaza’s suffering.
A comprehensive UN report stated concerning Protective Edge:
“The latest military operation has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid.”
The ever-escalating violence and wreckage in Gaza had finally taken its toll. Fully half of Gazans polled after Operation Protective Edge expressed a desire to leave.
Although Protective Edge was the most destructive of Israel’s assaults on Gaza, it elicited a muted response from human rights organizations. Finkelstein writes that it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that they sat it out. In the case of Amnesty International, Amnesty whitewashed Israeli crimes during Protective Edge. Finkelstein writes:
“It cannot be seriously doubted that Amnesty International’s reports on Operation Protective Edge lacked objectivity and professionalism. They betrayed a systematic bias against Hamas and in favor of Israel.”
In addition to betrayal by human rights organizations, former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has reinvented himself as Israel’s chief counsel. Moreno-Ocampo alleged that as a matter of law, Protective Edge was “highly complicated.” Finkelstein writes:
It’s unclear exactly where the complication lay: Was it when Israel dropped more than 100 one-ton bombs on Shuja’iya or when it indiscriminately fired 20,000 high-explosive artillery shells in densely populated civilian areas? Was it when Israel methodically razed to the ground thousands of civilian homes or when it fired on civilians carrying white flags? Was it when Israel targeted clearly marked ambulances or when it targeted clearly marked civilian shelters even after explicitly promising not to target them? His Israeli audiences no doubt warmed up to Moreno-Ocampo’s soothing words, whereas the informed reader cannot but shudder in revulsion at these wanton acts of criminal prostitution.
A 2015 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report stated:
“Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza.”
This UNCTAD report forecast that on the present trajectory, “Gaza will be unliveable” in 2020.
The Israeli blockade is the cause of Gaza’s desperate plight. UNCTAD stated in a follow-up report a year later:
“Full recovery of the Gaza Strip is challenging without a lifting of the blockade, which collectively negatively affects the entire 1.8 million population of Gaza and deprives them of their economic, civil, social and cultural rights, as well as the right to development.”
This Israeli siege constitutes a form of collective punishment, and is a flagrant violation of international law.
Finkelstein discusses the only realistic strategy for Gaza to end the blockade:
A strategy of mass nonviolent resistance…might yet turn the tide. Gaza’s richest resources are its people, the truth, and public opinion. Time and again, and come what may, the people of Gaza have evinced a granite will, born of a “sheer indomitable dignity”…not to be held in bondage. Protective Edge battered that will but, it appears, did not yet shatter it. Truth is on the side of Gaza. If this book rises to a crescendo of anger and indignation, it’s because the endless lies about Gaza by those who know better cause one’s innards to writhe. Gandhi called his doctrine of nonviolence satyagraha, which he translated as “Hold on to the Truth.” If the people of Gaza, in their multitudes, hold on to the truth, it’s possible—which is not to say probable, let alone certain, just possible, and not without immense personal sacrifice, up to and including death—that Israel can be forced to lift the suffocating blockade.
Editor Comment & Final Note: An alternate strategy to prevent genocide in Gaza might be to stop funding it with taxes from YOUR pay check. Whether you are American, German, British, Scandinavian, Canadian, Australian, etc it is incumbent on you to demand your taxes do not finance genocide in Gaza.
 Finkelstein, Norman G., Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom, Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2018, p. xi.
 Ibid., pp. xii-xiii.
 Ibid., pp. 3-4.
 Ibid., pp. 54-55.
 Ibid., p. 137.
 Ibid., pp. 68-71.
 Ibid., pp. 139, 141-142, 196-197.
 Ibid., pp. 211, 216.
 Ibid., pp. 216-217, 220.
 Ibid., pp. 231-232.
 Ibid., pp. 238-284.
 Ibid., p. 284.
 Ibid., pp. 290-291.
 Ibid., p. 291.
 Ibid., p. 359.
 Ibid., p. 360.
 Ibid., pp. 363-364.