Storm Bear

What is really going on in Gaza

Filed By Storm Bear | January 04, 2009 11:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: gay cartoons and comics, Gaza, humorous blog post, IDF, Judaism, knesset, peace, politics, webcomics


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As we all have, I have been watching the Israeli Defense Force assault on Gaza over the last few days. And from what I can tell, it is exactly like shooting fish in a barrel.

I have often been critical of the IDF for their military exercises in the Gaza Strip. Does anyone remember Jenin? The likes of the Weekly Standard claims there was no massacre and that mostly combatants were killed. Well, the photos that are now available of the military attack on the refugee camp shows a different story - men and women laying dead over dead children, in the streets and in their homes. The photos revealed dozens of bodies being buried under the hospital parking lot. Of the hundreds of photos available, there is only one that was a Palestinian combatant. Was it a massacre? You tell me. But this wasn't the only time the IDF's response to terrorism was overreaching. There was a terrorist the IDF wanted killed, so they waited until he returned home and dropped a 2000 pound bomb on the whole apartment building. What was their answer for killing a single terrorist standing at a bus stop? Kill everyone else at the bus stop with a helicopter gunship.

There isn't ONE sniper in the whole of the Israeli Defense Force?

Lastly, I wished people would separate the Israel Knesset from Judaism - they are totally different things.

Yes, Hamas needs to stop the shelling. Yes, Bush hasn't done jack-shit for Middle Eastern peace and yes, Israel needs to rethink the Palestinian issue. It is an issue they will need to live with and they need to come up with a way where they can live with it. As it is, no one is living the life of peace.


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I'm not going to talk much about the current situation in Gaza, because I don't really have the time or energy for that conversation right now.

However, I am concerned with the tone you took in this post, and am wondering if the whole discourse could benefit from some thought in that regard.

I'm a VERY progressive Jew. I'm soundly with the camp that is decrying the IDF's actions in this instance, and if I were Israeli, I'd have been voting with Meretz in every election since I turned 18. There are probably some people in my Jewish circles who don't know me but have heard me talk about Israel and labeled me a self-hating Jew. I'm also very aware of how easily these discussions become characterized by knee-jerk defensiveness, rather than thoughtful conversation. It's one of my biggest personal issues with regard to conversations about Israel/Palestine, because so much gets lost in the defensiveness. I was a Middle East studies major, and have spent quite a bit of time living and working in the region, including in Be'er Sheva (where Qassam rockets recently fell), in the D'heishah refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, and in Laqia, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev. So, there's some of my cred - it is important to me that you understand I am making this comment in good faith, in the interest of ongoing, productive dialogue and peace.

Reading this post, my knee started to jerk. I found myself wanting to pick holes in your argument, or prove you wrong, to defend Israel. This is the stark opposite of my position on this particular issue, and so I asked myself, "what's different?"

Your post feels dismissive and condescending, rather than in the interest of engaging in dialogue. Your sarcasm undermines what is, I think, a good question to be asking - why isn't the IDF using precision targeting, and why are they engaging in air bombing in an area that is so densely populated? There probably is an answer, or at least that question is a route to productive dialogue and reasonable criticism - for example, an air-based offensive does not risk as many Israeli lives, however it clearly endangers more Palestinians. So let's talk about how lives are valued, and how to shift that valuation. Or we can talk about alternatives to violence altogether. But your question left me feeling insulted and attacked, and I'm not even a member of or really a supporter of the IDF.

Your sarcasm undermines your points, and left me feeling insulted and brushed aside if I didn't fall in line with you entirely. Someone who has spent less of their life contemplating how to balance their [tentative, always-contested] zionism with the rest of their politics might not be as likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, I wished people would separate the Israel Knesset from Judaism - they are totally different things.

That sentence makes me feel like you are setting yourself up to defend yourself against charges of anti-Semitism with a self-righteous protest of: "but I was talking about the government, not ALL Jews!" Which might not be so off-putting if the rest of your post hadn't felt like a negative characterization of all of Israel with broad strokes.

The thing is, I generally agree with you - I think one of Israel's fundamental problems is the tension inherent in being a Jewish Democratic state, and the murky lines between the jurisdiction of the Knesset and the Chief Rabbinate cause a whole host of problems - including but not limited to those relating to the conflict. But my first reaction to your statement was not, "Yeah, I agree" but rather - "hold on, they are separate, and that's important to note, but the Knesset is largely a Jewish body, in that the majority of its members are Jewish and it is the governing body of a Jewish state. You can't so easily write the Knesset off as wholly separate from Judaism, Jewishness, Jews, or the Jewish people. It is not explicitly a Jewish institution, but it is not wholly secular and its actions are not wholly separate from the Jewish people."

Let me be clear, I'm not calling you anti-Semitic. However, your post made reference to issues and tactics others have used in criticizing Israel that many Jews (not just conservative or right-wing Zionists) have felt uncomfortable or angry about.

This isn't just a delicate subject because Jews are too touchy about legitimate criticism of Israel (although there are those advocates of Israel who refuse to engage in meaningful conversation and write off all criticism as anti-Semitism; there are also those critics of Israel for whom Israel has turned into a convenient and more socially acceptable target of their anti-Semitism), it is also a tough field to navigate because legitimate criticism of Israel can so easily fade into well entrenched anti-Semitic tropes.

I don't think you did that (the fading into anti-Semitic tropes), but you did put me on edge. And in an environment where so many people are already on edge, the sarcasm and dismissive tone might not be in the best interest of non-combative, non-knee jerky discourse.

Perhaps that doesn't bother you, and so be it, but I hope the comments section of this post doesn't turn into a total mess.

Sorry for the knees.

My comments and cartoon are about the wisdom of conducting an urban war in an area where refugees have no place to flee to.

Having laser guided bombs in such a congested place like Gaza is a recipe for collateral damage - i.e. dead innocent kids.

Yes, the shelling of the Israeli settlements has also produced dead innocent children.

Killing more innocent children is not really an answer for anything.

Everytime I do a strip that TOUCHES the issues surrounding Israel or Palestine, I get letters like yours. Don't feel bad, it isn't a new thing. Loads of people read into my strips all sorts of things and some call me anti-Semitic and some claim I must be some sort of white supremacist.

It is the job hazard of being a cartoonist - each person sees the art through the prism of their eyes. Which is fine.

Over the last few years, plenty of right wing Bush disciples were outlandishly offended over Town Called Dobson.

Just as they should have been. Mission accomplished.

You, however, are seeing a more complicated message where there isn't one. If you start shooting in a crowded area, targets and no-targets will be killed - just like shooting fish in a barrel.

My issue wasn't actually with the text of the comic at all. Sorry if I didn't make that clear. I get it, and agree with you.

My issue was more with the language accompanying the comic, and not the art. I'm sure that people read all sorts of different things into your art, just as any others. And perhaps my reading of it was different than others', but my comments weren't actually about that at all.

Jenin is in the West Bank, not in Gaza, for what it's worth.

And if urban warfare were ever anything like shooting fish in a barrel, then the Iraq war would have been won ages ago.

I should have worded the sentence about Jenin better. My main point was talking about the recent events in Gaza and I started off by talking about Jenin which, of course, is not in Gaza at all. My bad.

My point about shooing fish in a barrel was repeated this morning by Christiane Amanpour on CNN. The civilians (and IDF targets) have nowhere to run, as they are boxed in on all sides.

I am also not saying shooting fish in a barrel is going to help peace break out in the Middle East. At this point, I don't think more bullets are going to help the situation. And it worked just as well in Iraq, except refugees could flee to Kuwait, Jordan and other places to get out of the war zone. If you are in Gaza - you are fucked.