"The Punishment Of Gaza" by Gideon Levy

Levy is an Israeli journalist who writes for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

I will start this review by mentioning the quote on the back of the book from the literary legend that is Chomsky.

"There are more terrible atrocities in the world than what is being done to the caged prisoners of Gaza, but it is not easy to think of a more cruel and cowardly exhibition of human savagery, fully supported by the US, with Europe trailing politely behind. Gideon Levi’s passionate and revealing account is an eloquent, even desperate, call to bring this shocking tragedy to and end, as can easily be done“ – Noam Chomsky

Split into four parts, each covering a year between 2006 and 2009, Levy gives an continuing account of what he has been doing every week for nearly three decades, and something very few Israeli’s have ever done, travelling to the Occupied Territories. This book is a vivid description of what he saw during 4 of those years.

From 2005, the year of Gaza’s “Liberation“ (!) through to 2009 with the Israeli’s astonishingly brutal invasion of Gaza, resulting in the deaths of over a thousand people – mostly civilians – Levy describes in detail the blindly ignored suffering of 1.3 million people, all crammed into a ridiculously small place that merits reference - and I fundamentally agree with it – as the largest Concentration Camp in the World.

"in 2005, when Israel disengaged from Gaza, we were much wiser: this time we knew that the occupation had simply changed form. The jailer pulled out of the jail and was now holding its prisoners captive (from outside). Yes, Gaza was and still is the largest prison on earth, a gruesome experiment performed on human beings."

When he talks about the 2009 invasion he is bitter in both what his own government was doing, and the fact that it was being done in his name, as an Israeli.

"With a broken heart and eyes overflowing I have watched the last war from afar. Operation Cast Lead Israel called it. It was a war that was no war, in which Israel met virtually no resistance, no counterattack worth speaking of. It was just a wild onslaught upon the most helpless nation in the world, besieged and jailed, with nowhere to run, not even into the sea."

Using, amongst other items of warfare, White Phosphorous shells, designed only really to burn living flesh, the people of Gaza, many of them descendents of Israel's first and worst destruction of the Palestinian people, the Nakba in 1948 (the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) suffered horrifically from the totally disproportionate bombing. The casualty list is shocking…

More than 1300 dead (more than a hundred times the number of Israeli casualties)
Over 5000 wounded, 2400 buildings destroyed (!) including 30 mosques, 121 factories and 29 educational institutions
and the houses of 350,000 (!!!!!) residents were damaged, some "beyond recognition"

"and above all, there was the new IDF (Israeli Defence Force) doctrine: a minimum of casualties on our side irrespective of the price. Virtually everything is now fair play."

Entries from the book read directly from his diary. On July the 2nd, 2006:

"It is not legitimate to cut off electricity to 750,000 people. It is not legitimate to call on 20,000 people to run from their homes and turn their towns into ghost towns. It is not legitimate to penetrate Syria’s airspace. It is not legitimate to kidnap half of a government and a quarter of a parliament."

"A state that takes such steps is no longer distinguishable from a terror organisation."

Israel. A terrorist organisation.

Israel has kidnapped a large part of Gaza’s legitimately elected government (apparently the Gazan's voted for the wrong side according to the US and Israel) and Levy imagines the uproar that would occur if the Gazan's had done the same thing with the Israeli government. "Collective punishment is illegitimate and does not have a smidgeon of intelligence."

As a Dachau guide I talk about collective punishment a lot. The S.S. used it to punish (brutally) all prisoners in a concentration camp, for just one persons indiscretion. The Israeli government uses group punishment to punish Gaza for voting in open and fair democratic elections, for the "wrong people…"

In a later chapter Levy confronts the stark truth that is the Racism that is clearly inherent in Israeli policy.

"This war, perhaps more than its predecessors, is exposing the true deep veins of Israeli society. Racism and hatred are rearing their heads, as is the impulse for revenge and the thirst for blood..."

Levy, through his unique position of observation, calls for the most just decision to be made (although the unthinkable in Israel, US and the EU) that Ehud Olert and Ehud Barak should be tried for Crimes Against Humanity. He also calls for this with evidence.

Levy’s recognition that the Israeli’s for the most part view the Palestinians as being "inhuman" as they put it (or Untermenschen as the Nazi’s called it) is a big result of the brainwashing he believes the Israeli’s are forced through. When talking about the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) he summarises this in a very clear and concise way. "Change will not come without a major shift in mind-set. Until we recognise the Palestinians as human beings, just as we are, nothing will change."

In his final entry in this enlightening book, and another entry from his diary (dated July 19th, 2009) he explains about how life in Israel, behind its very own Berlin Wall.

"Life in Israel is just peachy, and who wants to think about peace… …we always knew how to add a measure of significance to the pleasures of life. We practice the cult of security, society’s true religion, and we perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust. You can enjoy yourself in Israel and also play the victim.; party and gripe. Where else is there a place like this?"

"Even the cruellest terrorist attacks to befall the country haven’t instilled an understanding amongst the Israeli’s about the connection between cause and effect, between occupation and terrorism. Thanks to the media and the politicians – two of the worst agents for dumbing down and blinding Israeli society – we learned that the Arabs were born to kill, the whole world is against us, anti-Semitism determines how Israel is dealt with and there is no connection between our actions and the price we pay… … All this really could have been peachy, if not for the fact that blindness is dangerous and the not-so-good ending is known in advance. Sure, it’s another wonderful summer in Tel Aviv – and Gaza and Jenin – but some part of the world will blow up in our faces. And then we will pretend to be amazed, miserable victims, as we so like to be."