Let’s talk about Gaza, Sderot and the racist valuation of lives

A frank discussion about everything we don’t mention when talking about rockets and bombs and Gaza. Let’s talk about fear, about poverty, about angst and about racism.

By Lilach Ben David

Let’s talk about Gaza. Let’s talk about a small strip of land that god didn’t forget about, but about which we are certainly trying to forget. Let’s talk about one of the most crowded populations in the world; or to be more precise, it was made to be one of the most densely populated places in the word, because until 1948 most of its inhabitants lived in Yaffa, in Bir al-Saba’, and in hundreds of other small towns that have since disappeared and which have been forgotten. Let’s talk about what it’s like to live in the world’s largest open-air prison, let’s talk about a million and a half people who are ruled by a foreign government from their own air, sea and land — a foreign power that decides when they do and don’t get medicines, concrete, electricity and coriander. Let’s talk about people who our government wants us to believe we are not occupying yet reserves its right to control their borders, land, water and air, and to collectively punish them when its mood sours.

And let’s talk about Sderot. A transit camp, which is a nice word for a refugee camp, which turned into a “development town,” which is also a nice name for a neglected and deprived periphery town that became the “front line,” which is a nice name for throwing the Mizrahim into the frontier between the Ashkenazis and Arabs, a theoretical category between a Zionist nationality and a Middle Eastern ethnicity, which has turned into a physical divide between “us” and our “enemy” as well as an easy target for desperate attacks from the other side — serving the same role as Jerusalem’s Musrara decades ago. Let’s ask why 13 years of bombardment against citizens in Sderot didn’t push the government to act the same way that two rockets in Tel Aviv did.

A bomb shelter in Sderot (Photo by 'Jewbask')
A bomb shelter in Sderot (Photo by ‘Jewbask’)

Let’s talk about the racist valuation of blood. In the Zionist blood market, the cheapest blood is Arab. You can spill it like water, bomb it, shoot it, fence it in, choke it, or burn it with gasoline or white phosphorus. Slightly less cheap blood, although still pretty cheap, is that of someone who hasn’t managed to find a way into the exclusive “salt of the earth” club: Mizrahim, Ethiopians, Russians and people who ride public buses and live in public housing apartments, many of which are dangerous enough even if they aren’t located within rocket range. So let’s talk about blood that isn’t cheap. Blood that requires revenge. The blood of those who’s deaths are the cause of national mourning, who are born not only as Jews, but the right type of Jew, of the right color and in the right place.

And let’s talk about the fact that that racist valuation exists for all Israeli Jews — for the cultured and educated, and especially for leftists. A wounded Jewish person at a protest against the separation barrier unites us in a show of solidarity that we wouldn’t give for even thousands of wounded Palestinians or dozens of killed. And if the Left was to react to the news of each and every one of the 1,520 Palestinian children that Israel murdered since 2000 in the same way that it reacted to the deaths of three settler youths, it would no doubt long ago have drown in its own sorrow and statements of condemnation.

Let’s talk about fear. Let’s talk about children crying from air-raid sirens and running to find a shelter within 15 seconds. And let’s talk about children whose homes sway like an out-of-control pendulum from the force of artillery shells and who don’t have any shelter to run to. And let’s talk about the more than 350 boys and girls who no longer cry or laugh or grow because they were blown to pieces or burned alive or buried under the rubble of their own homes along with their whole families during the massacre we call “Operation Cast Lead.”

Let’s talk about poverty. Let’s talk about a population that lives on the grace of international humanitarian aid. Let’s talk about more than 60 percent unemployment. Let’s talk about power outages and about the elderly and children who die because the health system is collapsing. Let’s talk about the cement factories and power plant that Israel blew up in order to create that suffocating poverty. And let’s talk about the Israeli economics minister who can’t stop talking about how he’s everybody’s brother, but isn’t enough of a brother to save the Negev Textile Plant from closing. Let’s talk about the mothers whose children don’t go school when Qassam rockets start falling, but who themselves must go to work; nobody is reimbursing them for missed work days.

Let’s talk about angst — the angst of an occupied people under siege that doesn’t see any way to have its voice heard by a world that doesn’t want to listen, that is aside from firing short-range rockets at their neighbors on the other side of the fence. Let’s talk about the angst of those neighbors who for 13 years have lived with rockets and sirens and who know that nobody cares about them. Let’s talk about Mayor Alon Davidi, an Ashkenazi invader from a group of youngsters that was sent to the periphery in order to brighten it with its wonderful pale light. Instead of representing the interests of his city’s residents, he exploits their angst in order to align himself with the war machine and the Israeli massacre and to demand more cheap blood from the other side — when the last thing the majority of Sderot residents would want now is to be sacrificed in the name of another round of violence.

So let’s talk about hope. Let’s talk about breaking the illegal siege, and thereby ending the rocket fire. Let’s talk about a common language, about joint struggle, about a shared life, about a state that doesn’t seek to banish the Arabs, and thereby ending the need to erase the memory of Mizrahi Jews’ Arab culture. Let’s talk about the day after the occupation and siege and hate and hunger and humiliation; let’s talk about justice for Gaza and justice for Sderot, justice that doesn’t come at the expense of the Other. Let’s break the siege, apathy and racism, and replace them with humanity.

Lilach Ben-David is a transgender and feminist activist based in Tel Aviv. Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

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