, August 4, 2014

Gaza’s Desperate ‘Prison Riot’

The noble traditions of Judaism – stressing justice for the downtrodden – are being soiled by the endless cruelties that Israel and its current leaders heap on the Palestinians, including the latest slaughter of more than 1,700 Gazans, many of them children, a moral catastrophe addressed by theologian Daniel C. Maguire.

By Daniel C. Maguire

What is going on in Gaza is a prison riot not a war. A war means a conflict between comparably endowed adversaries. This is a prison riot caused by the crimes of the jailor, Israel. And why are these 1.7 million people enclosed in what Jewish scholar Marc Ellis calls “the biggest jail in the world?” They are in jail because they are not Jews. That is their crime.

Were they Jews, they would be given beautiful homes, ample water supplies, government stipends. The fourth strongest army in the world – and the sixth strongest nuclear power – would be there to defend them. But, no, because the Gazans are not Jews, they are in an Israeli jail.

These jailed people — or at least their parents and grandparents — once had homes and gardens, olive groves and farms and lived peacefully on the land alongside all their neighbors. In the Nineteenth Century, Palestine was inhabited by a multicultural population, 86 percent Muslim, 10 percent Christian and four percent Jewish. They all lived peacefully together. The State of Israel changed all of that.

Jailors do not like riots. Riots call attention to conditions in the jail. The jailors, having little to fear from the homemade weapons of the prisoners, can suppress the riot violently with their superior weapons and inflict brutal punishment on all those in the jail, even those who did not or could not protest. The jailors will claim that what they are doing is self-defense geared to produce peace in the prison and restore law and order.

Seven years ago, Israel, the thousand pound gorilla, the Goliath of the Middle East, perpetrated an offensive act of war called a siege or blockade against the children, women and men of Gaza because Israel, and their lapdog, the United States, did not like the results of Gaza’s election. In an unmatchable triumph of ersatz propaganda, Israel has been able to dupe many saying it is threatened by the impoverished prisoners in Gaza and the occupied people in the West Bank and part of Jerusalem.

Rather than end the blockade of Gaza, Israel is now refusing even to discuss it in negotiations; this is unleashing the “final solution” to the Gaza “problem.” This should be called Operation Holocaust. It is the completion of the ethnic cleansing that drove over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, deceptively called “the war of independence” by the Israelis, al Nakba, the catastrophe, by the Palestinians.

The tunnels that were economic lifelines, as well as ways of getting some defensive weapons, are being destroyed by Israel and their ignoble allies the dictators in Egypt. The genocidal steps are being taken one by one; all the essentials of life are being removed, water, electricity, medicine, food, housing while the U.S. Senate, in an epic display of pusillanimity, votes unanimously to bless the slaughter.

AIPAC boasts that it can remove any member of the U.S. Congress who does not do its bidding. It has proved that in cases like Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard. There is not a single Profile in Courage in the U.S. Senate, not even Bernie Sanders. They all cower before AIPAC as does the White House.

AIPAC-ocracy replaces democracy in U.S. policy re Israel. Our Congress is AIPAC-occupied territory. And with a few exceptions such as Jewish Voices For Peace, American Jews, who are the backbone of AIPAC, are underwriting events with their telling silence.

The piercing irony is this: what Israel is doing, and American Jews are largely supporting, is not Jewish. It is heretical to the prophetic moral vision of the Hebrews with their passion for “orphans, widows, and immigrants,” with their conviction, as Isaiah put it, that only when you plant justice can you reap peace. (Isaiah 32:17) Israel’s rapacious policy toward the Palestinians is heretical to the rich moral tradition that the early Hebrews bequeathed to the world.

You can almost hear the Hebrew prophets crying out to Israel: “Have you eyes and cannot see? Have you ears and cannot hear?” Modern Israel is deaf to Micah’s plea that you cannot build “Zion in bloodshed.” (Micah 3:10) The great Abraham Heschel worried at the founding of Israel that the state of Israel could become alienated from Judaism. That, I aver, is precisely what has happened.

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians. He can be reached at

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