Humanitarian Conflicts Surround the Israel-Hamas War
Maybe what we’re witnessing in the Middle East — as well as in our domestic politics and cultural clashes — is not so much ambiguity, but plain old, discordant propaganda.
Even when evidence — videos, documents and witness statements — emerges to back up claims meant to spare one side from injustice while heaping blame on the other, the first response is merely to say it ain’t so, and that we shouldn’t believe what we’re seeing.
Meanwhile, we remain substantially short of solutions or the will to confront whatever ails us with acceptable, morally defensible, practical plans. Instead, we get another heaping dose of propaganda.
We’ve become immune, too often expecting propaganda to serve as truth. How else do we explain our own continuation of election denial activities or mass shootings in schools, or the worst myths associated with immigration, COVID, gender identity conflicts and more?
In the Hospitals
Clashes between Israeli troops and Hamas militants intensified around at least three hospitals in Gaza, facing shutdown for lack of fuel. In the past three days, at least 32 people, including three babies from the intensive care unit, have died at al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital. The hospital is surrounded by Israeli troops, the Hamas Ministry of Health says, adding that another 100 bodies are decomposing.
Israeli officials argue that the hospitals and patients are human shields, that there have been efforts to encourage civilians to leave, that there is evidence of militant Hamas terrorists in tunnels beneath — and that Hamas has fuel for rockets but not for Gazans. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserts that Israeli forces have moved 100 or so patients — without any validation from other sources — adding that there is nothing keeping Palestinians in and around the hospital.
Yesterday, Israel showed videos of areas beneath one children’s hospital where a Hamas armory — explosives, assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades — has been discovered. Hamas immediately denounced the video as fake, that the video showed places where people were seeking to escape bombardment.
Hamas and Palestinian defenders say it is the Israeli bombardment and tank warfare that is resulting in deaths of patients dependent on power sources that no longer work without fuel. Indeed, they say thousands are stranded in the hospital, whatever their political or medical status, while combat goes on meters from the hospital doors.
Joe Biden chimes in saying the Israeli forces should both get to hostages and Hamas fighters in their bunkers — apparently beneath the hospitals — and respect the sanctity of those hospitals.
There were reports that Israel and Hamas are closing to a deal to free most of the Israeli women and children kidnapped on Oct. 7, in return for the release of Palestinian women and young people held in Israeli prisons. A temporary ceasefire would be called to effectuate the exchanges.
It might involve as many as 70 Israeli women and children hostages, according to Telegram channel traffic, cited by Reuters. An Arab official said last week that there are at least 120 Palestinian women and youth in prison.
Any temporary truce would allow safe travel and permit more international assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and should ease the humanitarian crisis there.
Besides the evident lack of trust, Israel wants confirmation of the names of hostages. The negotiations are being conducted through Qatar, where Hamas’s political leadership is based. U.S. officials are in on the talks.
There is a total of 240 to 250 hostages being held. Most are Israelis, but some are from other countries.
Just what to believe until there is an announcement is iffy at best.
Confirmation and Solutions
Maybe the most important phrase in all that we have been hearing is that a particular claim “could not be confirmed.” Without knowing what’s true, it is difficult to pursue answers small or large.
Obviously, the rest of us are not in charge here and we doubt that anyone is. That and the cross-histories of who was oppressed or threatened by whom and when is what makes all of this so messy.
But if the U.S. government was able to bring a hospital ship to New York City at the height of the COVID crisis, is it unreasonable to believe that we could dispatch a hospital ship under a U.N. flag to serve as a floating hospital with the approval of all parties?
Or if the Javits Center in New York and city centers like it all over the U.S. were able to be converted into emergency medical centers over weekend, is it beyond Israel and Hamas to reach agreement on a safe hospital site near the Rafah crossing for civilians, particularly children to receive medical care?
Most of the “evidence” of tunnel headquarters, apparently verified separately by Israeli and American intelligence, will come to light only after the hospitals are destroyed. It will prove to be too late for any number of Palestinian patients or to hostages who had been held there.