Israel controls Gaza in the way a prison guard might control a prison courtyard in which he never actually sets foot.
The struggle for human decency, Orwell argued, is also a struggle for honest language. Our community’s complicity in the human nightmare in Gaza should fill every American Jew with shame. The first step toward ending that complicity is to stop lying to ourselves.
“In our time,” wrote George Orwell in 1946, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” British colonialism, the Soviet gulag and America’s dropping of an atomic bomb, he argued, “can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” So how do people defend the indefensible? Through “euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” By obscuring the truth.
So it is, more than 70 years later, with Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip. The truth is too brutal to honestly defend. Why are thousands of Palestinians risking their lives by running toward the Israeli snipers who guard the fence that encloses Gaza? Because Gaza is becoming uninhabitable. That’s not hyperbole. The United Nations says that Gaza will be “unlivable” by 2020, maybe sooner.
Hamas bears some of the blame for that: Its refusal to recognize Israel, its decades of terrorist attacks and its authoritarianism have all worsened Gaza’s plight. Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority bears some of the blame too. So does Egypt.
But the actor with the greatest power over Gaza is Israel. Israeli policies are instrumental in denying Gaza’s people the water, electricity, education and food they need to live decent lives.
How do kind, respectable, well-meaning American Jews defend this? How do they endorse the strangulation of 2 million human beings? Orwell provided the answer. They do so because Jewish leaders, in both Israel and the United States, encase Israel’s actions in a fog of euphemism and lies.
The fog consists, above all, of three words — “withdrew,” “security” and “Hamas” — which appear to absolve Israel of responsibility for the horror it oversees.