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The mindlessness of war
Photo Credit: The New York Times

The mindlessness of war

“No one associated with this situation has slept in five days.” That was a statement from a medical officer from the team of Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.


The doctor is part of a team currently treating conflict victims in Gaza. His summary of an escalating humanitarian situation was simply heartrending. Most hospitals in Gaza run on fuel, and many have just enough fuel for a few days. Dire human implications indeed.

On that day, the UN Secretary-General cautioned that food, water, drugs, schools and fuel must not be targeted. Yet, the only power plant of Gaza was shut down by Israel that night, and the blockade in Gaza deepens. Those caught in the crossfire are already facing crises of drugs, food and water shortage.Images of overcrowded hospitals, hunger-stricken faces of children and adults are heralding critical times for Gaza. 

Paradoxically, some of the causes given so far for the attack are human factors – religion and diplomatic relations. Both the US and Iran have asserted that the current “normalisation” of diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia falls among reasons for the attack. The BBC’s featured clip on October 11, 2023 had the leader of Iran labelling the “normalisation … a mistake.” Among other claims is Hamas’ accusation against Israel for the constant attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. 

Hamas’ sentiment, as reported by the BBC, is that “normalisation weakens the Palestinian cause”, whereas one diplomat has opined that “normalisation will change the Middle East.” For better or worst? Some reports indicate that Hamas’ revenge for being sidelined in the “normalisation” processes is to “derail”, hence, the dastardly attack. The images of celebrating Hamas fighters in news bulletins emphasise the mindlessness of war: Sheer destruction of life, peace and tranquillity!

The emerging statistics of fatalities on both sides are staggering, still counting: As of October 11, 2023 just five days into the war, Israel had lost about 1,200 nationals; Hamas was holding about 150 Israelis hostage. About 1,000 Palestinians had also perished. On both sides are civilians, including women and children. One Palestinian victim who spoke on camera was the sole surviving member of his family in the wake of a bombardment. Eleven UN staff had been killed in the impasse. Twenty-two US nationals had perished, and 17 were still missing. One deserted location in Gaza has been named the “District of death.”

Sadly, the world looks on as Israel prepares fervently for further devastation of Gaza. Three hundred thousand troops have been mobilised to continue “pounding” Gaza. Three hundred and thirty thousand military reservists are up in arms against Hamas. There is no place of refuge from Israeli missiles. One sobbing woman from Gaza stated brokenly: “There is bombing everywhere”.

The UN reports that “schools serving as shelters are being bombed.” Even from the news, the sound of Israeli artillery hitting its targets is deafening and bone-chilling. Ironically, Netanyahu’s government has formed a coalition with the Israeli opposition to fight to win. Israel is evidently determined to raze Gaza to the ground.

One consistent comment has been the surprise element in the attack. That Hamas was able to defeat Israel’s super reliable intelligent security system has numbed many, Israel included. That Hamas was able to penetrate Israel’s defence wall, hitherto considered impenetrable, in 29 parts is considered astonishing. The glaring fact, however, is that conflict is never devoid of surprises; neither can it be contained. BBC has reported of the fight stretching to Lebanon and the possibility of Hezbollah jumping in.  

However, the fact remains that the root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to be glossed over. The late astute Edward Said, considered the Father of Postcolonial Studies, a Palestinian-American, asserted decades ago that there could not be any solution as long as Palestinians were denied sovereignty. He strongly advised Israel and all other stakeholders to grant a permanent land to Palestine. 

That pragmatic advise was not heeded, so the conflict of the unequal has continued between the landed and the landless. Amazingly, an Israeli primary school boy quoted from the Bible that the Lord had given the land to Israel. The BBC documentary dating about a decade numbed me; I realised that growing Israeli generations would perpetuate the fight for land.

Conveniently, most of the running commentaries condemning Hamas’ attack fail to include that 56 years of occupation and 17 years of blockade in Gaza have continued to brew aggression and conflicts in the Middle East.

In those decades, fighting agents such as Hamas have been birthed and grown by sheer aggression and dissipation. Why humans kill one another over land which can comfortably accommodate everyone is really mystifying. In the giddy trance of war, aggressors forget that spilt innocent blood is the constant collateral damage in war. Needless and mindless! 

The  writer is a Senior Lecturer, Language and Communication Skills, Takoradi Technical University, Takoradi. Writer’s E-mail: [email protected]

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