It was two years ago that Israel was completing its invasion into Gaza. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, over half of them civilians. In most other parts of the world, anniversaries are something to celebrate. Not in Gaza. Israel finally withdrew, after deciding that further incursions would be politically disastrous. They always seem to know just how much they can get away with.

Palestinians, and many human rights groups, decried the invasion as too heavy-handed, disproportionate, and indifferent to civilian safety. But no international action was taken. Those Israelis always seem to know just how much they can get away with.

Gaza is many times referred to as “one of the most densely populated places on the planet.” Israel’s supporters have refuted that claim. And you know… they’re right. There are hundreds of places that are more densely populated than Gaza, per square kilometer. In fact, via a quick Google search I found a sermon by Rabbi Leigh Lerner, where he noted, among other things, that the city of Montreal, where he lives, is more densely populated than Gaza:

“The fact is, the population density of Gaza is not out of line with urban areas elsewhere. The density is less than Montreal’s. The constant reiteration that Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth is one more way of convincing the world that the Palestinian refugees are in a cage created by Israel. Does anyone in Montreal think this city is a cage? There seems to be enough room for everyone, indeed, room to spare, and we have more people per square kilometer than Gaza.”

The rabbi must know that the Palestinians in Gaza are indeed in a cage, and it was indeed created by Israel. This is not up for debate. He must know that the main difference between the citizens of Gaza and the citizens of Montreal is that the latter can actually leave if they want to. And then come back, and then leave again, and so forth. In other words, they are free. Rabbi Lerner too knows exactly what he can get away with.

In the Gaza War of 2008, Israel started with a massive air offensive. They struck about 200 targets in the first few hours, including killing a couple dozen young men at a police graduation ceremony. In all, on that first day, 230 Palestinians were killed and over 700 injured. They dropped American-made bombs using American-made F-16 jets and American-made Apache helicopters. Maybe next time they’ll drop hamburgers, apple pies, and the cast of “Jersey Shore.” The guys in Gaza would love Snookie.

The IDF admittedly targeted the houses of Hamas leaders, with full knowledge that their rest of their family members were present. They got away with that too.

Israel says it dropped leaflets to warn residents in high-risk areas to flee before an airstrike occurred. If you’ve never been to Gaza, you can easily find out what it’s like. Go to a Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon, when it’s really packed, and you’ll start to understand. Then imagine they lock all the doors. Then imagine they only turn on the water and electricity for a few hours a day. A few of you might go crazy. You might not agree with the crazies, but you know why they’re crazy. Then the same people who locked the doors tell you all to stop being so crazy. You organize demonstrations, chanting, “Unlock the doors!” They respond by attacking you, to root out all the “crazies.” And they’re still not unlocking the doors. But lucky for you, they drop leaflets. “Attention Wal-Mart shoppers… We will be bombing the Sporting Goods department in 15 minutes. We hope no flying bikes hit you in the head.”

I never understood this leaflet-dropping nonsense. If you say you’re targeting terrorists, and then drop leaflets to warn the non-terrorists, won’t the terrorists see the leaflets too? Are the terrorists illiterate? Or maybe the leaflet asks the non-terrorists not to tell the terrorists. Of course, none of Israel’s actions are about getting the terrorists. In this military campaign, as with their other campaigns, their objective was to punish those whom they have imprisoned, precisely for speaking out against their imprisonment. They know exactly what they can get away with.

This is why true debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, at least when it includes people like Rabbi Lerner, can go nowhere. It’s easy to lie when you know there will be no consequences. It’s easy to say and do things that are ridiculously illogical when you have seen you can get away with it so easily.

Now that I think of it, I have some shopping to do this weekend. I hear Wal-Mart is having an anniversary sale this Sunday. I think I’ll go. But I’d still rather be in Gaza.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. It’s sad to think that this conflict has been going on for decades with really no end in sight. Even if Israel says it’s moving forward toward peace, it’s hard to see. It’s sad that as a Palestinian, my kids will not know the olive groves that I loved to play in as a child. My husband, a Palestinian himself, has never seen Palestine…all the while living in neighboring Jordan. It’s hard to see peace when there are people out there comparing Gaza to Montreal, but we wait…avoiding at all costs Walmart on the weekend.

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