- Operations Gaza
The next war will break out in the summer. Israel will give it another childish name and it will take place in Gaza. There’s already a plan to evacuate the communities along the Gaza Strip border. Israel knows this war will break out, it also knows why—and it’s galloping toward it blindfolded, as though it were a cyclic ritual, a periodical ceremony or a natural disaster that cannot be avoided.—Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz (February 26, 2015)
These prophetic if desperate words of Israeli journalist Gideon Levy speak of the banality of war: a banality associated with the prospect of an unavoidable war to come (2015). A war that, like many similar ones before it, will take place in Gaza. And which, as such, will not even be called a war but “an operation.”
The Gaza Strip has been the target of numerous Israeli military “operations” over the past decade: “Operation Rainbow” (mivt’sa Keshet be-anan) took place in May 2004, resulting in fifty-nine Palestinians killed, over 300 homes razed, and a bulldozered zoo. “Operation Days of Penitence” (mivt’sa yemie teshuva) took place five months later, doubling [End Page 241] the death toll. “Operation Summer Rains” (mivt’sa gishmai kayitz) came next. A response to the growing number of missiles launched from Gaza into Israel and the capturing of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, this “operation” in summer of 2006 included massive artillery fire and air raids of the kind Gaza has not known before. “Operation Autumn Clouds” (mivt’sa Ananei stav) followed soon after, this time bringing the number of Palestinian casualties to over 400. “Operation Hot Winter” (Mivt’sa Horef ham) was next, in February 2008, followed by “Operation Cast Lead” (Mivt’sa Oferet yet’suka) ten months later: a three-week attack that resulted in over 1,300 Palestinian deaths and over 4,000 homes destroyed. The international inquiries into war crimes did not leave a lasting impact. In 2012, “Operation Pillar of Defense” (Mivt’sa Amued Anan) took place, with 158 more Palestinians killed, about thirty of whom were children. Images of horror resulted in another short-lived phase of international outrage, which soon melted into oblivion. In the summer of 2014, Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” (Mivt’sa T’suk Eitan), in which approximately 2,300 Palestinians were killed within seven weeks of fighting between Israeli forces and the Hamas, and over 500,000 Palestinians displaced. Protests broke out all over the world, and once again investigations took place and allegations were made. Both Israel and the Hamas were accused of war crimes, more protests took place, and soon, as usual, the world forgot.
“Operations”: rainbows, summer rains, autumn clouds, hot winter, protective edges, cast leads. It is hard to utter these words and at the same time keep in mind the images of destruction, violence, fear, and death such “operations” bring about. And if “cast lead” may initially sound like a direct reference to the imagery of war and weaponry, readers must note that the Hebrew words Oferet Yet’suka come directly from a popular Hanukah children’s song about a dreidel, written by none other than the Israeli national poet Haim Nahman Bialik.1
How crude it is to assign such “childish names” to such massive violent events. Imagine the imprint of the horrors on the mind of a young child living in a war zone, hearing and seeing the bombs falling, seeing the destruction all around, the death, and fearing for life. A child who is most likely unaware of the childish name given to the terrible event she is witnessing firsthand. The banality of war. In this case, the banality of “periodical ceremonies” of the kind Israelis, Palestinians, and the world at large have grown accustomed to, as one grows accustomed to—or worse, accepts helplessly—a natural disaster that repeats but cannot be avoided.
Such Israeli military operations have by now become habitual in Gaza, despite the momentary outrage inside Palestine, Israel, and across the world [End Page 242] following each such event. The banality of violence finds its articulation not just in the repeated event, masked by...