What's going on? In a sense, nothing new; what the state of Israel is doing in front of the unsleeping eye of the world's media has already been done by other states--including the United States--on a much larger scale. Seeing the bitter conflict in Gaza up close, as it were, enables us to reflect and perhaps even to learn something.
It seems to me at least two things are going on.
(1)Shock the people.
The state of Israel seems to be applying the "shock doctrine" to Gaza, and not in the anodyne sense of trying to "shock and awe" them with a violent spectacle. The idea is--it seems to me--to create a general population overwhelmed by disaster, a people unable for the time being to function normally in carrying on with what they had previously taken to be ordinary life.
Thus, it is not enough for the IDF to narrowly target actual combatants and leave as much of the fabric of everyday life intact as possible; the entire population must come to fear for its life and property. In this, they seem to me to have succeeded: no question. Why? Other avenues, other options were available different from those the state of Israel has taken if that state had wanted other things, but it seems to be Israel recognizes
(a) the people of Gaza support Hamas,
(b) any democratic settlement in Gaza will in the near term at least be led by hamas or the equivalent.
What the shock doctrine aims to do is cow the democratic will of the people, to put the people in a state of numbness, so that they will accept or succumb to otherwise unpalatable programs that they would actively resist if they could. In a state of enforced numbness, where survival is in question and one is reeling from mental and emotional trauma, effective resistance is much harder to mobilize.
What programs? Here I am unsure about specifics, but in general, programs favorable to the prosperity of Israel, including favorable access to large natural gas reserves off the Gaza strip, and submission to policies that will keep an educated Gazan middle class from developing--an educated middle class has much more virulent radical potential than a half-starved semi-proletariat.
Beret tip to Naomi Klein. Pace well-meaning observers like Colonel Lang, targeting children isn't an act (from Haaretz!) lacking a serious point. But we should really take this a step further:
(2) Creation of the Muselman
Gaza has been turned into a space where anything is possible, where one is permitted to slaughter Palestinians on a whim without fear of legal repercussions, domestic or international.
Of course Gaza is not the first such space, and Israel is not the first state to create such spaces (think of the history of the US and Native Americans). But what we witness today in Gaza is evidence that states have learned how to create such spaces as a matter of course. Beware: Gaza may possibly become the standard by which other peoples in other places will be measured, as the US decided to employ "the Salvador option" in Iraq.
The upshot of repeated exposure to Gaza-type situations is the creation of a kind of person called the Muselman--a term taken by Agamben now to have general application, inasmuch as the kind of space needed to create such persons can be readily created by states across the globe. I won't dwell on the awful irony (it literally means "the Muslim") of the term.
The Muselman is beaten down: starved and emaciated, weak and indifferent to more abuse, the Muselman staggers around in a daze barely able to function, if able to carry on with ordinary tasks at all. He does not care to struggle for food, to defend himself, to find a latrine in order to defecate--he just cannot care anymore. Nobody wants him; what remains for him is just to die.
The Muselman on a mass scale in Gaza would be an effective counterpart to the operation of the shock doctrine. A population too apathetic to voice its political will is one unable to resist, unable to mount retaliatory strikes or maintain its own cultural identity as Palestinian. Pace Klein, the Muselman would be Cameron's "blank slate" on which a new personality and new culture--one more favorable to the state of Israels' interests--could be inscribed.
Having said all this, the problem for the state is that the shock/Muselman strategy is unrelable. In this case, the invasion is winding down and the Palestinians are not cowed; if in shock, they do not appear to have been reduced to "blank-slate" status. If (1) and (2) were aims, it seems they have not been achieved. With this sort of thing--it is worth contemplating--one is either all in, or out. One might well infer part way in does not count.
And that is terrifying. It seems to me a Christian--indeed any decent human being--should have (as much as possible) nothing to do with such state strategies. Indeed, here--if needed--is an impetus to rethink the flag in the sanctuary, to rethink the Anglican tendency to erastianism, to rethink and appreciate our tradition of being apart from the world, though in it.