Israel Attacked Gaza One Year Ago Today: Interview with …

Posted By on July 12, 2015

One year ago today, Israelinvaded, bombed and shelled Gaza, and continued to do that for the next seven weeks. According to the U.N., at least 2,104 Gazans were killed 1,462 of whom (69 percent) were civilians, including 495 children. A total of 6 Israeli civilians, and 66 soldiers, were killed. The shockingly high civilian death rate in Gaza included the now-iconic imagery of four young boys from the same family being killed by Israeli warshipswhile they played on a beach in front of a hotel filled with foreign journalists.

Months after the attack concluded, U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza and labeled the destruction beyond description, far worse than prior Israeli attacks. At least 17,000 homes were obliterated or severely damaged during the conflict, and it will take two decades to rebuild them; that means that nearly 60,000 people have lost their homes. On countless occasions, entire large families of Gazans were instantly extinguished by Israeli violence. Because the population of Gaza is so young 43 percent are under the age of 15, while 64 percent areunder the age of 24 the majority of its residents know littlebeyond extreme suffering, carnage, violence and war.

As harrowing as that data is, ittells only a small part of the story. Statistics like thesehave an abstract property to them: cold and clinical. Viewing the devastation of Gaza through their lens can have a distancing effect. Theyerase the most affecting facts: the stories of human suffering and devastation caused by this attack, the sadism and savagery that drove it.

The unbridled Israeli brutality that drove this attack, combined with the unprecedented ability of Palestinians to document what was happening to them throughuse of the Internet, significantlychanged the way Israel is perceived around the world. This attack will prove to be historicallyimportant for how the world regards Israel, and Blumethalsbook is indispensable for understanding what happened here.

Even in the world of the Israel/Palestine debate where smear campaigns and vicious ad hominem attacks are routine Blumenthal is the target of some of the most scurrilous attacks youll ever see. In part thats because hes an unlikely candidate to have become one of the most vocal Jewish critics of Israel: the son of a Washington insiderclosely associated withthe Clintons. In part its because hes an unflinching and fearless critic, avoiding euphemisms and niceties when, by design, they obscure the truth. In part its because he has in the past sometimes opted forpolarizing rhetoric and provocative, illuminating tactics.

But this book will likely surprise even those who have followed Blumenthals work and are sympathetic to his worldview. The 51 Day War is remarkably free of polemic, even as it retains its passion. It seems clear, at least to me, that Blumenthal was so movedby what he heard and saw in Gaza that he knew nothing would be more effective and revealing than just letting those stories speak for themselves. So he largely gets out of the way and simply serves as a vessel for the voices of those who are so rarely heard from in the Western world: those who live under Israeli brutalityin Gaza.

I spoke with him for roughly 40 minutes about his book, as well as his ownodyssey that has led him to devote himself to this topic with such singular devotion. Whatever your views on Israel and Gaza, Blumenthal is articulate, thoughtful anddeeply knowledgeable, and has done extensive, real reporting to write this book. Hes very worth listening to, and the book is highly worth the read. Our discussion can be heard on the player below, and a transcript is provided here.

Photo: Adel Hana/AP

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