Monday, June 18, 2007

Gaza ghetto

At the outset, in 16th-century Venice, the term ghetto had nothing to do with Jews. The Italian verb gettare designates metal casting, and the Venetian Getto was simply the ancient neighborhood, which still exists today, where ammunition was cast.

Jews had been living in the Serenissima since time immemorial, but primarily on the island of the Guidecca (whence its name). Venetian merchants had always got on wonderfully well with their Jewish colleagues, experienced money-lenders, and it was normal that the latter should be offered the possibility of relocating their offices in the central Getto quarter. Only much later were Jewish quarters, throughout the world, referred to—often disparagingly—as ghettos. Then came the time of pogroms, and the terrible Hitlerian epoch of the ignominious Warsaw Ghetto...

Today, half a century later, there are no more Jewish ghettos on Yahveh's planet. But a Palestinian ghetto might well be about to spring into existence, spontaneously, in the Gaza Strip.

Now that all entries into, and exits from, the Gaza Strip are theoretically controlled by Israel, one wonders how anything whatsoever might transit into or out of this hostile enclave, apart from the basic life-sustaining commodities allowed by the Hebrew state. Sure, we know that there's a labyrinth of tunnels between the Egyptian Sinai and the southern frontier of the Strip. But there are limits to what might be transited by this itinerary, apart from arms.

In medieval times, the old-fashioned word siege designated the cutting-off of supplies between belligerents and the outside world. It's not unlikely that the filtering process brought about by the flight of Fatah people—leaving the hatred of Hamas all alone in Gaza—will give rise to such a siege, of an old-world kind, imposed by Israel. And the Gaza Ghetto might become, for ages, a symbol of senseless suffering.

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