The Nightmarish Techno-Reality of Besieged Gaza

Drone flares and warning calls make war somehow an even more nightmarish.

Jul 10 2014, 3:35pm
Image: tent camp, Gaza Strip, April 2009/Marius Arnesen/Wiki

A cell-phone rings, warning a civilian resident of an impending air strike. Minutes later, a drone launches a flare at a nearby roof, apparently as another warning.

These are two recent tactics, as described to the The New York Times by a resident of Gaza, undertaken by Israeli military forces in a strategy designed to limit civilian casualties in what are described by those forces as attacks on Hamas bases of operation. These methods come in addition to regular drops of paper leaflets onto Gaza neighborhoods, also delivering pre-strike warnings along with the standard propaganda, and a technique called "knocking on the roof," in which a warhead-stripped missile is launched prior to the real thing.

To many observers it looks less like genuine concern than disclaimers, a way of saying, hey, we tried before blowing the shit out of an apartment building. In the Times-described incident, seven civilians died, regardless.

Granted, these are friendlier war tactics that might've been found in, say, the Battle of Britain, but the perplexing thing is how dehumanizing and, yes, techno-dystopian it really appears. These aggravated modes of connectivity seem like attempts at making the bombed complicit in their own bombing, no? It gives this illusion of choice, that our civilian casualty had some chance to take the attacker's reassuring hand and be pulled out of the mire, all because of a cell-phone message, but instead chose Hamas. They had their chance. 

That's the techno-dystopia I'm really talking about. The setting itself is dystopian, sure, what with the drones and leaflets and automated phone calls in the night, but the total effect is more a function of communication, new opportunities to isolate, divide, and, in the process, propagandize.

I don't discount the lifesaving value such calls might have, and would even say there's something quite valuable to this notion of wartime "due diligence," but the subcutaneous bleakness needs to be noted. Having your house leveled and neighbors assassinated is one thing, but having it done by someone purporting to be your friend is somehow infinitely more chilling.