47 Comments
Dec 3, 2023·edited Dec 3, 2023

You may have come across claims that Gaza is the most densely populated place in the world. I've been seeing it for years and sending in corrections, but it doesn't stop the claim, which is too tempting to make if your goal is to propagandize.

A New York Times story “Gaza is tiny, crowded and hard to escape” (Oct. 10, 2023, on their running blog on the war) qualified it a little, calling the Gaza Strip is "one of the most densely populated areas of the world." In fact, the population (2022) is 2,375,259 in 365 km2 for a density of 6,507/km2. About 20 cities in the NYC area alone are more densely populated. Gaza is about as densely populated as Cambridge, MA, which is not generally considered an overcrowded dystopia. I'm no longer seeing the claim made since early in the war, probably because too many people pointed out that it's nowhere near true. The Times stealth-edited the reference I pointed to.

Gaza may be "densely populated" as an abstract matter, making civilian casualties inevitable in a war. Still, many cities in Israel are much more densely populated (Bnei Brak is 30,000/km2), cities at which Hamas has been indiscriminately firing rockets for many years.

Expand full comment

Thanks for doing this work to push back against the Finkelstein and Cameron narrative, Coleman! One commentator said it was a strange concentration camp with beaches and shopping malls. And enormous financial and messaging/propaganda support from the international community via the UN, particularly the UNRWA, the organization that has ensured Gazans are kept in refugee status since 1948 (the world’s only permanent refugees).

Defund the UNRWA is a cause to promote!

Expand full comment

Thank you for truth finding. So much misinformation comes out of Gaza it’s hard to know where to begin. There are many more videos like the MEMRI ones. And, whatever is wrong in Gaza can be blamed on Hamas. From the beginning (2005), they destroyed greenhouses that were thriving businesses and laid siege to the population. They have stolen so much aide meant for the civilians that their 3 leaders (living in Qatar) are billionaires. For the Palestinians sake, Hamas needs to go. There should be an international coalition but there won’t for no other reason but antisemitism.

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

You quote Finkelstein detailing high unemployment, an unstable power supply, inadequate food and water and travel denials, so why not address those issues? They would all seem to be quite relevant to creating resentment and anger, especially in young men who see no future. Why use sparse outdated data on a health topic he doesn't address?

Clearly "open air prison" and "concentration camp" should not be interchangeable terms. A prisoner has lost his freedom, is confined, and is dependent on his guards for all the necessities of life. He may grow old in prison, if he is not executed, but that is not a good life. The description properly applies to Gaza. Whether calling it a concentration camp is correct I don't know, but because Finkelstein had parents who both survived concentration camps I give him some latitude to say so in the heat of his outrage. But "open air prison", yes it is.

The alleged Al-Jazeera segment from 2017 was produced by Memri TV which according to Wikipedia was founded by " Israeli ex-intelligence officer Yigal Carmon and Israeli-American political scientist Meyrav Wurmser". Also "Critics describe MEMRI as a strongly pro-Israel advocacy group that, in spite of describing itself as being "independent" and "non-partisan" in nature".

Expand full comment

I find it interesting that Mr. Hughes a person that seems skeptical of proxies, is so willing to create one here. (E.g being black is a poor proxy for disadvantage.)

He is trying to convince us that the single metric of life expectancy is a good proxy for living in a hell hole. I would say that expected longevity may be necessary for hell-hole free living, but it’s definitely not sufficient.

I would further say that the degree to which people are deprived of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are good proxies for the degree to which they are living in a hell hole.

Using my proxies for Gazans: Life - OK; Liberty - totally deprived; Pursuit of Happiness- severely restricted.

If hell holes exist, Gaza is a prime candidate.

Expand full comment

Of course conditions in Gaza aren't nearly as nice and prosperous as those in Israel. Thank Iran, Hamas, and recalcitrant Arab anti-Zionism for that. Many Arab states want to lay down their grievances, normalize relations, and open up trade. Some have done so or are (were?) attempting to. They want Israel as a military and security partner against Iran, whose continuing Jihadist efforts make everyone worse off.

Expand full comment

No wonder why Finkelstein lost his job! Gives me some renewed hope in Academia that they would have fired him.

Expand full comment

As is so often the case, Coleman actually does the work to find the intellectually honest answer to a obvious question that the corporate media ignores ecause the answer is inconsistent with their preferred narrative. Great job Coleman!

Expand full comment

Continuing on one of Mr. Seltzer's themes, the land area of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, combined, is 133 sq. mi., slightly smaller than Gaza at 141 sq. mi. According to the 2020 census, 5.8 million people lived in these three boroughs, compared to 2.2 million people in Gaza.

These figures for land mass and population mean that the population density of the three boroughs is 2.8 times more dense than Gaza. So much for "most densely populated place in the world".

As I see it, the residents of Gaza suffer for many reasons:

1. Egypt doesn't want them, nor does Jordan. Not only would a large influx of Gaza refugees lead to internal unrest but also to establishment of bases for more missile launches into Israel, with subsequent retaliation. And a reduction of Palestinians from Israel and Israeli-held territory would be to Israel's advantage, something Egypt and Jordan would likely oppose. So the Gaza residents are stuck in place.

2. Aid sent to Gaza is filtered through Hamas, who spends a sizeable portion on building 300 miles of tunnels up to 100 feet deep (Hamas's figures), on militants/soldiers/terrorists, and on missiles and other weapons.

3. Similar to the Mexican cartels, the relatively small number of Hamas members (20 to 30 thousand) manages to control a 100-times larger population, mainly through violence and control of resources such as food and fuel.

4. The last election in Gaza occurred in 2006. "Voting" Hamas "out" appears an impossibility. An uprising of the Palestinian population against their government has near-zero chance of success.

Given the fundamental, founding principle of both Gaza and West Bank residents, that Israel (and all Jews) must be eliminated, a peace/armistice agreement is also unlikely. It appears that Israel's plan to eliminate Hamas--with the hope that "someday" the Gaza residents would have a truly moderate government that uses its resources for the benefit of the population--is the least-bad solution.

Expand full comment

I like Coleman and most of his work, but now he has descended into sophistry with his proxy for a "hell hole" as life expectancy.

(I am going to substitute Likud for Israel because Likud is the current Israeli government and does not represent all of Israel. I do not want to slander Israel itself.)

In previous discussions on the Hamas-Likud issue, he gave Likud the edge on morality. His reasoning was to look what each would do if they were unconstrained.

We know what Hamas would do, an abominable massacre.

Coleman went on to say that Likud has not done likewise eventhough they had the power to do so. His base assumption was that likud was not constrained , yet they did not massacre. But the fact is that likud has been constrained. The US used to effectively constrained them so this assertion is nonsense.

With Biden's naîve bear-hug diplomacy, Likud decided that they had a green light to do as they wish in Gaza (and the West Bank.) What they want is to ethnically clean both Gaza and the West Bank.

Biden made the same mistake that coleman still seems to be making. Likud is not moral. Given the opportunity they will out-evil Hamas.

(Evil calculation: Evil = Immortality times Power. Hamas may have more evil intent than Likud, but they lack the power to fully implement it. Likud has plenty of evil intent AND the power to implement it.)

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

Coleman, did you read Finkelstein's book on Gaza? Your essay makes it seem so. I own the hard copy. It does not have 500 pages, as you imply. In my copy (there is only one edition) the conclusion ends on page 365. Even with the index it ends on page 419. I cannot find the quote you used supposedly from page 40. The subject on page 40 is lying by Israel. None of the one star raters on the Gaza book in Amazon have verified purchases, so there seems to be a pattern of slamming the book without reading it. If you want to be better informed, you would do well to read completely Jimmy Carter's book Peace not Apartheid for background and have Mehdi Hasan on your podcast for current events. Do better and stop with the hunches.

Expand full comment
Dec 4, 2023·edited Dec 4, 2023

I hope that you're prominent enough to draw some sincere high profile push-back on your assertion here, as it really does cut the heart of the current narrative about Gaza. The fantasy would be for Norman to engage with you somehow, as I also find him to be a similarly sincere and earnest intellectual, albeit one with a completely different take. Coleman and Norm are kind of the two poles of this debate for me, and I am oddly unable to dismiss either of them. Thanks as usual for bringing such decisive and insightful commentary to any discussion you take on Coleman. You're a hero.

Expand full comment

Coleman, you say that you seek out debate opponents with views that opposes yours. This is your chance.

Challenge Finkelstein to a debate.

Expand full comment

I'm increasingly skeptical of pretty much anyone from academia that talks to the media. This may seem random but it's connected - I've read a few books written between 1950 and 1970 by historians who seem bewildered and frustrated by other academics who either completely distort the context of or invent out of whole cloth sources for their claims.

The first one was The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War, which dissects a number of popular histories of the origin of the cold war that are completely slanted towards the Soviet view.

The second is Europe's Inner Demons, where the author picks apart the evidence for the existence of an actual witch-cult in Europe (as claimed by Margaret Murray and a litany of followers), and shows how misreadings (at best) or total confabulation and extremely selective reading of texts (at worst) make up the basis of their arguments.

I think the institutions that are supposed to mediate primary sources into information for the public at large are broken, and you have to go straight to the primary sources (as you've done in this essay) for anything approximating the truth.

Expand full comment

Coleman, there's a response from Norman Finkelstein on Marc Lamont Hill's channel, in case you didn't know. Norm pretended that he could barely remember Michael Moynihan's name and that he didn't know who you were.

Expand full comment

I love Norm, but I can appreciate reasons why Colemam would not want to have him on his show. Norman is scholarly and brilliant and has a gift for reaching non-experts on complicated topics, but he is also a serial monologueist, seemingly incapable of making a brief point, or letting other people talk. You kind of just have to let him talk, and I could see not wanting that.

Expand full comment