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What is the result of the Israeli war in Gaza earlier this year?

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After Iran’s nascent green revolution was forced from America’s collective consciousness by Gov. Mark Sanford’s public loss of virginity, Michael Jackson beating it, and Sarah Palin quitting to prove she’s no quitter, many of my friends were dismayed. Quite a few of them complained about how titillating news is always pushing important news out of the limelight.

For a long time, I thought obsessing on nonsense was a luxury enjoyed by prosperous, peaceful societies. Humans are born with enough mental capacity to hunt for food and fight off predators and rivals. Because our society is prosperous and orderly, I thought, we Americans can’t help but devote our unused mental capacity to stupid things like “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” OMG, have you seen Danielle’s sex tape? OMG, she’s so trashy!

In retrospect, I think I was wrong. The more I read, the more I realize that salacious, stupid crap doesn’t just consume the lives of people with nothing better to do. People who look death in the eye daily still manage to obsess on stupid crap.

For example, the dumbest, sappiest, most gratuitous Michael Jackson tribute I’ve read anywhere appeared, of all places, on the editorial page of Israel’s Jerusalem Post newspaper.

On most days, the JPost’s editorial page is reserved for writers who believe Israel’s biggest problem is that it hasn’t fought enough wars with its neighbors, or that Israel is on the brink of being destroyed by Arabs or Iranians.

Nevertheless, the JPost took time off from preparing for Armageddon to print an essay by a woman who claimed Michael Jackson’s performance of “Man in the Mirror” at the 1988 Grammys was her life’s turning point. The writer says MJ’s set-piece prompted her “to make a difference, in the lives of my children, the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.” Can someone teach me how to say “I suddenly taste my own throw-up” in Hebrew?

A hop, skip, and several military checkpoints away in Gaza City, a spokesman for Hamas was managing to simultaneously out-stupid the JPost. In a rant to Agence France-Press, the spokesman claimed Israelis are “aiming to corrupt the young generation” in Gaza by supplying the territory with aphrodisiac-tainted chewing gum.

Even if every stick of Jewcyfruit in Gaza caused four-hour erections (call your doctor), it would still be a remarkably silly problem for a purported political leader in Gaza to draw media attention to.

Gaza has much bigger, harder problems than the alleged genital swelling of its youth.

During a three-week war that began just before the New Year, Gaza was devastated by the Israeli military. Though the war was purportedly aimed at Hamas fighters who launch makeshift rockets into southern Israel from fields and deserted lots, Israeli military operations destroyed thousands of buildings in Gaza — so many, in fact, that the U.N. estimates it will take another year to remove the estimated 600,000 tons of rubble.

The war also exacted a horrific human toll. Amnesty International says 1,400 Palestinians died. Of those killed, 300 were children. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians died.

During the war, media reports from inside Gaza told of Israelis dropping high explosives and incendiaries on densely populated neighborhoods. After the war ended, reports by the U.N. and Amnesty International backed up those claims, as do several eyewitness reports by Israeli soldiers.

This month, a human rights group founded by former Israeli soldiers called Breaking the Silence published testimony by Israeli soldiers who participated in the war. Several of the soldiers say they were essentially told to shoot first and ask questions later — civilian carnage be damned. Among the acts described: grabbing Palestinian civilians and using them as human shields while searching private homes.

Israel’s government dismissed the testimony as anonymous hearsay — a claim undermined by independent verification of some of the soldiers’ identities by reporters from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Besides, Israel orders active-duty soldiers not to speak to the media, forcing anyone who wants to speak out to do so anonymously.

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