There is a scene in And The Band Played On where Matthew Modine’s character explains the origins of the phrase “The Butchers’ Bill”: a phrase coined by British Admiral Lord Nelson when asking for the daily casualty reports of soldiers lost in the Napoleonic wars. In the film, Modine’s character creates his own Butchers’ Bill for the AIDS epidemic, and it remains one of pop culture’s most poignant visual reminders of the devastating cost of the disease in human lives.
The Butchers’ Bill in the ongoing violence on the Gaza Strip is equally heart-breaking. In less than two weeks time, Israel has launched airstrikes against Palestinian residents of Gaza targeting over 1500 sites; Hamas has also launched over a thousand rockets into Israel that have all been largely ineffective. As of today, the Butchers’ Bill for Palestinian residents of Gaza nears 350 after 11 days of fighting, nearly fifty of those dying in the last 72 hours at the hands of invading Israeli ground troops. The United Nations estimates that three-fourths of Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli offensive actions this month were non-militants, and approximately 50 — a third of them killed since Thursday — have been children. An additional 2000 Palestinians have sustained serious injuries in the attacks. The UN reports that yesterday the number of Palestinians displaced by the violence has nearly doubled to 40,000 — all seeking refugee status in one of 34 UN shelters.
There are no words to describe the rage and grief I feel in watching this senseless killing unfold. But the price of my silence — and the silence of too many of us in America — is also far too high.