Aug 4, 2014
More than three weeks after the Israeli army began to wage war against the population of Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced on July 28 that Israel must be ready for a “long military campaign.”
The Israeli army justifies the carnage it has been inflicting on the Gaza Strip by claiming it wants to neutralize Hamas’s tunnels and rockets, but in fact it has been carrying out an indiscriminate and bloody war against 1.8 million Palestinians. Some neighborhoods in Gaza are now nothing but ruins. The Israeli military destroyed Gaza’s only power plant. Without electricity, without sanitized water, Palestinians face an emerging health disaster. More than 1500 have already died, including dozens of children, nearly 6500 have been wounded, and 215,000 people have fled their homes. Eighty per cent of the victims are civilians.
In a recent interview with the newspaper Le Monde, an emergency worker with Doctors Without Borders, the only NGO present in Gaza, explained that at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, “half the patients that arrive are already dead .... Most of the patients we receive are women and children. The children are completely shocked, traumatized. It is reassuring to us to hear a child crying in pain, rather than a child completely silent.”
Why are Israeli rulers carrying out such a massacre? How far are they willing to go? Why are they crushing the Palestinian population like this? There is only one answer: Israeli leaders have made massacres a permanent part of their policy because the Israeli state was built on the dispossession of Palestinians, on the theft of their land, and on their expulsion. This was true when Israel was created, and continues today with the Israeli construction of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Israeli army found it impossible to control Gaza, so it withdrew and turned Gaza into an open-air prison by sealing its borders, and controlling its air space and all the goods going in and out of it. And when the Israeli army brass thought it had to bomb, sometimes indiscriminately, or assassinate certain Palestinian leaders, it still treated Gaza like a conquered territory even though it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military has carried out four big offensives in the Gaza Strip since it withdrew along with the settlers in 2005: “Summer Rains” in 2006; “Cast Lead” in 2008-09, which resulted in more than 1400 deaths on the Palestinian side; “Pillar of Defense” in 2012; and the ongoing one, “Protective Edge,” since July 8, 2014. This means, among other things, that children in Gaza who are ten years old today have already experienced four wars.
Gaza is formally independent, but its people have no rights, no freedom, and live in a minuscule area that they are not allowed to leave, imprisoned by a blockade that has continued for more than eight years.
The Israeli leaders claim they are only responding to the terrorists of Hamas. Their Western protectors justify the terror carried out by Israel as its right to protect its population. This is yet another lie. If the Israeli leaders wanted an agreement with the Palestinians, they could have made one long ago by accepting the demands of the Palestinian Authority. Not only did the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel, it signed the Oslo Accords and agreed to help control the Palestinian population as the Israeli leaders demanded, becoming in some cases just another arm of the occupation army.
The Israeli government has blocked every step toward the recognition of the national rights of the Palestinians. This policy has been carried out by both left-wing and right-wing governments. The Israelis have consistently extended their settlements in the occupied territory. And this policy has reinforced the Israeli extreme right, both religious and secular, which claims that the natural borders of the Israeli state extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Today, the increase of settlements in the West Bank has turned this territory into a “leopard’s skin,” divided into regions controlled more or less by Palestinian authorities and those overseen by Israeli authorities. Just like the “Bantustans” during the time of apartheid in South Africa, the autonomous Palestinian enclaves don’t constitute a continuous geographic entity, making the existence of a viable Palestinian state very difficult. This, in fact, is the goal of the Israeli government, even if the majority of Israeli leaders don’t admit it.
By refusing to grant promised rights to Palestinians, the Israelis have provoked many Intifadas (Palestinian uprisings). And every time it’s the same scenario. In response to the outrage of Palestinian resistance, the Israeli leaders always take more land, raise the barriers higher and make them more insurmountable, and restrain the Palestinians’ freedom of movement.
All the big powers support the war waged by the Israeli government, starting with the U.S. Since 1967, the U.N. has passed numerous resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories. But the U.S. has never threatened the Israeli state, its main ally in the region, with any consequences for violating these resolutions, nor has any other big power. They have not prosecuted the Israeli leaders for war crimes after indiscriminate bombings of civilian neighborhoods, nor for using weapons banned by “international law.”
While Europe and the U.S. quickly impose sanctions against Russia, for example, the Israeli state remains protected, even pampered. For instance, Europe doesn’t apply customs to Israeli products, with the sole exception, since 2013, of products from “occupied territories” – a prohibition Israel can circumvent easily. Europe and the U.S., its main financial backers, obviously have the means to pressure Israel, but they won’t consider using them against a loyal ally in the Middle East.
The leaders of the Israeli state cannot attain the peace and security that they have promised the Israeli population for nearly 70 years through their policies. Proponents of Jewish nationalism, known as Zionism, have always regarded the Palestinians as a population to conquer in order to obtain the so-called “promised land;” they have always treated the Arab populations as enemies. By becoming the jailer of the Palestinian people, the Israeli population has deprived itself of its own freedom as well, forced as it is into a state of endless war.
This policy has ended up throwing a part of the Palestinian population into the arms of Hamas. But Hamas does not have a real perspective to offer either. Its program, based on Islamic law, the Sharia, and another exhausted nationalism, cannot by itself change the relationship of forces. Without the sympathy and support of an important part of the Israeli population for their demands, the Palestinians find themselves in a position of weakness. They cannot obtain the national rights and the end of the blockade that they demand without having many Israelis on their side.
But these objectives cannot be realized until the ditches dug by religion and nationalism are overcome, until the poor and the workers of both countries first proclaim all the interests they have in common.