10 NOV 2023
To say Israel has the right to defend itself is like saying a chronic abuser has the right to defend himself because his victim hit him. Israel is not an innocent party under attack and defending itself, as it is being portrayed by much of the international media. It is a settler-colonial apartheid regime, established on the ruins of Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people in 1948.
Colonialists, occupiers and apartheid regimes do not have the right to defend their occupations and apartheid systems. It’s the occupied who have the right under international law to defend themselves and to liberate their countries. Most of the Jewish settlers are armed and members of Israel’s reserve army; Israel knew the risk it was taking by perpetrating the Catastrophe (al-Nakba) of 1948, occupying someone else’s country and denying Palestinians their rights because they are not Jews, in what was established as a Jewish state.
When Israel was established in Palestine in 1948, it ethnically cleansed over 70 per cent of the Palestinian people—between 800,000 to 900,000 people—occupied 78 per cent of the country and destroyed 531 towns and villages including forty-seven villages in the Gaza District, displacing their 80,000 residents. The vast majority of displaced Palestinians took refuge in Gaza, and today they number in the hundreds of thousands. All the kibbutzes and Jewish colonies attacked by Hamas fighters on 7 October were built on the ruins of those forty-seven villages around Gaza, including Jiyya, Burayr, Hamama, Najd, Dimra and Simsim.
Before the Nakba, the Gaza Strip and the area surrounding it, called the ‘envelope’, constituted the mandatory ‘Gaza District’ and had an area of 1111 square kilometres. Israel’s 1948 aggression reduced Gaza to what it is today: 365 square kilometres—less than half the size of Canberra—with a population of 2.3 million. It is forty-one kilometres long and anywhere from six to twelve kilometres wide, and has one of the highest population densities in the world at 6300 people per square kilometre.
Seventy per cent of the 2.3 million in Gaza are refugees ethnically cleansed from these villages and elsewhere. Their farms, houses and belongings were stolen, and they were thrown out to live in misery in Gaza, which for the last twenty years the world’s largest, most impenetrable concentration camp ever, surrounded by barbed wire and constrained on all sides. Gazans are being collectively punished by Israel, which has deprived them of their inalienable human and national rights. The international community has abandoned them; from a few hundred metres away Gazans watch settlers from around the world living in luxury, enjoying the fruits of their farms.
One of the things that enraged Israeli leaders and generals was that a small contingent of fighters was able to penetrate the ‘invincible army’ and within hours inflict a major defeat on its intelligence, spying and electronic eavesdropping technology, which failed to detect the attack. The world has not taken into account that the Israelis have suffered a major military defeat. Pictures and videos show burning Israeli tanks with fighters raising Palestinian flags above them, and captured soldiers. Israel’s dominant messaging around the death and abduction of Israelis conceals the fact that Hamas fighters fought and defeated Israeli troops on 7 October, occupied their military, security and police bases, confiscated their arms, and detained among their prisoners dozens of soldiers and generals to be exchanged for over 6000 Palestinian political detainees, including children and women, who languish in occupation prisons. Yes, Israeli civilians were taken hostage, and many Israelis killed, although reports of atrocities in many cases are yet to be proven.
Israel has presented the Hamas fighters merely as terrorists. Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant went further on 9 October, describing Palestinians as animals and saying, ‘We are imposing a complete siege on Gaza. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly’, and Israel’s president Isaac Herzog said in a press conference on 13 October that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza. ‘It is an entire nation out there that is responsible’, he said. Presenting the Hamas fighters as animals attacking civilians, is the justification for its revengeful, barbaric war of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli survivors from the attack have testified in interviews with Israeli media that most Israeli civilians were killed as a result of the Israeli army shelling their homes and exchanging fire with Hamas fighters to prevent the taking of hostages, in accordance with the 1986 Israeli military policy called the Hannibal Directive. All videos of the attack show the fighters carrying machine guns only, meaning they could not have bombed the houses. Haaretz newspaper has reported that the army was only able to restore control after admittedly ‘shelling’ the homes of Israelis who had been taken captive.
To cover up the miserable failure suffered by its army, and government, Israel has resorted to tactics used by colonial regimes everywhere to punish civilians. All colonialists and occupiers have called the resistance they have faced ‘terrorism’, from the French, British and Dutch colonialists to the Nazi, fascists and South African apartheid regime. Can those resistance movements be reduced to terrorism? If Australia were occupied tomorrow, would acts of resistance against the occupiers be considered terrorism?
Israel’s claim that it is fighting terrorism and wants to eliminate Hamas is ludicrous because it will not be able to eliminate Palestinian resistance—whether by Hamas or any other grouping. In any case, were it to eliminate Hamas another, stronger, group would emerge. Where there is occupation and oppression there will always be resistance. Now, however, what Israel is doing, and the world is witnessing daily is the slaughter of civilians and children and destruction of thousands of houses, high-rise residential buildings, schools, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, churches, markets, bakeries and other public infrastructure. All they have to do to cover up their war crimes is say that a Hamas leader was residing there or that there was a tunnel under the high-rise building, hospital or mosque, without providing an iota of evidence, a. And yet these lies are repeated and spread by Western media..
Israel’s war against Gaza is a cowardly war of genocide by an army classified as the fifth most powerful in the world, which has carpet-bombed civilians from the air day and night for nearly four weeks, dropping, so far, over 25,000 tons of explosives on besieged Gaza—equivalent to two nuclear bombs according to EuroMed Rights in Geneva. Each bomb is burning and shattering the bodies of hundreds of babies, men and women, and wiping out entire families. This is in addition to Israel cutting off food, water, electricity, fuel, communication and the Internet.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza has documented, from 7 October to 7 November, the killing of 10,165 people, including 4237 children and 2509 women, with over 27,000 injured. In addition, more than 2000 people, including about 1,350 children, have been reported missing under the rubble. In the West Bank, 155 have been killed and 2040 arrested. This is the equivalent in population terms of 112,323 Australians killed and 298,350 injured—more than the entire population of the Australian Capital Territory.
An estimated 1.4 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, and according to Gaza’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing, over 50 per cent of all houses and housing units have been destroyed. Hospitals have reported Israel’s use of internationally banned bombs such as white phosphorus.
Palestinians have been the victims of Israeli state acts of terrorism and a slow war of genocide for 75 years. In 1948 they were massacred, raped and ethnically cleansed, as documented by Palestinian, Israeli and international historians. Their properties and belongings were confiscated, and they were denied their inalienable right to return to their country. All these crimes against humanity were committed and continue to be committed against them because of who they are—Palestinians, who have no right of return to what is now defined as the exclusively Jewish land and state—with the full complicity of the Western governments, especially the group of Anglo-Saxon countries that make up the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ coalition.
It is time for these countries to be held accountable, to shoulder their obligations under the Geneva Convention and force Israel to recognise the Palestinian people’s human and national rights, and Palestine’s right to exist. Without the blind support and protection of these governments, Israel would not dare commit these crimes against humanity and challenge the international community as it is doing. And without the Palestinians gaining their legitimate rights there will never be peace in the Middle East.