by Nick Scullin
For the past week Gaza has been subjected to intense bombardment by the Israeli navy and air force. The current aerial and naval assault began a week ago with the assassination, by Israel, of a top Hamas military leader, Ahmad Jabari, on Wednesday, 14 November. Jabari was killed by an Israeli air strike in violation of a recently negotiated ceasefire meant to halt Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Following Jabari’s death Israel commenced a bombing campaign that has killed 130 Palestinians and left more than 920 injured. In response to Israel’s massive bombardment, 1,450 targets since Wednesday, Palestinian fighters from various groups have fired over one thousand rockets at Israel, killing 4 Israelis and injuring several dozen. As usual, then, the brunt of the casualties are Palestinian, indicating the military imbalance and the way in which Israel, while presenting itself as the defendant, always manages to inflict massively more casualties on Palestinian civilians.
Israel claims it is “defending” itself but on what planet does starting a campaign of bombing and assassinations that breaks a truce count as a defensive action? The hypocrisy is obvious, yet Western leaders, while calling on Israel to restrain itself, have constantly qualified it with the assertion that Israel has the right to defend itself. By contrast, the brave Palestinians who really are defending themselves from an opponent with vastly superior technology and resources are often labelled terrorists.
The true terrorist is the state of Israel. A state that came into existence through the stealing of much of the Palestinian homeland and has proceeded to practice well-documented state terrorism in an often blatant attempt to cleanse the region of its native Palestinian inhabitants. Since its creation in 1948-1949 Israel has committed many atrocities and crimes against the Palestinians including massacres of civilians, large scale destruction of Palestinian villages and farmland, occupation, assassinations and imprisonment without trial. In the West Bank, which remains under armed Israeli occupation while supposedly being part of a separate Palestine administered by the Palestinian national Authroity, these things are all a daily occurrence.
The current bombardment of Gaza should be seen not as a stand alone event, but merely as part of a 60-year history of Israel’s attempt to exterminate Palestinians or drive them out of their own country. Israel is a racist state with laws that give Jews rights that no others have, thereby turning the Palestinians in Israel into second class citizens in their own land. Anyone in the world with at least one Jewish grandparent can become a citizen of Israel and yet the millions of Palestinian refugees driven from their homes when the state of Israel was declared are denied the right to return to their homeland.
The conflict is often portrayed as one between two sides with equal claims to the land and equally responsible for the ongoing conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth. Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel Palestinians had been the majority of the population and owned most of the land. For no good reason, other than guilt over the Holocaust, the new state of Israel was given more than half the land in Palestine, by the UN, to be part of Israel. From that point onwards Israel has been the aggressor, supplied by superpowers with weapons far outclassing anything the Palestinians have.
Israel now controls all of Palestine and brutally oppresses Palestinians in the West Bank, locked into tightly controlled ‘Bantustans’ while Gaza has become a giant prison for the collective punishment of its population for daring to elect Hamas over the more compliant Fatah political movement. The bombardment of Gaza in the last week is a perfect example of the overall situation. Caused by Israeli aggression 97% of the death toll so far is Palestinian and only around 3% are Israelis. Most of the Palestinians killed so far have been civilians, many of them children. The death toll is likely to increase greatly if Israel launches another ground assault. The last time they invaded Gaza, at the end of 2008, around 1,400 Palestinians lost their lives, compared to just 13 Israelis, 4 of whom were killed by friendly fire.
In New Zealand, we urgently need to build a movement in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and turn the issue of Palestinian liberation into the kind of cause that opposition to South African apartheid became in the 1970s and 1980s.
In Christchurch, a good place to start is coming along to the Middle East teach-in on December 1.