The current “crisis” faced by the people in occupied Gaza is a matter of degree. Since the farce “disengagement” last summer, and particularly since they elected Hamas to lead them, Palestinians have been under a near total Israeli siege, backed fully by the so-called “international community” which has shamefully abandoned its responsibilities towards an occupied population.
Now they face a more intense onslaught, with Israel bombing civilian infrastructure, including electricity, bridges and Palestinian Authority ministries. Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes under direct threat from Israel that it will bomb them if they don’t.
The latest events underscore both Israel’s true intentions and their futility. Israel never really wanted to set the people of Gaza free, merely to move the occupation to the edge, bombing and shelling them whenever they fail to do its bidding. Yet for all the brutality of Israel’s attacks on Gaza’s people, they have not buckled or wavered. They have stood firmly for their rights and behind the authority they elected.
Israel’s pretext for its current onslaught is the “kidnapping” of a soldier. What happened though was that after weeks of Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians, including the infamous beach massacre, Palestinian resistance forces carried out a planned operation against an occupation military base near Gaza. In the battle there were losses on both sides, and one Israeli soldier was taken prisoner. No matter how strongly one opposes violence, this can by no means be described as “terrorism”. People see it as an act of legitimate resistance which international law permits.
But even if we accept the warped Israeli logic that the capture of a combat soldier allows it to exact revenge against one and a half million civilians, then we could ask how many wars the Palestinians would be entitled to wage against Israel just for the civilian death toll of the last month, let alone the six decades of Zionist aggression and dispossession. How many wars should the Palestinians wage on behalf of the thousands of political prisoners kidnapped by the occupation, including now eight Cabinet ministers and one quarter of the Palestinian Legislative Council?
Yet the blame does not fall only on Israel, but also on the “international community” — the US, the EU and a few other states who have arrogated to themselves this label.
The US explicitly endorsed Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians, which is strictly prohibited by international law, as “self-defence”. The EU, always silent about Israel’s kidnapping of Palestinians, called for the immediate and unconditional release of the occupation soldier, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan bleated a few noises about “restraint” on both sides.
Israel’s lethal outburst in Gaza cannot seriously be intended to free the prisoner of war. Israeli leaders must know that if anything, their actions endanger his life. Rather, its actions reflect a mixture of sheer panic and the realisation that Israel has run out of options to subdue the native population it has tried for so long and so unsuccessfully to crush and make disappear.
There is now nothing that Israel has not tried that the apartheid government of South Africa did not attempt when faced with the same situation. Except that Israel has gone far beyond the atrocities of the apartheid regime which never used assassination and extrajudicial execution so routinely and openly, which never established whites-only roads, and which never attempted to wall the black population into concrete ghettos.
Yet all of Israel’s fanatical extremism is failing. It built high walls, and Palestinians tunnelled under them or sent largely harmless but terrifying rockets over them. They instituted checkpoints, but Palestinians get around them. They established racist laws to try to restrict the growth of the Palestinian population in occupied Jerusalem, but the Palestinian population continues to grow.
From the start of the Zionist project to turn an Arab, Muslim and Christian country into a European Jewish country, Zionist leaders calculated that the Arabs would simply melt away. Yet even after waves of ethnic cleansing, the “Jewish state” is faced with the unpalatable reality that there are not only more Palestinians in Palestine than ever before, but they once again outnumber the Jewish population. Israel is an ethnic minority regime trying to preserve its power and privilege against the will of the majority population.
Wise Israelis should, and probably do, recognise that this is a hopeless cause. All the might in the world will not suppress a people’s will to be free, to live in dignity and to achieve equality. The capture of the soldier only underscores that; Palestinians know full well what Israel is capable of doing to them, but despite the calls for capitulation, there are indications that the vast majority of Palestinians opposes releasing the soldier unless Palestinian hostages and prisoners held by the occupation regime are also released.
The Israeli leaders may feel comfortable, even encouraged by either the silence or the soothing reactions to their aggression, expressing understanding of Israeli “concerns”. They should avoid self-deception by looking beyond the whines of hypocrisy, appeasement, cowardice and intimidation. They should recognise that their deeds are taking them deeper into the abyss of immorality, lawlessness and violation of all norms of human behaviour, and that they are occupying the top place on the list of those who pose the greatest danger to world peace.
No nation can behave in this manner forever and be sure of respect or security, or even survival. How could this behaviour stop anyone from asking whether Israel is choosing the path of self-destruction.
EI contributor Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This article first appeared in The Jordan Times.