By Ameer Ali –
“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” ~ Nelson Mandela
“The Pacifist thinks that the alternative to war is peace; it is not. Sometimes the alternative is oppression. Sometimes certain God-given rights and liberties can be preserved only by resistance to that which would destroy them. And to defend certain basic God-given rights is not immoral but righteous” ~ Peter John Sheen 1895-1979, Bishop of American Catholic Church
“National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood of the people, commonwealth: whatever may the heading used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon” ~ Frantz Fannon
The moment Netanyahu decided to bomb Gaza in response to rocket attacks by Hamas, President Joe Biden announced at once that Israel had the right to defend itself and that Hamas was a terrorist outfit and not a legitimate defender of Palestinians. The so-called Israel’s ‘right to defend’ mantra, repeated ad nauseum by US, its allies and their corporate media, and relayed after every Israeli incursion into Palestinian lands leaves out deliberately the other half this right i.e., Palestinians God-given right to be free from foreign occupation and oppression. None of the backers of Israel are prepared to even mention that part of the equation when they proclaim their policy on Middle East. It was therefore out of disappointment and exasperation at world leaders’ silence on Palestinian’s right to be freed that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was compelled to remind members of the General Assembly that the Hamas rocket attacks of October 7 did not come out of a vacuum. In their blind support to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, what US and its allies had done was to issue a carte blanche to Israel to pulverize that strip, cleanse it of ‘human animals’, ‘savages’ and ‘bottled cockroaches’, and prepare the ground for the eventual annexation of that land to realize Israel’s irredentist goal of Eretz Yisrael Hashlema or Greater Israel, which currently refers to the State of Israel and Palestinian territories.
Every country has a right to defend itself, and so does Israel. But does that right take away the rights of a people to free themselves from shackles of a foreign occupier who oppress and treat them like chattels and animals? That was the background which produced Israel’s ‘black day’ on 7 October. At least on four previous occasions, in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021, there had been Israeli military operations in Gaza which killed thousands of Palestinians including children. The difference between what happened then and on October 7 was that Hamas’ coordinated attacks took Israel’s defence by surprise. That horror was condemnable no doubt, but if that attack were to be called terrorism, then every freedom struggle in history had gone through episodes of terrorist violence.
Freedom is never granted by an occupier; it has to be fought and won. The entire history of anti-colonial struggle bears ample testimony to this undisputable fact. Freedom struggles had rarely been free of bloodshed. Even Gandhi’s satyagraha campaign in India had to witness intervals of bloody episodes. Over the last fifty-six years, when the Israeli army and Zionist settlers killed Palestinian children, dishonoured Palestinian women, tortured Palestinian men and destroyed their orchards and olive trees, the so-called civilized West looked the other way and considered that as collateral in Israel’s so-called ‘just war’ to defend itself. But what was left hidden in this justification was another undeclared war after September 11 to establish a US-led Middle East order in which Israel would be US’s Deputy Sherif to look after US interests. It is more than a coincident that Netanyahu named October 7 as Israel’s S11.
That the state of modern Israel was founded on a pack of lies and treacherous imperialist manoeuvres is too long a story to be repeated here. But when in 1937, Peel Commission recommended the partition of Mandatory Palestine, Ben Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first Prime Minister supported that recommendation and argued in a letter to his son, “this increase in possession is of consequence not only in itself, but because through it we increase our strength, and every increase in strength help in the possession of the land as a whole”. On another occasion he also spoke, “No Zionist can forgo the smallest portion of the Land of Israel. A Jewish state in part of Palestine, is not an end, but a beginning … Our possession is important not only for itself … through this we increase our power, and every increase in power facilitates getting hold of the country in its entirety” (Morris Benny, Righteous Victims: A History of a Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1998, Knopf 2011, p. 38). Thus, in the very foundation of the Zionist state the idea that its boundaries were not to remain static but would continue to expand until that state consumes the entire land of Palestine was ingrained.
Accordingly, the opportunity for the next expansion and to unmake the 1948 partition came in 1967. In the Yom Kippur War or Ramadhan War of that year Israel’s army overran the West bank and Gaza strip (the so-called Judea and Samaria) but they were not annexed, because annexation then would have made Israel a bi-national state and not a Jewish state. They therefore came to be known as occupied territories but Zionist settlements were encouraged. As the number of such settlements increased Israeli government adopted virtually an apartheid policy in administering those territories. While the West keeps on talking about an undefined two-state solution, Israeli Zionists are moving towards a single-state solution. If anything, October 7 had given Netanyahu and his far-right coalition the manna from heaven to annex Gaza, but only after cleansing that strip of Palestinians. Genocide and destruction are their means to accomplish that. Gaza is already split into two, the north and south, and the south is currently being emptied of its legitimate occupants, and Israeli settlers are causing mayhem in the West Bank. If Israel is not stopped the whole of Gaza would be turned into a land without Arabs to become a land with Zionists.
The program of Israelization of Gaza is being carried out under the watchful eyes and financial and military support of the super power US. On October 20, President Biden asked the Congress to approve a $106 billion miliary funds to Israel and Ukraine and another paltry $100 million for humanitarian aid to Gazans. Now there is news that he wants another $3.5 billion military funds entirely for Israel and that too in secrecy without the knowledge of the Congress. But to satisfy a world that is demanding an immediate stop to the war he has the timidity to say that there should be a “pause” for humanitarian aid to flow through to Gaza. Is there a better term to describe Biden’s theatric than to call it choreographed conspiracy?
What history witnesses today in Gaza and the West Bank is a cynical exercise in politically grading God-given rights. On the principle of might is right, Israel’s right to defend its elastic boundaries is considered more sacred than the right of Palestinians to live in freedom. Israel’s right to gun down Palestinians to defend its undefined borders is considered moral and virtuous while Palestinians firing rockets to win their liberation acts of terrorism and demonic. It is this double standard of a social contract that has condemned humanity to live everywhere in chains although born free, as Rousseau said.
The irony of Gaza’s unprecedented tragedy is the absolute surrender of Arab governments to US’s Middle East Order. The so-called Abrahamic Accord, which does not extend to Abrahamic values but only to Judo-Christian values, opens the gate to normalize relations with Israel. Therefore, the Arab rulers are not prepared to get directly involved in the current conflict by supporting Palestinian fighters, but are willing to join their US patron and call for a pause to allow humanitarian aid to pass through a narrow corridor to Gaza. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s $100 million urgent aid to Gaza is part of this comical generosity. But surprisingly, none of these states including Egypt, which lies next door to Gaza, are prepared to accommodate the millions of Gazans destined to be chased out by Israel’s military. To accommodate them would mean importing the Palestinian struggle into the jurisdiction of Arab states. It is worth reminding what Yasser Arafat said to a journalist in 1968 after hijacking and destroying an El-Al airplane. When he was asked how PLO would attack and destroy Israel, he said that it would be through the Gulf states. That fear is still haunting the rulers of Arab countries. None of them want to see Palestinians continuing their struggle from outside the occupied territories. Between the Israeli right to defend and Palestinian right to be free the Arab world is caught in a deadly dilemma.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, W. Australia