The time for solidarity with the beseiged and brutalised inhabitants of Gaza, the wider Palestinian people and their collective human right for an independent state, is now! It is time for the people of the Western world to summon the political will to demand a free Palestine. Che Guevara is credited with the following appeal for a revolutionary moral consciousness that is both personal and universal: “Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world”. And, the Palestinian tragedy is not just another unfairness in an unfair world: it is perhaps the defining injustice of the post-war world order. It is a wound that has festered since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.
Many people will tell you that the politics of the current conflict is complex; brows are furrowed, eyes are rolled, sighs are uttered, shoulders are shrugged. I recognise that the history is complex; all world history is nuanced and veined with conflicting interests. However, the morality of the Palestinian cause is crystal clear. The Palestinian people have been denied their human rights – systematically abused and oppressed for over seventy years. Paulo Friere is credited with the following insight: “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”. The imperative question of where we must stand is not complex at all.
The Hammas killings of Israeli citizens which lit the fuse for the current horror in Gaza is not excusable, but the genesis of it should be plain to anyone with eyes to see. Global geopolitics is also often not as complicated as we are led to believe. As dominant nation-states have always done, the colonial European powers (sometimes in concert but more often in conflict with one-another) imposed their political will across the globe in the nineteenth century.
The liberal democratic states of the twenty-first century are little different in that underneath the diplomatic niceties, geopolitics is a game of power. Human rights and social justice are routinely violated if the freedom under consideration clashes with the the strategic political interests of the powerful. This is why Biden was prepared the give the Netanyu regime the green light to continue the aerial slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. It is sickening to be so graphically reminded of this chilling political reality.
Israel was established as an independent nation state for the Jewish people. The Jewish diaspora was displaced across the Mediterannean, Europe and further afield over a long period of historical time. The Zionist religious and political movement which demanded ‘a returning’ to a Jewish homeland of biblical narrative coalesed with the horror, revulsion and guilt generated by the Nazi Holocast. Britain was the old colonial authority which administered Palestine up until 1948. Britain endorsed the Zionist homeland vision in 1917 for a variety of strategic political reasons but it was the new dominant world power, the USA, which drove the partition of Palestine.
The logistical problem with the creation of a new state – as with the entire colonial project – is the existence of people who already populate the land in question: the Palestinian people in this case.
Globally coloniality has generated genocidal policies and practices of all shades and the Israel project is no exception. The scale of oppression, discrimination and social suffering visited upon Palestine has been as immense as it is ironic, given that the crime of systematic genocide fueled the moral justification for an Israeli state.
Palestinians refer to the period leading to and immediately following the establishment of Israel as the Nakba (catastrophe). Around 700,000 people were driven from homes, land and livelihoods. Many found shelter in refugee camps, many of which still exist today. Other camps date from the 1967 Six Day war and the subsequent annexation of the Gaza strip. This is the foundational injustice that sits at the root of the Palestinian cause. It is a humanitarian crime that has been echoed and repeated in various ways for the last seven or eight decades and it is an injustice that the Westerm powers, particularly the U.S, seem to have little or no interest in addressing. The world is watching as bombs reign down and Gaza suffers in a rain of fire, blood, rubble and dust.
It is imporant to understand that this conflict is not fundamentally a ‘war’ between opposing powers with differences of religion and political ideology. It is a struggle driven by the resistance of a subjugated people, a struggle against the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. It is militarily one-sided. Mind boggling sums of U.S money have been pumped into the Israeli military over time. The armed wing of Hamas don’t have any planes or tanks. Curently there is war ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ Gaza, although a ground invasion appears imminent. It is an exercise in collective punishment, terror and control. The current right-wing Zionist government has no desire for a sovereign Palestinian nation and the U.S supports Israel unconditionally because of the way that it perceives its own strategic political interests. The Netanyahu government endorses and supports the ongoing forced theft of Palestinian land by Israeli settlers.
Since 1967 the policing of Gaza and the separate Palestinian enclave of the West Bank has grown tighter, more violent and more sophisticated with each new eruption of resistance. Gaza is the most densely populated place on Earth. It has effectively become a huge walled open-air prison and, as I write, the Israel airforce are essentially blowing up human fish in a barrell. It is as unconscionable as it is inhumane but it is happening. We are watching it. If we do nothing we are condoning it. Half of Gaza’s population are children; children who have only known the oppression of occupation.
Military dominance and a securitised hyper-vigilant, hyper-armed Israeli military can’t be a recipe for peace and justice. You can’t kill a nation. To date the response of the West has been worse than pathetic. Palestine must have its nation-hood and the world has to find a way. Solidarity with Palestine is growing amongst people, if not governments, around the world. We do not have to be passive observers. We can all do something and we must. Channel your outrage constructively good people. T’is time to be counted: we need to collectively demand more than a nineteenth century response to the defining injustice of our time. There must be an end to the occupation, but first stop the killing: support the demand for a ceasefire NOW !
#Sign the petition demanding action from the New Zealand government in support of an immediate ceasefire and pass this on to your networks.
Image credit : Steve Rhodes