- The Guardian
- Issue #2075
Israel stands condemned for its brutal aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and the genocide and scorched earth war against them. The Australian government must cease its support for Israel and respect the rights of the Palestinian people to defend their lands and people in the face of Israeli occupation.
Israel has imposed a full blockade on Gaza, and ordered more than one million fear-stricken Palestinians in the north to leave their homes and flee south. The north includes Gaza City, with 750,000 residents. It also includes the Jabalia and al-Shati refugee camps and Gaza’s main hospital, which has been bombed with the loss of hundreds of lives. Nowhere in Gaza is safe.
Israeli military forces are amassed on the border with Gaza in readiness to carry out a ground invasion. The death toll in Gaza is continuing to rise under constant bombardment by Israel. Nearly 600 children are already dead.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was forced to close 14 food distribution centres leaving half a million people without food relief. Hospitals, schools, the headquarters of the Civil Emergency and Ambulance Service in Gaza City, and other infrastructure and homes are amongst the targets. Power and water have been cut by Israel with a blockade preventing the entry of food and medicine. Overcrowded hospitals are running out of fuel for their generators.
A humanitarian crisis of major proportions is playing out as a result of Israel’s attempted genocide.
Apart from the US and its pro-Israel allies, there is strong and growing international condemnation of Israel’s declaration of war and subsequent massacre of Palestinian people in Gaza.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are holding demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people.
At the same time there is a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe.
In Australia thousands of people took part in peaceful protest actions with speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities – all united in opposition to Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands.
Anti-Semitism was denounced, as was the behaviour of a small group at the Opera House who chanted anti-Semitic slogans. Islamophobia, which is on the rise, was also denounced.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is rapidly deteriorating. Israel refused to open the border with Egypt to allow the entry of aid or the exit of Palestinians and foreign nationals.
Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories – occupied by Israel since its invasion in 1967 – warned that “There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale.”
The Nakba – ‘catastrophe’ – in 1948 saw an estimated 750,000 Palestinians forced from their homes, 15,000 killed by the British and Zionist forces, and the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land. More than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed.
The 1967 six-day war (Naksa) saw further incursions by the Zionist forces who seized the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan Heights, and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.
Israel has steadfastly refused to comply with UN resolutions calling for a return to the pre-1967 borders and a two-state solution with a Palestinian state based on Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem as its capital.
The major stumbling blocks to carrying out UN resolutions are the US and Zionist Israel.
Palestine is a colonised entity, occupied and blockaded by Israel, and often described as the largest open air prison in the world. Israel is an apartheid state with Palestinians living within its borders denied the same rights as Jewish citizens.
Generations of Palestinians have been subjected to human rights violations and persecution. Armed Israeli settlers continue to drive Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, murdering them, seizing their land, and establishing illegal settlements.
In more recent times Israel has launched four protracted military assaults on Gaza: in 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021. Thousands more of Palestinians were killed, including many children, and tens of thousands of homes, schools and office buildings were destroyed.
Hamas’ attack killing civilians must be condemned, but it should not come as a surprise. The situation was and remains dire in the occupied territories.
Israel has a record of collective punishment.
Collective punishment is action taken against a group, in this instance innocent citizens, in retaliation to the actions of others. It is a breach of the Geneva Convention, and a serious war crime.
Israel’s responses are way out of proportion to Hamas’ actions, as innocent people including children suffer and die and lose everything.
Israel’s leaders do not see Palestinians as humans worthy of a life or human rights. Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant calls them “human animals” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses the term “human beasts.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said “We will break their backbone.”
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid and is a nuclear weapons state. Up to February 2022 Israel had received US$150 billion in aid from the US. At present billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from the US are flowing into Israel.
The US Defence Secretary, during his visit to Israel, told the Israeli Prime Minister: “Make no mistake, the United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.” He said the US “will continue to coordinate closely with Israel to help secure the release of the innocent men, women, and children in the clutches of Hamas, including American citizens.”
Israel, the most powerful military force in the Middle East, is the military arm of US imperialism in the region.
Israel’s extreme right-wing government may well be using Hamas’ attack to progress its Zionist policy of Greater Israel with a full-scale occupation forcing Palestinians from their lands in the north of Gaza and possibly also in the West Bank.
Greater Israel is a one-state ‘solution’ – a state of Israel and complete dispossession of Palestinians.
Any criticism of Zionism or Israel’s actions is portrayed as anti-Semitism by the Zionists. It is not. Zionism is a political ideology that strives for Greater Israel. Anti-Semitism is an attack on Jewish people because they are Jewish. Many Jews have joined the protests in support of the Palestinians. Many oppose Zionism.
RISK OF ESCALATION
There is a risk of the war escalating beyond the present borders into Iran, Lebanon and Syria. Already Israel has fired missiles into Syria and Lebanon.
Iran along with Russia and China are in the US’s sights for war. An all-out Middle Eastern war could see the US taking on Iran using Israel as its proxy.
The situation is extremely volatile, and the possibility of nuclear weapons being used is real.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Hamas had committed a “slaughter of innocent people” and declared immediate support for Israel and its “right to defend itself.”
What Albanese did not say, is that Israel would not need to defend itself if it complied with international law and UN resolutions, closed down the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories, and facilitated the creation of a Palestinian State.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong also said Israel has a right to defend itself. Apparently the Palestinians do not have the same right. As for the Israeli government’s orders for a total siege of the Gaza Strip she said it was difficult to judge from afar. Distance does not stop Wong from judging Hamas.
The exercise of the right to self-defence should comply with the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law, including ensuring the safety of civilians and detained individuals.
Chris Hedges writes that Western corporate-state media routinely describe the Palestinian resistance as terrorists while the Israeli system of repression is always cast as defensive. It is not: it is a slow suffocation, by one of the most powerful militaries on the planet, of an indigenous people’s rights, hopes, lives, freedoms and future.
The Australian government should call on Israel to cease collective punishment of the Palestinian people and prevent more innocent civilian casualties and the further risk of escalation.
It should press for the opening of borders, and organise medical, food, and other aid to save the lives of the wounded and provide relief to the displaced.
It should recognise the Palestinian state and promote that recognition at the United Nations.
Israel must end its occupation and stop the genocide it is inflicting on the Palestinians.