Israel’s Onslaught on Gaza Is Not Self-Defence

    Israel’s War on Gaza shows no signs of abating. Hospitals, nursing homes, mosques, churches, and residential areas have been regularly targeted. Multiple families have been entirely wiped from the civil record. In this nightmarish situation, the blindness of the Western world that claims its attachment to liberal values while whitewashing one of the cruellest chapters of siege starvation in history is staggering. Over the past two weeks, Israel’s actions have far surpassed what could qualify as warfare, necessitating new qualifiers. It is a collective annihilation project backed by the Western powers amid deaf silence from the international community.

    The positions of the United States, The EU, and several European countries in this tragedy are worth examining. Both President Biden and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, continue to encourage and support Israel’s terrorism machine with their statements on the one hand while giving lip service to the humanitarian dimension of the conflict, issuing shallow comments such as civilians affected by terrorism need to be protected. Beyond the absurdity of the statements, their unconditional and total support of Israel is what matters most. The rest is relegated to rhetorical gymnastics destined to function as a balm for the increasingly vocal opposition against this blanket backing.

    Another absurdity shaping Western narratives is the enduring reference to democracy. While examples of the involvement of the Israeli military in recurrent war crimes and systematic violations of international law abound, the Western media try to absolve the Israelis from such despicable acts under the pretence it is a democracy. If Israel did not act as an Apartheid state, dispossessing, confining, forcibly separating, and subjugating Palestinians by virtue of their identity, the Israel/Palestine conflict would have taken a different trajectory. 

    Other narratives try to rewrite history and claim that what occurred on October 7, 2023, was unprecedented and changed the circumstances completely, as if the Israelis did not squeeze the Palestinians until their pips squeaked. The latter have been subjected for decades to systematic oppression and apartheid policies for years in Sheikh Jarrah, Jenin, Balata, and dozens of other refugee camps. 

    Western statements are almost identical, and all aspire to give a fake facade of empathy. But who will be fooled by such declarations? Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity are not an unexpected outcome; they have been recurring for decades. These actions are not the result; they are the cause. The brutality at the heart of these actions, concealed under the guise of self-defence, is not recent. It is long rooted in Israel’s way of war. Noam Chomsky’s renowned work, “The Fateful Triangle,” includes a section on Israel’s military doctrine that embraces attacks on civilians. The book cites a passage from Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion’s Independence War Diary, dated January 1, 1948:

    “There is no question as to whether a reaction is necessary or not. The question is only time and place. Blowing up a house is not enough. What is necessary is cruel and strong reactions. We need precision in time, place and casualties. If we know the family— [we must] strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise, the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action, there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent. Where there was no attack—we should not strike.”

    These words still reverberate as Tsahal bombards Gaza indiscriminately. The purpose is an en masse extermination of the Palestinian lands with no identity and collective memory left behind. 

    While this brutality continues, Israel’s oft-used pretext for obliterating Gaza is done in the name of counterterrorism. Such pretexts are reminiscent of the statement of an American major at the Battle of Bến Tre during the Vietnam War, who told Peter Arnett, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

    The Netanyahu government hopes to transfer the Palestinians of Gaza elsewhere because ordering 1.1 million Palestinians to move south in Gaza or risk becoming clear targets indicates the cunning desire to push them somewhere else like the Sinai Peninsula. The Israeli infantry forces have no appetite for ground operations, and the Israeli leadership hopes to uproot as many Gazans as possible under the threat of the impending ground invasion.  

    The playbook has been the same since the 1948 Nakba. First, depopulation through eviction from their lands, followed by periodic mass “resettlement” tactics, and finally, confining the remaining population to an open-air prison, cut off from the outside world. In existing camps and the ones planned, the meaning of death has lost its significance, echoing the words of Hannah Arendt, who wrote about the Nazi concentration camps. Ironically, the prisoners of yesteryear have become jailers and torturers. 

    Meanwhile, as the days go by in Gaza, each day is worse than the preceding day, and every week, there is a new batch of more bad news. Israel’s actions are not self-defence. It is an outburst of blind fury channelled to conduct a long-engineered erasure of the Palestinian people.

    This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the website Politics Today.

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