The picture above shows 4 children from a Palestinian family running for shelter on a beach in Gaza City. Seconds later they were killed by shelling from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
Just afterwards, Israeli officials declared that they were temporarily suspending strikes in Gaza for a five hour “humanitarian window”. The IDF, too, took to social media to ameliorate the backlash an ostensible war crime (terminology wholly absent from the discourse) would have; listing a variety of methods employed by them to minimize as far as possible civilian casualties, from the age old dropping of leaflets to phone calls and text messages sent to Gaza residents, to the new “Roof Knocking” procedure of sending non-lethal bombs to warn civilians to leave the vicinity of the attack radius. Even with these sophistications the IDF bombed those children, and continues to bomb innocent civilians, who according to UN estimates account for 77% of the victims.
All this comes after the failure of the Egyptian brokered ceasefire on Tuesday. Approved by the Israeli cabinet, Hamas rejected the offer, turning some heads in the international community.
Why did Hamas say no?
Perplexingly Hamas said that Egypt had never consulted it on the issue.
The relationship between the Sisi government in Egypt and Hamas was never going to genial. Morsi had been one of Hamas’s greatest allies in the Middle East; and when the Muslim Brotherhood were in power, Hamas had unfettered access to the 650-800 tunnels linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt–an indispensable life source not only for Gaza’s economy, but also the illicit arms trade. After Morsi was deposed, the military government took no prisoners in dismantling the tunnel trade. The Rafah bordering crossing with Egypt was also closed, shutting off much needed Qatari funding for Hamas. Although the text of the ceasefire agreement mentions that “crossings shall be opened”, it does not give a definite time frame for such an opening other than to say “once the security situation becomes stable on the ground.” As Egypt has a shared interest with Israel in combating the Palestinian Islamist group, with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood, it is not hard to entertain the idea that Hamas was not kept in complete correspondence in the stages of developing the ceasefire plan.
Several news sources also reported a schism between Hamas and it’s military wing, The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. With the military wing hell bent on continuing the missile attacks, while the political wing was considering a ceasefire deal. The political wing has recently showed signs of joining the peace process by forming a National Unity Government with Fatah and other Palestinian parties.
Israel has attempted to portray a people occupied for over a century by one force or another as terrorists for resisting the occupation. There is no doubt in any rational mind of the suffering endured by the Jews under the hands of the Third Reich, nor any miscomprehension of the scale at which it was endured. Antisemitism still exists whether as a backlash against Israel in Muslim-majority countries, or in the form of the general economic antisemitism that props up every now and then during economic downturns propelled by the view that the Jews control the world–an idea of which I can find no root.
But there is no justification granted in that same rational mind for a massacred people to occupy and oppress another group. Israel has the right to defend itself against attacks, but when those attacks are provoked by the policies of the Israeli government itself à la criminal detainment, blockades, settlement expansions into Palestinian territory, kangaroo courts, an apartheid population registry law and the seizing of Palestinian property one must wonder what Israel really wants.
In 1945, riots erupted in French Algeria in the market town of Sétif when French police fired on a local demonstration. The riotous mob went on to kill 103 French settlers:
“many of the corpses were appallingly mutilated: women with their breasts slashed off, men with their severed sexual organs stuffed into their mouths.”
There is no doubt a condemnation of the savagery of the crowd; but what was shocking was the response of the French military after the riots. An estimated 1,300 to a stunning 45,000 of the local Muslim population were massacred by the French military in reprisal attacks. It is not hard to see how these circumstances could have nurtured the young population into increasingly radical and militant methods at resisting French occupation. And it did, by September 1956, it became the official diktat of the FLN to attack civilians. One of their leaders, Ramdane Abane, even went so far as to say that “one corpse in a jacket is always worth more than twenty in uniform.”
These circumstances are repeated time and time again in instances of state terrorism. Whether after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal or after the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, which saw membership skyrocketing for the IRA.
In August 2003, six months into the U.S invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon screened “The Battle of Algiers”, Gillo Pontecorvo’s famous film on the conflict, with the tagline:
“How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas”
The French did, indeed, lose the war of ideas in Algeria; with all it’s military might it attempted to decimate the native Arab population into submission, but could never bring the Algerians to their knees. The FLN sustained it’s resistance against colonialism through the revolutionary tactics of urban guerrilla warfare and with popular support eventually gained independence. The U.S in Iraq, too, apparently did not heed the concerns of the Pentagon screening; crushing Saddam and the Baathists in 2003, it nevertheless failed in 8 years to stabilize the country; which now is teetering on the brink of collapse.
Many forget that Hamas enjoys popular support, and that in 2006 it won the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Who in their right mind would blame Palestinians facing daily horrors for electing into power a militant Islamist organization, whose means are not to be sympathized with but who nonetheless the population felt could get the job done. However, electing Hamas meant that Palestinians had voted the wrong way (at least according to the U.S and Israel) and needed to be punished. This meant sanctions from the Middle East Quartet: the cutting off of international aid, restricting the movement of goods into Palestine and the withholding of tax revenue collected by Israel for the Palestinian Authority. All this destabilized the Hamas government, eventually culminating in Hamas’s take over of Gaza, while Fatah held on to what was left of The West Bank.
All this was a brutal and overt subversion of democracy by two nations who claim to be the ideological defenders of it. Once again proving that internal “democracy” does not in any way upend a foreign policy of mass murder.
These recent attacks which have killed by latest estimates 265 people will undoubtedly aide the extremist factions in Palestine. One cannot even muse about dis proportionality when a Nuclear-armed, U.S sponsored juggernaut starts bombing what is an al fresco concentration camp; the Gazans are denied even the basic necessities for sustaining themselves in their chains due to Israel’s blockade of the Strip.
This is not the first time Israel has bombarded Gaza, nor have the recent attacks inflicted the most damage. As the world heralded the New Year 2009, Israel had managed to kill 1,417 Gazans within the space of 3 weeks. A humanitarian crisis ensued, Gaza’s infrastructure was pulverized and Hamas was considered to be in it’s death throes. But, what Israel did not perceive was that the estimated 1.8 million Palestinians living in a densely populated Gaza would re-spawn time and time again, more radicalized and militant than the last time.
The lack of distinction between legitimate forms of resistance and terrorism on the part of Israel has the effect of blending these two methods beyond recognition. A suicide bombing in a busy market place is no doubt a crime against humanity, but a suicide bombing at an occupying military check post is a legitimate form of violent resistance against a colonial racist regime. One must resist the compulsion to identify all Gazans as a monolith, and recognize that there is a deeper trend that runs within the population of resisting Israeli occupation.
“The both sides are wrong” discourse misses a very crucial fact. As the Jacobin correctly points out:
“….only one side has bombed a hospital for the disabled and destroyed a place of worship. It was that same side who on July 9 killed a pregnant woman and her one-year-old daughter and then on July 11 killed two civilian municipal workers in a refugee camp, killed nine civilians watching a soccer game, and “fired four missiles targeting the fifth and sixth floors of a hospital.”
In every instance of conflict the burden of responsibility falls upon the powerful, in this case Israel, to deescalate the conflict.
Israel’s recent rejection of the Palestinian Unity Government because it considered Hamas a terrorist organization, and the recent ground offensive proves that the Netanyahu government is unwilling to put diplomacy before the military option
Israel will continue to breach international law and commit war crimes in its quest to quell the “terrorists”, but as history shows: Terror will inevitably breed terror. And terror riding the crest of popular support is a force tyrants have forever dreamt of.