SLAUGHTER IN GAZA

John Wight, Socialist Unity, Dec 27, 2008

Israel has unleashed hell on Gaza. At time of writing 200 men, women, and children are known to have been slaughtered in airstrikes using US supplied fighter aircraft. Over 300 are known to be injured, many of whom will undoubtedly die as a direct consequence of Israel’s ongoing siege, responsible for creating a dire shortage of basic medicines and leaving medical facilities in Gaza degraded and overwhelmed.

In the immediate aftermath of its latest attack on Gaza, the Israeli military issued a statement warning that this is only the beginning, that operations against Gaza will deepen, in a haunting reminder of the threat made earlier in the year by Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, who promised the Palestinians of Gaza a ‘shoah’ – or holocaust.

Surely now it is time to stop equivocating when it comes to this issue? Surely now the world must stand up and take action in response to what is the most sustained, barbaric, and brutal occupation in modern history, in a part of the world where crimes against humanity have been allowed to exist for too long under the guise of exceptionalism, victimhood, and democracy?

In response to Israel’s latest outrage, the usual round of supine statements calling for Hamas to stop rocket attacks against Israeli towns in resistance to the occupation of Palestinian land have been released from capitals throughout the West. And, yes, yet again the world is being regaled by claims from Israeli spokespeople and their supporters that an existential threat to Israel from Hamas and Palestinian terrorists lies at the root of the current crisis. It is a claim to the status of victim that has been repeated so often through the years of this perennial struggle it has assumed the status of received truth. It is a received truth which flies in the face of a history of ethnic cleansing and occupation.

As such, one of the most disgraceful aspects of this ongoing conflict is the way in which our mainstream media continues to present it as a struggle between two equal sides. In fact, on the contrary, wherever and whenever possible the media acquiesces in Israel’s role of victim, as a courageous little outpost of western civilisation in the midst of Arab hordes committed to its destruction.

Alarm bells should be set ringing when we hear such easy assertions being made by mainstream commentators and journalists. For we’ve been here before, haven’t we? In fact, the entire history of empire, colonialism, and imperialism is replete with oppressors attempting to portray themselves as victims and their victims as terrorists and savages that need to be either tamed, cleansed or subjugated; and, of course, always in the interests of security and stability.

Think British Empire, think Nazi occupation of Europe, think French and US occupation of Vietnam, think French occupation of Algeria, think British occupation of Ireland, think Israel’s occupation of Palestine – the same pattern emerges.

Among the aforementioned examples, the state of Israel has enjoyed something of an Indian summer in terms of its ability to continue to deny the Palestinians their national, civil, and human rights. This is largely due to the guilt which still pervades the upper reaches of European and US society over a European Holocaust in which the Palestinians played no part. This guilt has combined with strategic objectives – namely oil – to provide Israel with the economic aid which has enabled it to amass the fourth largest military in the world, a nuclear arsenal, and with it legitimacy for a state policy of ethnic cleansing.

That the Palestinians have managed to survive 60 years of occupation, expropriation, economic embargo, and state terror is testament to their courage and indomitability. But even a courageous people can only survive such brutality for so long without succumbing and being sent into the night, which is why now more than ever the campaign to boycott Israel must be stepped up in line with the call from Palestinian civil society.

A sobering thought to consider that 60 years ago 530 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed, and that 750,000 men, women, and children were forcibly expelled by Zionist terrorist organisations like the Stern Gang and Irgun in the process of 78 percent of historic Palestine being expropriated. The extent of this crime against an entire people reflected the horror of the crime committed by the Nazis which preceded it. Those who sought sanctuary in another’s land did so in the name of the victims of that holocaust. But perpetrators of crimes against humanity can never claim to act on behalf of victims of crimes against humanity. It is indeed a cruel irony of history that the victims of the genocide carried out by the Nazis are wedded to the victims of Israel’s barbarism which followed through a bond of human suffering that transcends ties of religion, race, or ethnicity.

The continued siege of 1.5 million human being in Gaza is biblical both in its scale and cruelty. Aided and abetted in the carrying out of this crime against civilians by the Egyptian government and the EU, Israel’s excuse for continuing the siege is continuing rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli towns adjacent, in particular the Israeli town of Sderot.

But here again we see the work of a generation of scholars in service to Israel and its interests in the rewriting of history. In the case of Sderot, a determined attempt has been made to suppress the fact that this is a town established on land where the Palestinian village of Najd once stood.

Najd’s inhabitants were forcibly expelled from their village on 13 May 1948 by the Negev Brigade of the then nascent Israeli army, before Israel was declared a state and before any Arab armies entered Palestine. Therefore, in accordance with UN Resolution 194, and also with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, Section 2, the villagers of Najd have a right of return to their homes.

The village of Najd was destroyed and settled by Zionists in 1951. It has been known ever since as the Israeli town of Sderot.

The history of the origins of Sderot is one repeated hundreds of times all over what is now the state of Israel. Therefore, the question a world interested in justice should be asking the Israeli government is a simple one:

Do the Palestinians have the right to exist?

As we await the answer to this question from the Israeli government and its supporters, all people of conscience and consciousness must answer the plea for solidarity from the long suffering Palestinians of Gaza.

Their cause is the cause of humanity in our time.

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