100 years of ethnic cleansing: Quo Vadis Palestine

Oct 17, 2023
Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023

Israel has spoken of “erasing Gaza”. Don’t turn away. Stop. And think about what that might mean.

It is important for us to see what is happening here. The wider context must be understood to enable decisions to be made that are correct.

And so, the wider context. This current crisis did not start on 7 October. Can I quote from a statement issued by a group of academics at the Harvard Divinity School. The Statement was published on 11 October.

“Start with the rockets fired into Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023 and not with the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israel and the blockade of Gaza since 2007, and you have an entirely different story. …..

When these ‘decades of oppression’ are left out of the story about Hamas’ horrendous attack on Israeli civilians, a narrative about an ‘innocent’ state of Israel’s right to ‘defend’ itself against supposedly ‘unprovoked’ aggression is legitimised. The reality is much more complex, and that complexity must be confronted if there is any chance to avoid endless cycles of dehumanisation, destruction and death”.

This present conflict commenced a hundred years ago with the British decision to give another people’s (Palestinians’) land to a third party, European Jews. And please, don’t retort that it was not the Palestinian’s land – because God gave it to the Jews.

Over that last 100 years there has been a steady story of gradual ethnic cleansing. Israel has waged war on Palestinians for decades. The task has been to rid the land of its Arab population. At the same time the task has been to extend the land over which the Jewish colonial settlers have control. The Netanyahu government has expressed it in this binding guideline: “the Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel”. To the extent that there cannot be exclusivity, Israel’s aim is to impose ethnic supremacy.

And so, we now arrive at October 7 2023. I cannot verify the details of what happened at the kibbutz to the west of Gaza. Something clearly did, and Palestinian militants were involved. Whatever happened, I have no doubt that it was the result of the build-up of year after year of repression by Israel. The perpetrators may have been crazed, but crazed by unbearable levels of injustice and oppression, and more immediately, recent Israeli aggression against the al-Aqsa Mosque.

From there the propaganda express leapt to the fore. Israel has the right to defend itself against an unprovoked attack. “Unprovoked’? it was provoked in the commonsense meaning of the term. It was a response to the conditions that Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere have faced for decades.

But certainly, Israel will clearly use the opportunity to do a bit more of both its ethnic cleansing, and its land grabs. Consider the following: Israel has spoken of “erasing Gaza” – just think about what that might mean. Israel has made it clear that it’s plan is to make life so intolerable in Gaza that Gazans will have to flee to Egypt. Don’t be put off by the bombing of the Rafa crossing into Egypt (which has occurred). When the time is right Israel will facilitate such crossing. Note that the flight must be to Egypt and not the West Bank. Israel definitely doesn’t want more Palestinians there. Egypt is good, Israel can prevent return from there. And as far as the West Bank is concerned, Amira Hass, writing for Haaretz, has drawn attention to the fact that the international media is ignoring the escalation by Israeli settlers, over the last week, of attacks against Palestinian herders and farmers in order to expel more communities from their land and homes. The plan is simply to make Palestinians disappear.

But returning to Gaza: on Friday last the Israeli military told 1.1 million Gazans to move to the south from northern Gaza within 24 hours. Israel intends to re-occupy this area, in the order of half of Gaza. The world should understand that Israel has no intention of ever allowing the inhabitants of the area to return – ever. This is just another, simple, land grab.

Israel is concerned that the world will consider that its actions in Gaza will be seen as collective punishment – going beyond a response to Hamas so as to punish innocent Palestinians not connected with Hamas. Ergo, Israel’s president Isaac Herzog has come out on Friday and claimed that ordinary Palestinians in Gaza were collectively responsible for the October 7 attack. He asserts that they could have risen up and fought the Hamas regime.

I must say that I accept some truth in this statement. I believe the Palestinian people of Gaza do support their government, known as Hamas.

But there is another, darker, side to this argument: if Israel’s President holds that Palestinians in Gaza are collectively responsible for Hamas’ actions and not innocent civilians, then the Israeli citizens present in the subject kibbutz could not be innocent either. They would be no more innocent than the illegal settlers in the West Bank, and the electors of the current right wing Israeli government, and former Israeli governments, which have established the apartheid regime throughout the land of Palestine.

We cannot turn away from Herzog’s dark logic. But stare at it unflinchingly and see it for what it is.

I might add that Israel has been able to so establish its apartheid regime with the support of the West, including Australia. I am afraid that we, every Australian citizen, is an accomplice, consequent upon the failure of our current government, and former governments, to act to end the occupation. Such failure is most apparent today, when our Labor government insists on ignoring the resolutions from its recent party conferences, that a Labor government, i.e. this current Australian government, recognise Palestine as a state forthwith.

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