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Do the Palestinians not have the right to defend themselves?

May 17, 2021 at 11:11 am

Palestinian protesters rush off to avoid tear gas in the occupied West Bank, on May 16, 2021 [AAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]

Seventy-three years have passed since the Palestinian Nakba, the date when the self-proclaimed Zionist state of Israel declared its “independence”. The declaration followed massacres of Palestinians committed by “Jewish terrorist” gangs and the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 of those who survived.

No exact number of the victims of such massacres is possible because the world did not care enough to keep a record. Instead, recognition and care were lavished on the nascent rogue state. We do know, however, that more than 550 Palestinian towns and villages have since been wiped off the face of the earth by Israel to make way for Jews. The ethnic cleansing continues to this day.

All of this happened in front of the world’s media and politicians, most of whom support the racist oppressor state of Israel rather than those whom it oppresses, the Palestinians. No serious action to curb, let alone stop, Israel’s aggressive colonialism and violations against the Palestinians has ever been taken by the international community. Humanitarian rhetoric and meaningless condemnations are the best that the Palestinians have seen and heard.

Nakba Day 1948 - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Nakba Day 1948 – Cartoon [Carlos Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

This year’s Nakba anniversary coincides with an ongoing brutal Israeli offensive across all of occupied Palestine: the land occupied in 1948 — Israel — as well as the territories occupied in 1967 which consist of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In Israel itself, the Palestinians are being subject to racist attack by far-right groups such as Lehava and La Familia, which are being backed and protected by the Israeli police. Several Palestinian citizens of the state have been killed and dozens have been wounded. What was their “crime”? They took to the streets in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, who are being threatened with forced displacement and their homes being handed over to illegal Jewish settlers.

In the occupied West Bank, the Israeli occupation forces have cracked down with excessive violence on protesters on the streets in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, who are once again facing the might of the Israeli army, air force and navy in yet another brutal offensive. Official Palestinian sources put the West Bank death toll at 12, with hundreds wounded, 14 of whom are in critical condition.

The Palestinian families facing expulsion from their homes in occupied Jerusalem are up against a fake legal process led by settler organisations with forged documentation. The Israeli legal system is all too happy to oblige these racist thugs.

OPINION: Palestinians have a right to defend themselves

Moreover, Israel continues to impose tight restrictions on the Palestinians who want to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The whole world must by now have seen the video images of the police and soldiers forcing their way into the sacred mosque and firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets at worshippers inside.

The bombardment of the already besieged Gaza Strip, meanwhile, has lasted for six consecutive days and nights. As of Sunday evening, the death toll was 197 people, including 58 children and 34 women, with 1,230 injured. Entire families were killed by the Israeli attacks on residential areas. Two mothers and their eight children were killed when Israel bombed their home while claiming that it had targeted “terrorists”.

We should be surprised, but we’re not. This is the norm for Israel, not least because Western support for the occupation state means that it can act with impunity. In short, it can continue to get away, quite literally, with murder. This is what the people of occupied Palestine have had to put up with for more than seventy years while the international community sits on the sidelines and wrings its hands and proclaims support for freedom and democracy but ultimately does nothing to protect the Palestinians. Those in the Diaspora are left to rot in overcrowded refugee camps and lack access to even basic human rights.

Why, then, is anyone surprised that the Palestinians have decided to take matters into their own hands? The Oslo-created Palestinian Authority is shackled by the 1993 Accords and helpless; its role is to provide security cover for Israel in the occupied territories. Into the vacuum created by the PA’s complicity with the occupier, has stepped the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. Denounced as a “terrorist” organisation by the same governments which support Israel’s unbridled violence against the people of Palestine, Hamas nevertheless won the only free and fair democratic election that the Palestinians have been allowed to hold. Its election victory in 2006 was rejected by Israel and its lackeys in the West — and, it must be said, the Fatah-led PA — which imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip. Hamas has gone on to bring all the resistance factions into one body known as the Joint Room to coordinate the military wings of the movements.

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Before launching any rockets at Israel, Hamas called for the occupation state to stop its attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and refrain from expelling Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Israel ignored the Hamas appeal, so the movement repeated it to the international community, asking the world to intervene and stop the Israeli aggression. The international community ignored the whole issue. Only when Hamas, through the Joint Room, acted in defence of the Palestinian civilians being attacked so brutally by Israel did the world sit up and take notice, and dutifully condemned “Hamas terrorists” while offering unquestioned support for Israel’s murderous “self-defence” war crimes.

According to the White House, US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks. “He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people,” said Washington. This was a genocidal colonial state offering support for another genocidal colonial state, while ignoring the facts and riding roughshod over international law. The reality is that Israel has no “legitimate right to defend itself”.

The law about resistance is very clear: UN Resolution 37/43, dated 3 December 1982, “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” Palestinian resistance movements are not, therefore, “terrorists”. It is their resistance to Israel’s occupation that is entirely legitimate, not Israel’s “self-defence”.

The American’s must think that we are all stupid. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for example, claimed that, “Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties.” This was while Israel continues to drop bombs on heavily-populated civilian areas in Gaza, killing men, women and children indiscriminately and destroying civilian infrastructure. Blinken’s pathetic attempt to whitewash Israel’s war crimes followed his boss’s overt support for them, all in the name of “self-defence”, even though there is no such thing in law as “self-defence” for occupation states such as Israel.

Netanyahu is reported to have said: “I would like to say a word of appreciation to my friend President Biden and to other friends – the President of France, the British Prime Minister, the Chancellor of Austria, the Chancellor of Germany and others. They have upheld our natural and self-evident right to defend ourselves, to act in self-defence against these terrorists who both attack civilians and hide behind civilians.” He’s a liar as well as a war criminal, and those backing him are complicit in his crimes.

OPINION: What are the Palestinians to do to secure their rights now that they are not entitled to self-defence?

Furthermore, why do these self-righteous world leaders who “uphold” the non-existent “right” of self-defence” for an occupation state not also talk of the very real right to resist such occupation and act in self-defence for the people facing an existential threat from the state of Israel for more than seven decades? Why is the Palestinians’ legitimate resistance denounced as “terrorism”? Do they not have the right to defend themselves against the occupying power and its military might?

Western support for Israel is the stuff of dictatorships and oppression. The international community is lying when it says that it wants “peace” for Israelis and Palestinians. What that means is that it wants the Israelis to do and have whatever they want, while the Palestinians must keep quiet and fade away. The stench of this hypocrisy is overwhelming. Real peace will only be achieved when the world stops demonising the Palestinians and their legitimate resistance and stops whitewashing Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.