Israel launched yet another military offensive against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip last Friday. The initial target was an apartment in a high-rise residential building in Gaza City. Israeli missiles killed an Islamic Jihad commander along with several other civilians.
This unjustified Israeli attack on Gaza prompted Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions to hit back. They fired rockets towards Israeli cities and settlements near Gaza. Israel claimed that it wanted to deter the Palestinian factions from firing rockets at Israeli targets.
A quick scan of Israeli media reveals that writers and military analysts say that the Israeli occupation authorities spent a lot of time preparing last weekend’s offensive. The intention was to divide and weaken the Palestinian resistance factions.
The Gaza Strip does not pose any strategic threat to Israel’s security; it is a very small coastal enclave that can be — and is — controlled and choked very easily. This has been happening for sixteen years, with Israel and Egypt imposing a strict land, air and sea blockade; their intelligence agencies know everything going in or coming out.
It was no surprise, though, to see Israel pounding Gaza yet again in an endeavour to destroy infrastructure and kill civilians. This has become the norm. Innocent civilians are regarded as expendable in order to kill one or two key people.
What is largely missing from the debate focused on Israel’s “right to self-defence”, is the fact that all forms of resistance to a military occupation are legitimate under international law. “Self-defence” in such a situation is not. 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.”
The Israeli occupation authorities have given themselves the power to declare anyone who resists their brutal occupation to be a “terrorist” who can be chased down and killed extrajudicially; no arrest, no charge and no trial. This is the law of the jungle, unworthy of the alleged “only democracy in the Middle East”. International laws and conventions agree with this assessment, but nothing is done to make Israel accountable; it is allowed to act with impunity.
The bombing of a multi-storey residential building in a refugee camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on the second day of the offensive resulted in the death of at least seven people, including an alleged Islamic Jihad commander. The attack also destroyed dozens of other homes.
Even if we agree that an Islamic Jihad commander was a legitimate target — and I don’t; everyone deserves a fair trial —what were the civilians who were killed or wounded guilty of? This was, of course, another example of collective punishment by Israel, which is an “exceptionally serious war crime”.
Does anyone care? Obviously not. This didn’t, after all, happen in Ukraine. Where are the sanctions on Israel — for 70+ years of ethnic cleansing, massacres and violations of human rights — of the kind that were slapped on Russia within days of its invasion of Ukraine in February? The double standards are obvious. As Israel was killing civilians in Gaza, the hypocritical world just stood by and watched. And not for the first time.
“Every single escalation of violence in Gaza comes at the cost of ordinary people,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Middle East Regional Director Carsten Hansen. “…Innocent children and families have been caught up in the vicious circle of violence for as long as they can remember. Many in Gaza are still recovering— both psychologically and physically — from last year’s eleven-day crisis.”
However, the Biden administration in Washington, which has provided military and humanitarian aid worth billions of dollars to Ukraine, does not care about Gaza. Instead, it gives the apartheid state of Israel at least $3 billion in military aid every year. US President Joe Biden justified Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza by claiming that it was in “self-defence” That’s right, the “self-defence” lie that would not stand up in an international court of law. Naturally, the US Ambassador to Israel echoed Biden’s remarks: “The United States firmly believes that Israel has a right to protect itself.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss did the same: “The United Kingdom stands by Israel and its right to defend itself.” She turned a blind eye to the children being slaughtered in Gaza. “We condemn terrorists groups firing at civilians. We call for a swift end to the violence.” She did not see the Israeli missiles targeting homes and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, and even cemeteries.
Europe has largely remained silent in the face of Palestinian blood being spilt indiscriminately by Israel. It was as if there was nothing happening in Gaza. Are Europeans so inured to seeing Palestinians being slaughtered by Israel simply for rejecting the Zionist occupation of their land?
“The European Union follows with great concern the latest developments in and around Gaza,” said the bloc. “While Israel has the right to protect its civilian population, everything must be done to prevent a broader conflict, which would, first and foremost, affect the civilian populations on both sides and result in further casualties and more suffering.” Read between the lines and the message is clear: Israel can do what it wants because we will neither stop it nor punish it later. For the EU, the killing of 10 to 20 Palestinians a day was acceptable; it wasn’t part of a “broader conflict” which might — Europe’s secular god forbid — see Israelis getting killed and wounded.
“Not a word about the occupation,” commented Akiva Eldar, the political correspondent for Haaretz. “No trace of the Gaza Strip being the world’s largest prison, and not a blessed thing about Israel’s decision to pull the curtain on the political horizon.”
Surely, we thought, the people of Ukraine would empathise with the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of an occupying power? Not at all.
“As a Ukrainian, while our country is under brutal attack from a close neighbour, I feel great sympathy towards the Israeli public,” tweeted the Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel. He is feeling the brutal attacks of an aggressor against his people, but voices support for the aggressor against another people. What a hypocrite.
What about the Arab leaders? They profess “brotherhood” with the Palestinians, but either kept quiet or issued shy condemnation of the Israeli crimes. None of the “normalisation” regimes dared to sever their ties with the occupation state. Nor did they pledge a penny for their new best friend’s victims. Only the Qatar Red Crescent Society has pledged humanitarian aid.
The not so hidden consensus in the international community appears to be that the Palestinian people must be eradicated in order to let Israel’s settler-colonial occupation take over all of historic Palestine: Greater Israel is Zionism’s objective and nothing must stand in its way. Those states which do raise their voices in support of the Palestinians, but take no action against the occupation state, are compounding their hypocrisy. Shame on them.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.