At the start of the colonial era, the imperial powers not only seized natural and human resources, but also sought to occupy time, space and minds. Those who were colonised learned to resist the daily oppression, though, and from the second half of the 20th century onwards, a snowball effect led to resistance becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Today’s situation in the occupied Palestinian territories follows a similar pattern. Gaza, the most densely populated place in the world, is hemmed in on three sides by a fortified fence, and on the other by a naval siege; 2,3 million people are squeezed into an area of just 365 square kilometres. This is the largest open-air prison in history.
And just like any other prison, no matter how impregnable, prisoners will always try to escape. On 7 October, a daring and unique prison break grabbed the headlines, turning the news cycle upside down: This was not an Israeli attack on Palestinians in Gaza; it was an attack by Palestinians from Gaza against Israel.
When people see aggression, they generally empathise with the oppressed. On this occasion, the oppressor is eager to play the victim. Playing the victim has been a winning ticket for Israel for decades, ensuring Western military, political and economic aid.
Another despicable truth is that Western media, while acting as mouthpieces for governments which preach to the world about human rights and democratic values, have, more often than not, sided with the occupiers. Then all principles are turned upside down: the right to self-defence is obfuscated, and there are “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. Meanwhile, international law is not worth the paper it is written on.
Israel has systematically expanded its occupation in defiance of international law and in violation of the agreements it has signed. It has continued its settler-colonialism with no respect for the 1967 borders (actually the 1949 Armistice — “Green” — Line) and the Oslo Accords. The occupation state has done this by killing Palestinian civilians daily through direct force of arms and obscuring the meaning of “civilian” and “non-combatant”, thus breaking one of the basic fundamental rules of war. Armed Jewish settlers are enabled to attack Palestinian civilians and their property. The UN has recognised Israel’s violation of international law, but no sanctions have followed.
The video of an Israeli settler seizing his Palestinian neighbour’s house on the basis that, “If I don’t steal your home, someone else will steal it” went viral. Footage of other illegal settlers attacking a church or burning Palestinian olive groves is common, and rarely, if ever, makes the news cycle.
Israel has built an apartheid regime in which Palestinians are consigned to ghettos. Human rights seem to be for everyone except the Palestinians. This year alone, 257 Palestinians, including children, have been killed by Israeli forces. That was before last Saturday kick-started another Israeli bombardment of residential areas in Gaza.
Gaza has been under blockade since 2007. The enclave’s electricity and water supplies — in fact, supplies of everything — are under Israeli control, and the people are being brought to their knees by the shortages of the basic necessities. Israel has carried out four major military offensives against the Palestinians in Gaza since 2008. Thousands of civilians have been killed in these and other Israeli attacks. The occupation state’s indiscriminate and aggressive terrorism remains relentless.
Palestinians are a people living under Israel’s brutal military occupation. They have a legitimate right to act in self-defence, but this is muddied by allegations of “terrorism”. Again, international law is ignored by Western politicians and media.
Palestinians turn to resistance because they see that this is the only way for them to get their rights
Mustafa Barghouti, a left-leaning Palestinian activist who serves as General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, told CNN’s Farid Zakariya: “So, of course, Palestinians turn to resistance because they see that this is the only way for them to get their rights. The question here is not about dehumanising Palestinians and calling them terrorists. It also about the question why the US supports Ukraine in fighting what they call occupation, while here they are supporting the occupier who continues to occupy us.”
While official buildings in Western capitals fly Israeli flags, Israel is bombing homes in Gaza and killing civilians. Western decision-makers, it seems, have no interest in long-term peace and stability. They can’t — or won’t — see beyond the current hostilities. This kind of approach is their Achilles heel; they fail to contextualise issues and want only to manipulate situations for their own interests.
Locking people in a cage and then expecting them not to react or resist is ridiculous. It is time to tear down the watchtowers monitoring Gaza, and time to tear down the ivory towers policing the minds of freedom-loving people worldwide and work for a fairer and more just world. And Palestine would be a great place to begin.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.