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Israel’s rules of engagement in its war in Gaza exceed all red lines

October 24, 2023 at 5:15 pm

Israeli soldiers take part in a military drill aboard Merkava tanks on October 24, 2023 [JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images]

With Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians in Gaza now in its third week, civilians are still being killed daily. More than 5,500 have been killed by Israel bombs and missiles since 7 October, including 2,400 children; 16,000 people have been wounded.

This is what happens when the West gives Israel “unequivocal support” to exercise its “right to self-defence. It looks as if the Palestinians have no right to life as “human animals” — the description used by one Israeli minister who isn’t worth naming — and are thus being dehumanised to justify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war against defenceless civilians. Everything possible is being done by Israel and its allies in the Western media and governments to airbrush the context of the 7 October Operation Al-Aqsa Flood from the narrative.

READ: France president in Israel to show solidarity

Dissenters face the option offered by George W Bush after the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon: “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” There’s no room for rational discussion; just “Israelis good, Palestinians bad.” Support for the latter equates to support for those who resist Israel’s military occupation in this mindset.

The Palestinians aren’t human like us, they say, so anything goes

The result is that 75 years of ethnic cleansing, dispossession, colonisation, massacres, house demolitions and land theft is being ignored; the problem started on 7 October, or so we are told. The Palestinians aren’t human like us, they say, so anything goes. All red lines are cancelled under Israel’s rules of engagement. International law? Forget it. Israel isn’t bound by international laws and conventions that the rest of the world are expected to follow. Except the US, of course. Which explains the contempt that the apartheid state and its main supporters show for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its efforts to investigate alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. In February 2021, Netanyahu was reported by Middle East Eye as saying that such an investigation “is ‘anti-Semitic’ for targeting his country.” Hamas, on the other hand, “welcomed the ICC’s jurisdiction decision ‘without reservation’, saying that it was not afraid to be investigated. ‘Palestinian resistance to the occupation is legitimate and in line with international law,’ it said.”

As Adam Khalil pointed out in his report for MEE, “Israel certainly has much more to be concerned about.” He was referring to the fact that it had killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in the seven weeks of its 2014 war against the Gaza Strip. In the current war, it has already killed more than twice as many Palestinians in less than three weeks of bombing civilians in the enclave.

READ: Gaza death toll now over 5,000 as Israel intensifies air strikes

The images coming out of Gaza are both horrific and inspirational. Each day of life is a miracle, say the survivors of the nightly bombing. They go to bed not knowing if they will wake up. How are they coping in circumstances that most of their critics in the West would abhor? It really is amazing.

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Nevertheless, children are traumatised and the humanitarian crisis is worsening by the hour in light of the power cuts, the lack of drinking water and food, and an acute shortage of medicine and medical supplies. The relatively few humanitarian aid trucks being allowed in are welcome, of course, but nowhere near enough. In normal times — does anyone remember what “normal” is like in Gaza? — up to 500 trucks a day enter the enclave with supplies, so 20 here and 20 there are just scratching the surface of the shortages.

Israel is preparing for a ground invasion, which will lead inevitably to more civilian casualties. The delay will allow time for mediation to free the prisoners of war and hostages, but also allows more time for the bombs to fall; for more death and destruction. The Israelis and their allies no doubt hope that this cynical use of civilian suffering will put pressure on the resistance groups to release all hostages and abandon Gaza.

We must be clear, though, that this is not a war between Israel and Hamas, as the mainstream media is calling it. It’s a war against the Palestinians; a continuation of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that started in 1948 and has never really stopped.

With whole neighbourhoods reduced to rubble, and civilian infrastructure damaged or destroyed completely, if and when the shooting and bombing stops, the humanitarian catastrophe will remain. Where are all the homeless, displaced people going to live? It will be back to 1948 and 1967, with refugees in their own land — today we call them “internally displaced people”, IDPs — living in tents and dependant on humanitarian aid.

READ: Gaza government says over 181,000 housing units damaged by Israel since 7 October

For years we have become used to reeling off masses of statistics about the number of Palestinian refugees and their awful situation. But the people of occupied Palestine are not numbers; they are human beings. They have hopes and dreams like everyone else. When will Israel and its allies in the West understand this vital truth, and show both empathy and sympathy?

It is time to stop using the Gaza Strip as a testing ground for new Israeli and US arms and ammunition. It is time to stop allowing Israel to act with impunity, brutalising the Palestinians while its back is protected at the UN by the US veto. It is time to resolve the issue based on international legitimacy.

Thirty years have passed since the Oslo Accords were signed, and there has been no substantive progress for the Palestinians. They have no physical independent state; no capital to call their own; no port for imports and exports; and no airport (Israel destroyed the only airport in Gaza in 2001/2). Even fishermen are attacked by the Israeli navy as part of the blockade on Gaza’s 40km coastline imposed since 1967.

This is not a natural disaster in Gaza; it is entirely manmade. What has happened is the result of a deliberate decision by people in Tel Aviv and the West to suppress and oppress the people of occupied Palestine, and steal their land. The current hostilities are a dirty war backed by politicians in the West who claim to promote human rights and democracy. It’s about time that the Palestinians saw some of both put into practice, rather than mere lip-service.

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