President Biden, you lied when you said that you “saw” images of decapitated Israeli children. You lied when you absolved Israel prematurely of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital massacre and then enabled Israel to target more hospitals and ambulances. As of 5 November, Israel has attacked other healthcare centres, including Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital, the Indonesian Hospital and Al-Nasser Hospital (in the “safe” south), killing and maiming civilians seeking “safer” shelters.
You lie, Mr President, when you deny Palestinians the right to mourn their own victims. You lie when you dehumanise Palestinians by portraying them as human shields only to rationalise Israel’s barbaric murder of thousands of children. You lie when you call Israel’s war against the people of Gaza the “Israel-Hamas” war. This war is a continuation of the 75-year-old Israeli war against Palestine and the Palestinians.
Mr President, your Secretary of Defence was dishonest when stating that your administration “mourns Palestinian civilians” while you stand alone in the international community, not only in opposing the ceasefire but also in replenishing Israel’s arsenal to murder more Palestinian children. Your Secretary of State is lying when claiming that your administration is “committed to the protection of civilian life” when a Palestinian child is being killed every 10 minutes by Israel, with your support.
You lied, Mr President, when you told us two weeks ago that more aid trucks would be allowed into Gaza.
The territory received 400 to 500 trucks daily before the latest Israeli war. For almost four weeks, the number of trucks that have been allowed to enter Gaza is less than 20 per cent of what’s needed daily. Unfortunately, you now appear to be serving as a means for Israel to quell international outrage through false promises of delivering food, water, fuel and medical supplies to 2.3 million people. This is while Israel is further tightening the siege and extending it to natural resources, targeting solar panels producing electricity for hospitals and bombing drinking water storage tanks. At present, the only resource that remains relatively accessible to the people of Gaza is the air, although at times, it’s mixed with the searing stench of Israel’s phosphorous bombs.
Mr President, your biggest lie was claiming that Israel has the right to defend itself. Would you extend the same right to Russian forces in Ukraine?
Self-defence is a right for the occupied, not the occupier; for the oppressed, not the oppressor. Occupation and blockade are acts of aggression. A power that maintains a system of aggression is not entitled to claim self-defence. An occupier that annexes land and moves its civilian population into an occupied territory in violation of the Geneva Conventions, is the party that uses its civilians as human shields, rendering it ineligible to characterise its war as “self-defence”.
The US and Europe condemned what they described as Russian horror in Ukraine. It took no time for the International Court to investigate alleged Russian “war crimes”. You, Mr President, called Vladimir Putin a “murderous dictator” and a “pure thug”. Meanwhile, twenty months into the Ukraine war, the “pure thug’s” war has resulted in the loss of 9,600 civilians, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
In Gaza, however, in just twenty days, the same number of Palestinians have been killed by the more “civilised” Benjamin Netanyahu. While you, Mr President, label Putin a “murderous dictator”, you reward the more efficient Israeli murderous machine with an additional $14.3 billion, and oppose a ceasefire in order to satisfy Netanyahu’s insatiable lust for vengeance. Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin illustrated Israel’s veracious craving for revenge in a television interview: “We still have not revenged in a biblical way… did not burn Gaza to ashes… Do not leave a stone upon stone in Gaza. Gaza needs to turn into Dresden.”
Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, went further than the diabolical “biblical” revenge, suggesting on 5 November that “one of Israel’s options in the war in Gaza is to drop a nuclear bomb…” because “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza.”
The juxtaposition of Gaza and Ukraine exposes the blatant American and Western double standards. In terms of the Ukraine population of 44 million, 190,000 civilians would need to be killed there in order to match what Netanyahu has done in twenty days to the Palestinians in Gaza; twenty days, not twenty months. Contrary to what the West may want us to believe, the abject disregard of Palestinian lives vis-à-vis those of Ukrainians or Israelis reveals deep-seated racism toward non-westerners.
Israel has so far dropped 25,000 tons of high explosives on an area of 140 square miles in occupied Palestine, equivalent to two Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs. At least 11,000, US made and financed ordinances have murdered more than 10,000 civilians, 70 per cent of whom were children and women, in a war where the principles of proportionality between civilian and military targets shows that murdering civilians is the main Israeli objective. This is evident in the bombing of 200,000+ homes, 203 schools, 53 mosques, three churches, 16 hospitals, civilian convoys, bakeries and water resources.
That number of bombs translates to dropping 78 bombs or missiles over every square mile in Gaza. This is even more startling when considering that approximately 80 per cent of the bombardment is concentrated in an area covering 40 per cent of Gaza, north of Wadi Gaza. This means 157 bombs on every square mile, or one bomb per four acres populated by approximately 16,500 residents.
The population density becomes even more dire in the refugee camps. Refugee camps house Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from historic Palestine in 1948 and 1967. One of the targeted camps is Jabaliya, a prototype of the Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. I have been to Jabaliya, in which homes typically house four to five families of various generations. The camp’s population of 117,000 people live in just over half of a square mile of land. It’s the most densely populated area within the most overcrowded piece of land on earth. Hovels built wall on wall; alleys barely wide enough for single file individuals to pass between homes. Jabaliya refugee camp has been subject to at least three massacres at the time of writing. More than four hundred people have been killed or are missing under the rubble of their homes; 777 have been wounded.
It’s crucial to note that Israeli acts of brutality targeting civilians do not occur in a vacuum. They follow an Israeli ground offensive from the prior weekend, which was met with fierce resistance. The military made insignificant advances and lost at least 20 elite infantry soldiers. Facing heavy losses, Israel reverted on 31 October to softer targets to inflict the highest level of pain by dropping six bombs weighing one ton each on a single block in Jabaliya refugee camp. Within seconds, fifteen homes disappeared, leaving a large crater. Israel’s “agency of lies” alleged that its raid targeted a Hamas combatant. Callously, it was prepared to kill or wound 400 civilians and destroy 15 homes to kill one alleged person of interest. Israel’s principles of proportionality in war give it the right to kill and maim 400 human beings because there might be one valuable target. Similar heinous crimes were repeated in Al-Maghazi, Nusierat, Al-Bureij and Al-Shati refugee camps.
The deliberate targeting of civilians has been part of the psychological aspect of Israel’s undeclared strategy ever since its creation in 1948. Civilians have consistently been the majority on every casualty list in every war waged by the occupation state. Unfortunately, the tactic to cause pain by targeting women and children will likely persist as long as Israel remains beyond international law, is allowed to act with impunity, and its citizens escape the same pain.
The only possible deterrence to the massacres of Palestinian civilians would be to copy Israel’s strategy and expose Israelis to the same carnage. Israel is a militarised society with 630,000 active and reserve soldiers. Almost every Israeli home has at least one active or reserve soldier in it. The Palestinian resistance should order Israelis to evacuate Tel Aviv to safer areas further north, and thus make it kosher to target the homes of Israeli officials, government buildings, offices, telecommunication centres, hospitals, ambulances used by the government, banks, universities, airports, police stations, transportation centres, highways, schools, banks and the buildings where they suspect the presence of a combatant. That’s how Israel justifies its killing of civilians in Gaza, so why shouldn’t the Palestinians use the same reasoning in targeting Israelis?
After the world failed to force the US milch cow of foreign aid to agree to a humanitarian pause, the US Secretary of State parroted Israeli objections, claiming that a ceasefire “would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did”. This was almost the same mantra repeated by a predecessor of Antony Blinken, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during the Israeli war against Lebanon in 2006. She compared the Israeli bombs murdering Lebanese children with “birth pangs”, and said that a “ceasefire would… simply return us to the status quo.”
In that 2006 war, much like today, Israel rejected a ceasefire until soldiers held by Hezbollah were released. The then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was allowed to murder Lebanese civilians until he had imposed a satisfactory level of pain on them and their country’s infrastructure. In the end, no Israeli prisoner was released without a negotiated agreement meeting Hezbollah’s demands. Blinken’s demand for the release of Israeli prisoners without a negotiated agreement that secures the freedom of Palestinian hostages held by Israel appears as delusional as Rice’s stance in 2006.
Concerning the post-war governance of Gaza, Blinken should have no vote and no say, now or later. The future of Gaza is not his to decide. If it isn’t Hamas, another group will emerge from the same deplorable occupation conditions that gave birth to the movement 35 years ago. Most Palestinian fighters today, whether from Hamas or other factions, were born or grew up during Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Their entire lives have been shaped by living in this concentration camp, and their deepest aspiration has been to break free from their confinement, as they demonstrated during the raid on the camp’s guards on 7 October.
To that end, Israel and the US could succeed in eradicating Hamas only as much as Washington was triumphant in removing the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Israel had lofty objectives to eliminate the PLO in 1982, or Hezbollah in 2006. National movements might evolve, and become more hardened due to circumstance and conditions, as was seen with the rise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the First Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s. In the dichotomy of oppression and liberation there has never been a case in history where a coloniser or an occupier prevailed and a national movement was eradicated by brutality or the murdering of women and children. Take note of that, Mr President, because when you lie, Palestinian children die.
A version of this article appeared in Al-Mayadeen.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.