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Gaza under attack, fights back

May 07,2019 - Last updated at May 07,2019

Gaza has been under a brutal and devastating Israeli attack once more. Israel does not respect its part of the supposedly existing ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt between the two warring sides. The current round of fighting, which ended early Monday morning by reasserting the terms of the formerly brokered Egyptian ceasefire, has left at least 25 Palestinians killed and 150 injured, against 4 Israelis killed by Palestinian resistance rockets.

All that the Gaza wants is for Israel to end, or at least ease, a siege that for the last 12 years has been causing untold suffering for 2 million people in it. The siege from land, air and sea, which was imposed on the Palestinian strip after Israel's disengagement from it in 2005, has turned Gaza into the largest open-air prison ever known: indeed a locked up ghetto.

No one within the vast international community, including the United Nations and many of its specialised agencies, the Europeans and some of the normalising Arabs, have done anything to protest this unprecedented aggression, flagrant violation of UN principles and human rights abuse. In fact, Israel seems to be encouraged by such unrestrained complicity.

However, this sheer indifference to the ongoing tragedy in Gaza, not to mention the rest of Palestine, is easily justified. For Israel, and those who go along with its absurd reasoning, the Hamas government in Gaza is deemed a terrorist organisation that hijacked the besieged territory in 2007 by a coup against the Palestinian Authority. (No one wants to remember that Hamas had won internationally-supervised general elections in the Palestinian territories a year earlier). Rather than allowing Gaza to prosper in peace, Hamas started manufacturing rockets to fire at peaceful Israeli towns and settlements around it, and this was the reason behind the siege, Israel insists.

The value of this convoluted logic lies in its convenience rather than its validity. It is convenient for those who adopt it because it exonerates them from any responsibility in confronting Israel’s continued aggression, occupation, oppression and brutal siege. They do not want to know, or need to know, that the siege preceded the actions of Hamas. Blaming the Palestinian victim, and recognising Israel's aggression as a legitimate right to self-defence is a safer course than pointing any finger at Israel’s unlawful actions.

The Israeli decision to remove its settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip when their presence there became a huge security burden was not meant to liberate Gaza and set its population free by ending the occupation, rather the idea was to punish Gaza by changing the nature of the occupation. The siege was the less security-burdensome alternative.

Those who expected the Gaza population to acquiesce to Israel’s humiliation and harsh oppression forever were clearly mistaken. Eighty per cent of the inhabitants of Gaza are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in other towns and villages in Palestine in 1947/1948. They exercised patience year after year, decade after decade, in the hope that justice would finally prevail. But for any amount of patience, there comes a breaking point. It would be abnormal for any people to endure so much suffering and hopelessness without rising against injustice and persecution, no matter what. The Palestinians, whether in Gaza or anywhere else, have rights, they are aware of them and they have proven unwavering determination to fight for them.

In addition to the strangling siege, Israel has waged devastating wars on Gaza, inflicted massive destruction, killed thousands and starved, humiliated and deprived the besieged population of their most basic daily survival needs, including medical needs, medicine, electricity, food and thousands of vital items labelled as double use items, and yet the Israelis have barely managed to break the Palestinian people’s resolve and will to survive, to live, to manufacture weapons, to resist and pursue their rights and defend their dignity to the very end.

There is no question that Israel is stronger than Gaza, and the resistance organisations in it much stronger. Israel could easily reoccupy Gaza and try to destroy the resistance infrastructure there, but that would aggravate rather than solve the Israel-Gaza dilemma. The resistance and the Gaza population have much less to lose in a war with Israel than Israel does, once battle is imposed upon them, obviously not because the Palestinians enjoy wars and the misery that war and siege cause them, but because they are the ones who really need to defend themselves from constant Israeli provocation. They tried peaceful protests along the border, but were met with sniper fire from the fortified Israeli side, which killed hundreds and injured thousands.

Recently, the Gaza resistance groups have decided to fire back when attacked and cause harm to the Israeli side, despite the massive power imbalance, but certainly much less than the harm Israel can inflict upon Gaza. Disrupting normal life, however, in any part of Israel, even if for short periods, is much more costly and disruptive for Israel and its people than any disruption caused to the already wretched life in Gaza. This is why Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has agreed, with Egyptian efforts, to return to the ceasefire and to abide by its terms.

For the last 70 years, Israel does not seem to reconcile with the concept that peace and security cannot be realised by indiscriminate violence and sheer military power, by oppression, by occupation and by inflicting collective punishment and injustice on defenceless innocent victims. The lessons of history are clear: Liberation movements end up winning, often at a high cost, sacrifice, endurance and relentless patience, but they end up winning.

Israel relies on its military power, coupled with its preparedness to commit any amount of atrocities to suppress protest. It is not working. It did not work in Lebanon. It is not working in Gaza or the West Bank. Palestinians who live oceans apart from their Palestinian homes are no less attached and determined. Israel also relies on foreign support and protection from accountability at the United Nations by its US ally. It also seems to be counting on recent Arab trends for normalisation in the hope that such openness would annihilate the Palestinian issue altogether. This will not work either.

Israel’s problem is, and will remain, with the Palestinians. So long as the Palestinians are willing to fight for their rights, no amount of foreign or Arab support would give Israel the peace it hopes for. That can only be reached when Israel realises that the Palestinians have rights and are fully entitled to restore them in a framework of legality and justice.

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