Obliterating Gaza

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IT took several days of diplomatic negotiations for the Security Council to come up with a sufficiently bland Gaza resolution that the US would not feel obliged to veto. Even after it had been diluted to a meaningless plea for unspecified measures that “create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” — which Israel would interpret as a green light to persist with its genocidal military campaign — the wretched Biden administration could only bring itself to abstain.

The resolution also called on all parties to “facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale” to the Palestinians in Gaza — almost 90pc of whom have been displaced, pushed into ever-diminishing ‘safe zones’ that are often promptly targeted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

Even if by some miracle the Security Council had managed to clearly demand a ceasefire, Israel would have ignored it, as it has routinely done since 1948, without facing consequences. The protection of its American godfather is paramount. Western media outlets have lately been promoting the impression that the US is striving to persuade Israel to reduce the intensity of its onslaught.

That’s the equivalent of requesting a serial killer to be less indiscriminate, while supplying him with weapons to accomplish his aims. Had the US seriously wished to halt the slaughter in which entire branches of Palestinian family trees are being hacked off, it could have done so by cutting off the military, diplomatic and financial supply chains crucial to sustaining Israel’s capacity for monstrousness. But don’t hold your breath.

After all, it took decades, plus the relentless efforts of activists, for the US to recognise the horrors of South African apartheid (propped up with surreptitious Israeli bac­k­ing) and endorse sanctions against Preto­ria. Going further back, the Nazi regime enjoyed the sympathy of key components of Western elites, from the British royal family to American captains of industry.

Long before that, the US King-Crane commission was dispatched to the Levant in 1919 to solicit popular opinion about the region’s future following World War I. It found vast support for a united Syria encompassing latter-day Lebanon and Palestine. Facts on the ground shifted the erudite commissioners’ views from backing the Zionist project endorsed by the Balfour Declaration to pointing out that it would entail “a practically complete dispossession of the present-day inhabitants of Palestine” and “the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

It presciently reminded the then US president, Woodrow Wilson, that “if the American government decided to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, they are committing the American people to the use of force in that area, since only by force can a Jewish state in Palestine be established or maintained”.

By then, the US Congress had effectively endorsed the Balfour Declaration, and the State Department decided that publishing the report “would not be compatible with the public interest”. It had little effect when eventually published by Editor & Publisher magazine in 1922, and continued to be disregarded when US backing for Israel went into high gear following the 1967 “pre-emptive” Israeli assault against its neighbours. A Palestine Liberation Organisation pamphlet noted that the population density “jumped in a few weeks from 208 to more than 6,000 persons per square kilometre”.

Gaza’s population has more than quadrupled since then, and the conditions have deteriorated. The IDF has lately been renewing the status of long-standing refugees — often from territories adjacent to the Gaza Strip, the areas violated by Hamas and its associates on Oct 7 — by casting them into the wilderness. The atrocities committed in the kibbutzim cannot be denied, while acknowledging that some of the deaths and damage can be attributed to the manner in which the IDF response unfolded.

The precise details may never emerge, but the century-long context of repression and dispossession in occupied Palestinian territories cannot be ignored in contemplating today’s dire realities as the seeds of hatred are sowed anew. Benjamin Netan­yahu’s response to the UN resolution was to visit his troops in Gaza on Christmas Day and declare that his war would be intensified, even as Bethlehem marked the occasion with a rubble-strewn Nativity scene.

Reading about a Children’s Happiness Centre levelled by the IDF in its scorched earth campaign alongside hospitals, homes and schools, I was reminded of Northern Irish freedom fighter Bobby Sands’ prison diary entry shortly before he succumbed to the privations of a hunger strike: “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”


Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2023

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