Israel’s declared objective in its merciless onslaught on Gaza is to root out Hamas. Realists understand that such objectives, if at all real, may not be attainable. What is real is the deliberate mass murder of innocent civilians, live for the world to see.
The brutality of Israel’s incessant bombardment of Gaza, which has already killed more than 8,500 Palestinians including over 3,500 children and shows no signs of abating, does not merely stem from an Israeli primal desire for revenge for Hamas’s 7th October attack, which has thus far exceeded all reasonable boundaries to bloodlust hysteria.
Embedded in it is also the desire to punish the Palestinian people so as to drive a wedge between them and the resistance groups.
The people, however, know too well that the mass murder is less about divide-and-conquer and more of a prelude to ethnic cleansing similar to the 1948 Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes in the wake of Israel’s inception.
“Go South of Wadi Gaza,” was the Israeli order three days after the airstrikes had commenced.
Israel justified the ‘evacuation order’ on the grounds of ‘people’s safety’. Simultaneously, Israel killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza and has imposed a full blockade, cutting off water, electricity, and fuel and preventing the flow of food and medical supplies to the local residents. This includes the areas where people were ordered to evacuate to.
Soon after that came the Israeli calls for Gazans to find relief in the Egyptian Sinai Desert. Former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Al Jazeera that people in Gaza should relocate to the Sinai, to live in temporary tent cities until the onslaught has come to an end.
For Gazans - roughly 70% of whom are the descendants of refugees expelled from historical Palestine in 1948 - that has ignited deep existential concerns, but also triggered a defiant posture.
“Heaven is much closer to us than Sinai,” has now become a motto for many in the Strip.
It is collectively understood that once Palestinians have crossed into Egypt for safety, the ‘temporary stay’ will turn into a permanent displacement, a second Nakba.
Egypt has said emphatically, often angrily, that the step would be unacceptable and has the potential not only to liquidate the Palestine cause but also to undermine Egypt’s national security.
This is, reportedly, despite mounting Western pressures on Cairo coupled with economic incentives, allegedly with promises to knock down Egypt's national debt, should the Egyptians agree to resettle Gazans in the Sinai Desert.
Cairo’s refusal to open the Rafah Crossing with Gaza (except for humanitarian aid) and the redeployment of the Egyptian army in the region is meant to prevent such a catastrophic scenario. Palestinians understand that well.
Against the Palestinian and Egyptian stubbornness, Israel’s technique seems to have shifted from blunt calls for transfer to practical liquidation of the population by blanket bombing them into leaving and via threats to deem anyone who remains a ‘terror target.’
Hundreds of thousands have left Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia, Jabalia, and Gaza City to seek safety in the south. Many remained, either in defiance or because they lacked other alternatives.
But what has been happening since the evacuation order has proven that Israel’s safety pretext is brazenly false. A mass expulsion of Palestinians in Gaza is what occupies the minds in Tel Aviv.
Israel proceeded to bomb the convoys of evacuees heading south and intensify its massacres across the Southern part of the Gaza Strip where people took refuge.
“It is a trap to concentrate as many people as they could in one area so the killing would be quicker and more economically efficient for Israel,” my friend in the city of Khan Younis told me.
Did not the Third Reich in part invent the gas chambers to economically and efficiently murder Jews in masses, to execute the Final Solution?
Holocaust survivors and genocide scholars have warned of Israel’s actions. Israel’s Final Solution did not typically require gas chambers but a long-term strategy of slow liquidation of the Palestinian population.
However, the current unapologetic calls for transfer are an opportunistic shift using the Hamas attack as a strong excuse. In fact, this is the very non-contextual scenario that several Western media outlets have embraced, and in which some Western governments are accomplices.
The plans to push Gaza residents into the Sinai have been on Israel’s agendas for decades, well before the creation of Hamas in 1987, the PLO in 1964, and the formation of meaningful resistance to Israel’s occupation shortly after the 1948 Nakba.
The first known attempt was in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. Israel then occupied the Gaza Strip and Sinai for several months.
Ben Gurion wanted to annex Gaza, and for that to work, to substantiate Israel’s ‘ethnic purity,’ Gaza’s population was set to be transferred to Sinai and beyond. Because the occupation was short-lived - thanks to international pressures - and Palestinians refused to leave, the plan failed.
Around the time of the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, IDF Major General Giora Eiland - who served as the head of the Israeli National Security Council between 2004 and 2006 - suggested a plan to transfer Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.
The ‘Eiland Plan’ proposed that Egypt would give up territory nearly five times the size of Gaza for Palestinians, and in return, Cairo would be compensated with land in the southeast of the Negev Desert.
In 2017, former Egyptian President, Mubarak, claimed that he rejected similar offers by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010 to resettle Gaza’s Palestinians in the Sinai as part of a land swap between Israel and Egypt.
On October 24, Israeli Intelligence Minister, Gila Gamliel, leaked a document detailing a post-war plan that entails transferring Palestinians to Sinai.
The document includes three steps: establishing tent cities in Sinai, creating humanitarian corridors, and building cities in North Sinai for the Gaza refugees. A buffer zone in Egypt extending several kilometres south of the Israeli border would be created to prevent Palestinians from returning.
Defenceless Palestinians in Gaza understand that their only option to thwart another Nakba is steadfastness and perseverance in the face of Israel’s massacres and the destruction of their basic means of survival. So far, locals have not headed to the Rafah Crossing with Egypt.
Palestinians and their allies understand that a successful Gaza transfer will encourage Israel to escalate in the West Bank to drive hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Jordan.
For the Jordanians, the scenario is very real, so much so that Jordan’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Safadi warned of a regional conflict should such a scenario take place.
A third step will most certainly be an Israeli internal ‘cleansing’ starting by stripping Israeli-Palestinians, nearly 20% of Israel’s population, of citizenship and forcibly transferring them to Jordan and Lebanon.
After all, eliminating the Palestinian demographic reality to achieve Jewish purity and creating territorial depth for strategic and security purposes have been the optimal objective of the Zionist scheme in Palestine.
That is a recipe for regional upheaval that could develop into a full-blown regional war. We know many parties, states and non-state actors, are preparing for that scenario now as we speak. It is no longer speculation.
Dr Emad Moussa is a Palestinian-British researcher and writer specialising in the political psychology of intergroup and conflict dynamics, focusing on MENA with a special interest in Israel/Palestine. He has a background in human rights and journalism, and is currently a frequent contributor to multiple academic and media outlets, in addition to being a consultant for a US-based think tank.
Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.