Israel’s onslaught on Gaza: Why Arab lives should matter
If you want to get a realistic impression of hell on earth, then you don’t have to look any further than the never-ending onslaught on Gaza. The massacre, which has so far claimed more than 11,200 Palestinian lives, including more than 4,200 children, often alongside their mothers, is relentless. Daily videos show dismembered infant corpses, usually surrounded by bloodied, screeching adults who – like the dead – have absolutely nothing to do with what drives this carnage.
The actual belligerents are easy enough to identify. On one side, there is the armed wing of Hamas – the group that carried out violent attacks during a raid into Israel that claimed 1,200 Israeli lives. The world continues to mourn and express outrage at the killing, wounding and capture of those targeted.
Hamas’ Qassam Brigades' principal foe is the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) which is by far the most heavily armed military force in the Middle East with its own reputation for lethal violence.
''The macabre manner in which killing methods are graded is particularly disturbing. It’s as if a row of mutilated Palestinian corpses is somehow not comparable with other victims, because the Palestinians have been torn apart by “defensive” weapons paid for by the West.''
As Israel's war crime allegations mount, the grotesque claim by their government is that all humanity in Gaza can legitimately be destroyed, because it includes a limited number of armed militants. Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said: “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”
Many of the civilians who manage to avoid the indiscriminate bombardments and shootings, including under the cover of a complete blackout, will succumb to a range of other deadly factors enforced by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). These include blockades of vital supplies. “We are putting a complete siege on Gaza … No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed,” Gallant stated.
Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett even faked a malign adhesion to the Fourth Geneva Convention, openly admitting: “we’re allowing civilians to evacuate before pounding them”. Bennett’s successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, boasted of “raining down hellfire” on Gaza.
There are always perfunctory additions to the Gaza slaughter clichés that have been reeled out for decades during such asymmetrical conflicts. Encouraging people to move south from Gaza City, on roads that will be bombed anyway, will not stop what is already being described as genocide. Palestinian victims are simply dehumanised – all are treated as expendable nonentities who deserve collective punishment.
Human Rights organisations and the United Nations have expressed fears of ethnic cleansing in Gaza. This evokes the post-1948 Nakba (catastrophe), when at least 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes and lands, and some 15,000 were killed by paramilitaries, so as to create space for the new state of Israel.
As always with Israeli offensives, there is a global mass media campaign aimed at “justifying” them. Expressions such as “Israel defending itself” are continually used. If there is any objection to what is going on, then the word “Hamas” is deployed, as if the group’s very name has the power to absolve anyone of crimes against humanity.
Even the most destructive IDF weapons, such as the new Iron Sting mortars, are described as being “defensive” ones, despite the way they have – once again – rapidly turned Gaza into a rubble-strewn tomb. The use of this “defensive” vocabulary by an occupying army which puts “Defence” in its very name is meant to numb any sense of outrage, and anyone who disagrees is accused of “condoning terrorism”.
Words are extremely powerful, and in this case, they belie the fact that multiple IDF operations over the decades, which have included ground invasions, have been offensive ones with one primary objective: to wipe out Arab Muslim life.
Creating the consensus for such action among Western allies is never difficult. Hastily arranged press conferences have linked Hamas with every atrocity imaginable, including the use of chemical weapons. The cross-border raiders allegedly carried “official” Al-Qaeda instructions in English on launching a cyanide attack, according to the President of Israel. Meanwhile, the distinction between ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Hamas and millions of ordinary Palestinians is conveniently blurred.
American President Joe Biden is certainly unconcerned at the difference. He just wants the “pounding” to go on and on. Biden has even sent the USA’s most sophisticated warships, including its newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, to assist Israel in case its own arsenal proves insufficient. He refers to “teams”, as if it was all one big sporting event, while designating an extra $14.3billion to the Israelis, much of it to be spent on weaponry.
Making chronically enflamed situations infinitely worse by pouring arms and ammunition on to them is appalling at the best of times, but in a Middle East cauldron blighted by years of injustice it guarantees endless war.
Despite the hellscape images pouring out of Gaza, Biden even made a disgraceful claim that Palestinians might not be “telling the truth about how many people are killed,” while adding: “I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s a price of waging war. But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and decades of Occupation are crucial to understanding the situation. This is why Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, referred to the Nakba and the Naksa (setback), which led to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, displacing 350,000 Palestinians.
Ms Albanese said: “There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale. The international community must do everything to stop this from happening again… Again, in the name of self-defence, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.”
Even the resolutely one-sided Biden admits that illegal land and home grabs, the destruction of Palestinian farms, and the killings, injuring, forcible displacement and imprisonment Palestinians have been suffering for generations is critical.
“I continue to be alarmed about extremist settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank,” said Biden. Likening such behaviour to “Pouring gasoline on fire”, he stated: “They’re attacking Palestinians in places that they [the Palestinians] are entitled to be, and … it has to stop now.”
The IDF regularly works with armed settlers to persecute and terrorise Palestinian communities. This incessant violation of international law within an apartheid system amounts to a permanent war against the Arabs.
This is why so many far-right commentators, including in the British media, evoke great replacement – the racist conspiracy theory that suggests that Muslims might eventually dominate Westerners, making genocidal wars of civilisation entirely justified. The mass killings are necessary, the argument goes, as a means of “protecting” Western culture from the “human animals”.
The macabre manner in which killing methods are graded is particularly disturbing. It’s as if a row of mutilated Palestinian corpses is somehow not comparable with other victims, because the Palestinians have been torn apart by “defensive” weapons paid for by the West.
Palestinians and those who support them are frequently deemed worthless. Even the hundreds of thousands who take to the streets of London, Paris and numerous other cities to protest against atrocities in Gaza, as well as Israel, are portrayed as terrorist sympathisers. Conservatives who would normally be in favour of free speech about anything, scream for the censoring of anyone who might express support for Palestine.
What is certain is that the cycle of violence will be endless while supposedly civilised governments, including Britain’s, consider that the destruction of one set of oppressed humans is necessary, so as to ensure the security of another.
Weasel words ultimately championing death and destruction from Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have been another low-point of this period. A change of mindset is urgently required, and this includes accepting the idea that Arab lives are as sacred as any other.
Nabila Ramdani is a French journalist and academic of Algerian descent, and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic published by PublicAffairs and Hurst.
Follow her on Twitter: @NabilaRamdani
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