Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / May 16, 2021
More than 17,000 Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing yet another episode of displacement as Israel escalated its attack on civilian infrastructure on Saturday, the 73rd annual commemoration of Nakba Day.
At least 145 Palestinians in Gaza, including 41 children, have been killed since Israel began bombing it on Monday. Around 1,000 more have been injured.
At least 70 massacres were carried out against Palestinians between 1947 and 1949, according to Al-Haq. More than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed by Zionist forces around the time that the state of Israel was declared in 1948.
Palestinians refer to those series of traumas as the Nakba or catastrophe.
Not only have those wounds not yet healed, as Al-Haq says, but Israel is inflicting injury and death on Palestinians anew as Gaza’s population of two million – two-thirds of whom are refugees – endure yet another terrifying full-scale Israeli military offensive.
That is on top of the devastating air, land and sea blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007.
The goal of the pre-state militias that initiated the Nakba in 1948 and that of the contemporary state of Israel are the same.
As Al-Haq states: “The Zionist dogma upon which the Nakba has been operating until today is that of the forcible transfer of the Palestinian people through the entrenchment of Israeli-Jewish domination, and their erasure and replacement with a foreign settler community.”
During the first years of the Nakba, 750,000 to 900,000 Palestinians “became refugees or internally displaced persons after having been forcibly transferred from their homes and lands,” according to Al-Haq.
Of the more than 13 million Palestinians scattered around the world today, some 5 million live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, 1.5 million live in the area of Palestine on which the state of Israel was declared in 1948, and another 6.5 million “live in exile and diaspora,” Al-Haq said on Saturday.
For 73 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their right to return to the lands and properties from which they were expelled on the basis that they are not Jews.
All Palestinians living under Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid rule, imposed throughout historic Palestine, are “at risk of forcible transfer,” Al-Haq added.
This includes Palestinians in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where an Israeli court has approved the eviction of Palestinian families from the homes in which they’ve lived for decades to make way for Jewish settlers.
The Sheikh Jarrah families facing forcible eviction have already experienced at least one episode of displacement.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Lydd, many of whom are internally displaced, came under emergency rule this week for the first time since the two decades following Israel’s founding.
Today they are being “violently repressed and arrested by Israel’s police during demonstrations” and have become the target of “racist incitement of violence and hate crimes,” as Al-Haq states.
Massacre and death march
Lydd, a city near Tel Aviv, is currently an epicenter of that racist incitement and violence.
It was also the site of two massacres waged by the nascent Israeli army in 1948.
“Within hours, the soldiers held key positions in the city center and had confined thousands of Palestinian civilians in the Great Mosque,” according to Shavit.
The following day, some 250 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli soldier fired an anti-tank shell at the mosque.
Hours later, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, ordered the deportation of Palestinians in Lydd, a command delivered by Yitzhak Rabin to the brigade that carried out the expulsion of 35,000 people from the city.
In what has become known as the Lydd Death March, residents of the city and nearby Ramle were forced to make their way over the mountains in the summer heat, risking Israeli gunfire if they strayed from the path.
“Over three days without food, water and in the heat, many would die,” as Ali Abunimah recalls, “until finally trucks came to transport the survivors to Ramallah,” in what is now known as the West Bank.
The process of colonization is ongoing in present-day Lydd and mobs of Jewish Israelis chanting “death to the Arabs” isn’t a new phenomenon, though no less dangerous as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has given them his implicit backing.
Netanyahu described the upheaval in Palestinian communities in Israel, in addition to the offensive in Gaza, as “a campaign on two fronts” on Friday.
The following day, Benny Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, warned against an escalation in the West Bank as Palestinians throughout their homeland and beyond began to rise up against Israel’s settler-colony rule.
The Israeli army and Jewish settlers have killed at least 14 Palestinians in the West Bank this week, 11 of them on Friday, including one child, as protests were held throughout the territory.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said that it was the deadliest day in the West Bank since Israel’s military incursion into multiple cities in 2002.
While Israel was bombing Gaza this week, its parliament “preliminarily approved a bill to legalize some 70 colonial settlement outposts in the West Bank,” according to Al-Haq.
“Israel’s blatant violations of international law and its suppression of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination are the most conspicuous illustration that the Zionist project is a failed colonial enterprise,” Al-Haq added.
Israel is unable and will never be able to obliterate Palestinians’ national identity and their will to throw off the yoke of colonial oppression.
The latest escalation was triggered when Israeli police stormed Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque – a holy site that galvanizes Palestinian and Arab and Muslim identity – while it was filled with Ramadan worshippers, injuring hundreds.
And with the capacity of the armed resistance only strengthened after each military offensive, Israel’s current campaign targeting residential buildings, media towers and other civilian infrastructure in Gaza can only be viewed as one of revenge and punishment.
Al-Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza, said on Saturday that the “unwarranted shelling of civilian homes without prior warning at night … indicates a conscious decision to inflict the greatest number of casualties amongst civilians.”
Nine people – two women and seven children aged 12 and younger – were killed when Israel fired three missiles at the home of Alaa Abu Hatab in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp without warning early Saturday.
Palestinian civil defense rescue crews were still working to recover the bodies of additional victims that remained under the rubble later that day.
Palestinians in Gaza, “notably children, have not recovered from the devastating ramifications of previous military escalations, including Operation Protective Edge in 2014,” Al-Mezan said.
“Yet, they continue to be Israel’s regular target.”
Israel has targeted more than 50 buildings and four residential towers, destroying some 220 residential units.
“In addition, seven schools, four mosques and hundreds of private properties and governmental sites have been significantly damaged since the escalation began,” according to Al-Mezan.
“Airstrikes also led to the large-scale destruction of power and water networks, as well as thousands of square meters of paved roads.”
Media tower targeted
Israel bombed a tower housing the offices of Al-Jazeera and the AP news agency on Saturday, saying that Hamas military intelligence were using the building, a claim for which Israel presented no evidence when pressed by international media.
Gary Pruitt, the head of AP, said the organization was “shocked and horrified” that the military would target and destroy the tower housing its offices.
“We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” Pruitt added.
Israel bombed and destroyed two other buildings housing media outlets earlier in the week.
Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, suggested that Israel may be “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”
Meanwhile, emergency fuel imported from Egypt will push back the expected shutdown of Gaza’s sole power plant until at least Tuesday, the UN monitoring group OCHA said.
“Power supply across Gaza has been reduced to six to eight hours per day on average,” OCHA added, “and to less than four in some areas, disrupting the provision of basic services, including water, sanitation and healthcare.”
Palestinian resistance groups have fired more than 2,300 rockets from Gaza since Monday, killing 10 people in Israel, including one on-duty soldier and two children.
Netanyahu thanked US President Joe Biden for his “clear and unequivocal support” after the two spoke earlier in the day.
The White House stated that during their conversation, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, and condemned these indiscriminate attacks against Israel,” making no mention of the killing of dozens of civilians and the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Maureen Clare Murphy is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago