Mondoweiss / September 11, 2022
Movements like BDS are the only force capable of counteracting the massive power imbalance between the Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.
“If only it (Gaza) would just sink into the sea”
– Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, 1992
In 2008 Gaza was bombed by Israeli Apache helicopters and American-made F16 fighter planes for 22 days, ultimately causing the deaths of more than 1,400 civilians. Israel, with the impunity it has enjoyed since its establishment, decided to come back into Gaza four times since then and repeat the same crimes by launching areal strikes, killing more than 4000 civilians, including hundreds of children, women, elderly, and injuring thousands. In fact, over the past 15 months alone, apartheid Israel has carried out two extensive military assaults on Gaza, killing hundreds, including more than 80 children, and injuring thousands, destroying vital infrastructure, while maintaining its 15-year illegal siege on the 2.4 million Palestinians here.
Israel’s airstrikes which always damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people and are war crimes which are forbidden under international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prescribes the manner in which armies must treat civilians during times of conflict.
But Israel continues to get away with these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The “international community” does not seem seriously interested in the suffering of the native Palestinians. Neither does it even try to show concrete sympathy with those children who get killed in broad day light. After all, they are not Ukrainians, i.e., white. In fact, while the American president apparently thinks that while “Israel has the right to defend itself,” the same right does not apply to Palestinians. This is in spite of the multi-tiered oppression of Palestinians by Israel, from apartheid to military occupation and colonization, and in spite of the deadly, hermetic siege imposed on Gaza for more than 15 years, so much so that Israel has even been using ‘calorie count’ to limit Gaza food during the blockade.
This, however, has been Israel’s policy for a long time. In 1992, the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin wished that Gaza “would just sink into the sea.” The Oslo Accords, signed by Rabin, brought more misery into the lives of the 2 million inhabitants of this besieged, impoverished, occupied, small strip of land. The fact that Gazans are not born to Jewish mothers is enough reason to deprive them of their right to live equally with the citizens of the state of Israel. Hence, the Israeli logic goes, like the Black natives of South Africa, they should be isolated in a Bantustan, in accordance with the Oslo terms, without calling it so; and if they show any resistance to this plan, they must get punished severely by transforming the entire strip into an “open-air prison.”
Both the US and the European Union display ignorance in the face of the brutal reality caused by Israel to Gaza. As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish Gazans, about 70% of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the United Nations, and about 80% of its residents live in grinding poverty. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or international agencies; an increasing number of Palestinian families in Gaza are unable to offer their children more than one meager meal a day, often little more than rice and boiled lentils. Fresh fruit and vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Meat and chicken are impossibly expensive. And fish is unavailable in its markets because the Israeli navy has curtailed the movements of Gaza ‘s fishermen. No wonder, a report by the UN predicted that by 2020, Gaza would become “unlivable.”
We are left with one option: people’s power. This remains the only power capable of counteracting the massive power imbalance between the oppressed Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.
The UN, EU and the international community by and large have remained silent in the face of atrocities committed by Apartheid Israel. The corpses of hundreds of dead children and women have failed to convince them to act. We are, therefore, left with one option; an option that does not wait for the United Nations Security Council, namely, the option of people’s power. This remains the only power capable of counteracting the massive power imbalance between the oppressed Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.
The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in 1976 Soweto Uprising. This campaign ultimately contributed to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.
Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza, like Soweto and Sharpeville, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Now is the time to boycott the apartheid Israeli state, to divest and to impose sanctions against it until it complies with international law. Like black South Africans, Palestinians deserve freedom, justice and equality.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University