Gaza in the face of US, western indifference

To many readers, the use of the word indifference about the attitude of the US and the west in the context of the current state of the Palestinians in Gaza might sound overly broad. The reality, however, is that no better word could explain the attitude of the US and the global west regarding the carnage in Gaza today. 

For over seven months and counting, Gaza has turned into a killing field with reports that, as of April 13, 2024, over 34,000 people have been killed, over 40% of that number are children, with over 76,309 wounded. As the violence perpetrated by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) continues to escalate and is daily beamed by global media houses, the numbers of people being killed continue to grow. Thus, raising the question, how did we get here? When do we begin to say, this is enough?

Answers to the former can be found, as some are wont to argue on October 7, when Palestinians from Gaza, led by Hamas militants, carried out attacks in Israel that killed at least 1,200 Israeli, injured thousands more, and took an estimated 240 hostages. The response from Israel was an immediate attack on Gaza. Gaza was thus placed under what one may call an airtight closure, a blockage of access to fuel, water, electricity, food, medical supplies, services, and other goods. This is in addition to a surge of violence in the West Bank against Palestinians from settler attacks, including mass arrest campaigns and an increase in military raids by the IDF.

However, even before the October 7, 2023 attack, 2023 has been adjudged as one of the most violent years for the Palestinians. This, for instance, is seen in the fact that towards the end of September alone, at least 247 Palestinians, including 47 children were killed by Israeli soldiers and settler extremists in Gaza. Within the same period, Israeli settlers also launched over 800 attacks on Palestinians and Palestinian-owned property, with over 1,100 Palestinians displaced from their homes. 

Interestingly, these waves of violence unleashed on Palestinians can be located under three important contexts. Firstly, is Israel’s effort to confiscate Palestinians’ land. The whole strategy, therefore, was aimed at displacing and confiscating Palestinian land, and deliberately usurping the West Bank, by dislodging the Palestinians from the majority of the area (we shall return to this shortly). Secondly, is a calculated attempt to extend Israel’s control over the Al-Aqsa mosque, a religious site of importance to the Jews and both Christians and Muslims. 

Thirdly, as argued by several pundits of its domestic politics, Israel is currently in the grip of the most right-wing government ever witnessed in its history, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Much of the violence unleashed on poor Palestinians represents a rejection of any possibility of equality for the Palestinians that may lead to a recognition of an independent Palestinian State. But even more so, the action has been described as a diversionary tactic by the Netanyahu administration to distract the populace from the country’s domestic politics, and the pending corruption charges lying against him in the Israel court.

The October 7, 2023 attack is only valid, in the eyes of those who seek to toe the reductionist approach, to the extent that it provides meaning into the current onslaught by Israeli forces on Gaza. However, a better understanding of this conflict needs to extend beyond the attack of October 7, 2023. 

It therefore goes to argue that the attack by Hamas militants and the Israel onslaught on Gaza are deeply rooted in the over 70 decades of Palestinian-Israel conflict, which needs to be contextualised especially keeping in mind the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. This declaration by Britain, the colonial master of Ottoman-controlled Palestine, was made to gain the support of the Jews in the prosecution of the First World War, and therefore, pledged to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The conflict has not only continuously shaped the claim to statehood for both Israeli and the Palestinians, but has also been driven and supported by various international interests, agenda, and activities, especially for the Israelis. The rest, as they say, is history. 

So, whether provoked (assuming we agree that the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas was a provocation) or unprovoked, it is important to state that Palestinians have lived all their lives through Israel atrocities arising either from or in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the First Intifada of 1987, the 2000 Second Intifada, the 2002 Passover Massacre and the 2008 Israel attack on Gaza Strip. 

As earlier alluded to, given that Israel’s long-term strategy was to displace the Palestinians from their land, it becomes easy to appreciate why, to begin with, several peace-building efforts, such as the 1979 Camp David Accord, the Oslo Accords of 1990, and the Abraham Accord of 2020 ended up in failure. Additionally, it also explains why Israel, with the strong backing of the US, has to date refused to abide by over 45 Resolutions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemning its actions in Palestine. 

Furthermore, for over a decade, Gaza has been under Israeli-imposed blockade that has severely restricted travel, trade, and everyday life for its over 2.3 million residents (a situation often likened to an open-air prison). Although, in the face of global reactions and condemnation, Israel has argued that its action was necessary to stop Palestinian rocket attacks. But the reality is that this situation has had a brutal effect even before the current siege began. For instance, arising from the blockade, 80% of people in Gaza rely on international assistance to survive; with more than 50% of the population unemployed; the hospitals in the area have been out of critical supplies and medicine, and about 96% of its waters are not healthy for human consumption.

The aftermath of October 7, 2023, has introduced a new element that has seen a daily bombardment on Gaza, which brings to the fore the proportionality of Israel’s responses. According to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Israel has so far dropped an equivalent of 25,000 tonnes of explosives, an equivalent of 2 Nuclear Bombs on Gaza. This by far exceeds the 15,000 tonnes ‘Little Boy’ explosive dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War. The intense bombing damaged 222 residential units with over 40,000 destroyed; damaged 278 and 270 educational facilities and health care facilities respectively; and destroyed 69 places of religious worship both Christians and Muslims. Worse still, not even refugee camps were spared from the onslaught. For example, the Jabalia Camp in the North of Gaza, with an estimated 116,000 registered refugees was a target of several attacks by Israel on October 9, 12,19, 22, and 31; including on November, 1,2, and 4 during which many Palestinians were killed.

The Southern part of Gaza, which the IDF had earlier designated as a safe zone, and had asked Palestinians to move, is now unspared by the Israeli military attack. The justification from the Israel authority is that they were efforts at uprooting Hamas’s infrastructure. But the reality points out otherwise. It was rather a deliberate and strategic elimination of entire neighborhoods and traces of generations of Palestinians and their livelihood. This, several writers have argued, represents a flagrant and blatant violation of international law and effectively fits into the textbook definition of ethnic cleansing.  

In the face of this global indifference, South Africa has taken up the gauntlet and instituted a genocidal case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The hearing commenced on February 19th and will continue until February 26, 2024. Although ICJ’s rulings are merely advisory, it was no doubt a morale booster for South Africa to be seen leading the fight against 21st-century colonialism. 

This reality thus, presents an opportunity to further redefine and widen the global political struggles and landscape by the global South. Like in the case of the struggle against apartheid South Africa, mindful of the global South’s comparative advantage as a market and a source of raw materials, this calls for the use of economic leverage against entities maintaining any form of relationship with the Zionist regime of Israel. Nothing hurts global capital like the refusal to trade or do business with it. But even more so, this is an opportunity to further press for the reform of the global governance platform, the United Nations, particularly, the Security Council, to reflect the unfolding realities in the global environment and make it more inclusive.

Ahmed, Ph.D writes via 

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