Seventy years since the Nakba of 1948
“Thousands of Palestinians are marching and staging sit-ins at Israeli borders and checkpoints … in an unprecedented mass action campaign, demanding the right to return to homes that they lost when the Israeli state was established in 1948.
“‘We are tired of waiting, we are returning now. This will be a peaceful march from beginning to end. We shall carry no weapons, we shall shoot no bullets, and throw no stones,’ said organisers of the Great Return March (GRM).
“Armed with only the flag of Palestine and banners bearing the text of United Nations resolution 194 that guarantees Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes, organisers have consistently stressed the peaceful nature of the march.
“In response to the peaceful protest, the Israeli army has deployed extra troops, snipers and drones at checkpoints and border crossings, reported the Middle East Monitor. According to the International Middle East Media Centre, the Israeli army has been placed on high alert.
“‘Sit-in may last for months’
“Tents for media, portable loos, electricity cables and water pipes, and shaded areas for crowds have been installed east of Khan Younis, Rafah and al-Breej near the border fence that separates Israel from Gaza. A large network of Palestinian activists – backed by the Palestinian factions Fatah, Hamas and PFLP – is preparing for a 46-day mass march to demand their right of return to their villages and towns in what is now Israel. The protests are expected to continue until 15 May, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe).
“Sit-ins will start in the besieged Gaza Strip and spread to the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and within Israel itself. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are also expected to participate in the mass action.
“‘It is a sustained and cumulative struggle, not a seasonal or a one-day event. It will only end with the actual return of Palestinian refugees and the sit-in may last for weeks or months,’ the organising committee said to the Afro-Palestine Newswire Service.
“‘We’re not calling for removing anybody from existence or displacing anybody from their place, we’re simply calling for justice for the seventy-year-old plight of the Palestinian refugees – whose weapons are their rights and UN resolution 194,’ GRM spokesperson, Ahmed Abu Irtema, told the New Arab news agency.
“The march also comes at a time when many Palestinians believe there is an Israeli-American plan to liquidate the whole Palestinian cause – a plan that started with US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and taking the city’s status off the negotiation table.” (Thousands of Palestinians march for right to return, Voice of the Cape [South Africa], 20 March 2018)
In the weeks since 30 March, peaceful protestors have been met with draconian force by the murderous Israeli regime. Thirty-four Palestinians were murdered by Israeli forces and thousands more were wounded in the first few weeks. Tear gas has been used on crowds and many have been shot. Some of those killed and wounded have been shot in the back running or walking away from the border. All were unarmed.
The first demonstration alone resulted in 16 deaths (17 according to some sources) and 1,415 wounded. Of the wounded, 758 were hit by live fire. This represented the biggest day of violence against Palestinians since the bombing of Gaza by the Israeli airforce in 2014. (See Protests in Gaza are leading to many deaths and injuries among Palestinians, yet Israel has faced little criticism by Patrick Cockburn, Independent, 6 April 2018)
According to Israeli sources, around 17,000 Palestinians marched to five key sites from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south. Each site was hundreds of metres from what the Israeli’s presently claim as their border.
The BBC’s headline for its coverage of the event was careful to portray the massacres as though they had resulted from a ‘clash’ between two warring sides rather than from the brutal action of a heavily-armed force against unarmed civilians.
“Although most protesters stayed in the encampments, some groups of youths ignored organisers’ calls to stay away from the fence and headed closer to Israeli positions.
“The IDF [Israeli army] said troops were ‘firing towards the main instigators’ to break up rioting, in which petrol bombs and stones were thrown at the fence.” (Gaza-Israel border: Clashes ‘leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured’, BBC News, 31 March 2018)
Rather than coming under fire among so-called ‘instigators’, the first Palestinian to be killed was actually a farmer working his land. Twenty-seven-year old Omar Samour died when Israeli shells struck his farm near Khan Younis. Eighteen-year-old protester Abed el-Fatah was shot in the back, in east Jabaliya. Contrary to Israeli claims, Hamas claimed only five of the dead as members.
In response, the UN security council called an emergency meeting. The Israelis did not even bother to send an envoy, on the basis that this was the weekend of Passover. For these fanatics, attending a meeting on or around a religious holiday is unthinkable, but slaughtering people for Passover is evidently fine.
Instead, the Israeli PM Netanyahu lavished praise upon the IDF for “allowing Israelis to celebrate the holiday [of Passover] in peace”. This is the level of contempt and disregard shown by Israel toward Palestinian lives. They are so accustomed to their apparently inalienable unaccountability that they need not even attend an emergency UNSC meeting.
Imperialist double standards
So long as they are backed by the chief imperialist power (ie, the US) the Israelis clearly feel no need to justify themselves to the rest of the ‘international community’. This is a state that has had more UN resolutions against it than almost the rest of the world combined. What ought to be seen as a pariah state is instead championed by its backers as the only democracy in the region! According to this twisted narrative, black is white and white is black.
Rather than this actual pariah state being held accountable for its actual hellacious brutality, other non-aggressive states are attacked on the flimsiest of pretexts. Russia has had its diplomats expelled from some 20 countries over the totally unproven allegations regarding the Skripal case; Syria is struck with 103 missiles for further unfounded claims of state crimes. Yet here is a state, Israel, existing in another dimension to the one in which the imperialist version of ‘international law’ resides.
When will Israeli diplomats be sent packing? When will their state be on the receiving end of a ‘humanitarian intervention’? The current state of international affairs completely exposes the fraud of concepts like ‘international law’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’.
We see there is de facto no international law and might is clearly right. Whoever can project the most force currently sets the rules of the game, or the laws, and for now this the remains the US.
To whatever extent there is any recognition of international law, not all are equal before it. Discrepancies between Israel’s and Syria’s treatment display this. Relation to the lawmaker is what matters, and Israel remains useful to the US, doing its dirty work in the region. Syria, like Russia, remains a thorn in the side of imperialism’s domination plans.
Israel is built on supremacist violence
The demonstrations on 6 April saw ‘instigators’ such as the journalist Yasser Murtaga killed by a gunshot wound at the hands of the IDF. He had been covering the demonstrations in Khuzza, wearing a jacket marked ‘Press’ when killed. He was over 100m from the border.
Clearly there is a trigger-happy culture in the IDF. It comes from the top of Israeli society and works its way to the bottom, permeating every aspect of Israeli life and culture. Nothing displays this more than a recent online video release and the responses to it from Israeli society and politicians.
“Israeli ministers have defended a group of soldiers filmed laughing and cheering as a sniper appears to shoot an unarmed Palestinian man on the Gaza border.
“The brief video appears to have been filmed by an Israeli soldier through a pair of binoculars and captures the moment a sniper shot an unidentified Palestinian near the border fence which separates Israel from Gaza.
“The man is standing still in the video and does not appear to be armed. ‘Wow, what a video!’ one of the soldiers cheers after the gunshot rings out. ‘That son of a b****.’
“The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said the video was from 22 December 2017 and not from the recent wave of protests in Gaza, in which Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians since the end of March …
“Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defence minister, praised the sniper but criticised the soldier who filmed the shooting.
“‘The sniper deserves a commendation, the photographer a court martial,’ he said. ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world, but when you’re at the front and facing tense situations, sometimes you let out those tensions.
“‘Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious,’ said Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.
“Other ministers also said the video was being blown out of proportion.” (Israeli ministers defend soldiers filmed cheering as sniper shoots Palestinian in Gaza by Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph, 10 April 2018)
The attitude of the Israeli defence minister represents the prevailing ideological orthodoxy of Israeli society. Imperialism has always bred an ideology of supremacy, be it that of the German master race in the 1930s or US exceptionalism today – or, indeed, the founding myth of the ‘chosen people’ on which the modern-day zionists built Israel. It is these ideas that underpin such nonsensical claims as ‘the IDF is the most moral army in the world’ – a claim that can only be made by people who view those they oppress as being less than human.
When the people of a nation or religious grouping are infected by such supremacist ideas, they become very useful to imperialism. They become the type of people who cheer along and film innocents being shot, or the type of people who shell farmers. To convince a people of their unique greatness is to ripen them for the work of imperialism.
The loss of Palestinian life is easily written off when the Israeli is convinced ‘it’s them or us’, and that the Palestinians they are exterminating have not been ‘chosen’ by God.
A stooge regime keeping the middle east safe for imperialist plunder
Whilst conspiracy theorists would like to believe it is the tail that wags the dog, the fundamental enemy of the Palestinians resides in Washington. It is the United States that controls the Israelis and not vice versa.
The US has the power to rein in a dependent Israel, but instead it has been fanning the flames with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The US is actively provoking the Palestinians, a stateless people living in miserably overcrowded conditions and suffering from extreme shortages of all the necessities of life.
“Gaza has in effect become the world’s largest open prison, its walls heavily secured by both Israel and Egypt. For the past decade both countries have tightly controlled what goes in or out in an attempt to isolate and neutralise Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the strip.
“Compounding that stranglehold is the rivalry between Palestinian factions, intensified by recent moves from the Palestinian Authority [PA] to dock the pay of civil servants working for the Hamas administration.
“In short, nowhere near enough is getting into Gaza and even less is able to get out. Eventually, as in any prison where the supply of basic commodities is squeezed inhumanely, the inmates rise up. So it is with Gaza. Its inhabitants appear ready to risk life and limb to have their voices heard.
“On Friday, the Israeli government responded to protests with deadly force, killing at least 16 Palestinians and injuring many hundreds more. Israel insists that it had no option but to use force to prevent a breach of its borders by Hamas protesters.
“But the Israeli army has not provided compelling evidence that its soldiers were fired upon first and human rights organisations have cast doubt on Israeli claims of a threat to a heavily fortified border fence.
“Israel says 10 of the dead were members of Hamas. The organisation says only five were. These competing narratives, and the potential violations of international human rights laws, demand independent investigation. Israel, however, has rejected UN secretary general António Guterres’ call for an inquiry.
“The containment strategy of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and a disproportionate use of force to police it, is myopic. There are 2 million people squeezed into the 40km long and 11km wide strip that makes up Gaza. The conditions in which they live are steadily worsening, amid water and electricity shortages, and impending humanitarian disaster.
“Friday’s killings should draw attention to the explosive cocktail that has been brewing as a result. The deaths occurred on the first day of a six-week series of protests culminating at the 70th anniversary commemoration of ‘Nakba’, when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes.
“Far from de-escalating tensions, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has warned that the army will ‘respond more harshly next time’ if it perceives that Gazans are attempting to breach the border security area.” (Editorial: Gaza killings pour fuel on middle east fires, Financial Times, 3 April 2018)
If this is the considered view of a mouthpiece of British imperialism like the Financial Times, it is clear that even those who value Israel’s role in keeping the middle east safe for imperialist looting are starting to doubt the zionists’ ability to continue much longer if they cannot rein in their more brutal excesses and at least appear to take human rights concerns seriously.
In the eyes of the people of the world, meanwhile, Israel is increasingly exposing itself as a rabid, reactionary, racist state. Despite its shameless exploitation of the Nazi holocaust of jews during the second world war, it is now the Palestinians and not the zionists who have the sympathy of the masses globally. No amount of hysteria and legislation against the supposed ‘antisemitism’ of Palestine’s supporters can reverse this trend.
For our part in Britain we must continue to support the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The lagging labour and anti-war movement must be compelled to a system of non cooperation with zionism.
The Israeli war machine can be broken by breaking the Israeli economy. If workers refuse to put Israeli produce on shelves and refuse to build arms destined for Israel, the international working class may yet play a vital role in helping the Palestinian people to make Israel history.