In the midst of a civilian massacre perpetrated by Israel in response to Hamas’ jailbreak out of Gaza, western media responses have focused solely on Israel’s right to defend itself against all those it labels as terrorists. The deeply irresponsible reporting of the imperialist core such as AP News and BBC may present an alternative narrative, but the fortress state of Israel is a settler-colonial state which bombs and imprisons the occupied people of Palestine. 2.4 million Palestinians are squeezed into the area a fifth the size of Christchurch. A huge open air prison where travel and goods are embargoed with only two access points. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for Palestianians to leave Gaza now, because Israeli forces were preparing to act “in all force”. But there is nowhere to escape to from Gaza. Israel for decades has kettled, corralled and suffocated the people of Palestine and now it seeks genocide.
At the end of the First World War the Ottoman Empire was divided up according to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between the United Kingdom and France. The Mandate of Palestine was given by the League of Nations to British Administration. At the end of 1947 the British government announced that the Mandate would end in May 1948. On 14th May 1948 David Ben-Gurian proclaimed the establishment of Israel with the support of the United States triggering the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes through Israeli terrorism and military action. Palestinians call this the “Nakba” or catastrophe. Palestinian homes were stolen and handed over to settler-colonists. The Palestinian experience of the Nakba has been scrubbed from Israel’s history curriculum.
Since the formation of Israel, the state has expanded its territory, ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods to advance Jewish settler supremacy, and blockaded Gaza into becoming an open-air prison. Palestinians have never given up on returning to their homes. Many older Palestinians keep their house keys as a treasure that embodies their hope for return. Palestinians who fight back with violence are slaughtered. Palestinians who fight back with non-violence are slaughtered, or disabled if they’re lucky. In the 2018 March Of Return when Palestinians marched on Israel, the Israeli ‘Defence’ Force adopted a tactic of firing at legs to disable Palestinians without adding to death statistics. Every day Palestinians are intimidated, their movements controlled, their leaders assassinated, their children incarcerated by the Israeli state. The oppression it delivers requires constant effort. Palestinian resistance appears to be as natural as breathing.
Palestinians have been dispossessed for generations now. Their technology, agriculture and water infrastructure is repeatedly bombed in Gaza, and poisoned or sabotaged in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In comparison, Israel is elevated due to its unique position as a client, and sometimes proxy, state of the USA and broader NATO-aligned interests in the Middle East. Israel is supported by the Ukrainian state, as despite their tensions and the clear hypocrisy here, both rely on capital flows from the USA to bolster their military capacity. Capital flows into Israel primarily to support military hardware, and develop surveillance technology and weaponry which is battle-tested on Palestinian bodies.
The role of socialists, and any person who wishes for a just peace for Palestine, is not to gesture at Hamas and declare “well, not *these* Palestinians”. The forms of resistance that Palestinians are undertaking are symptoms of dispossession, not the cause of it. The Luxons and Hipkins of the world have finally found their tongues, now that the settler-colonial state has been blindsided by a revolutionary fightback. The deafening silence from our world leaders regarding Israeli war crimes including decades worth of murders of non-combatants, air strikes on civilian neighbourhoods, use of white phosphorus, collective punishment of civilians as retaliation to combatant activity, ethnic cleansing to provide space for settlers – this all speaks for itself. Not only are these voices deeply unserious when they speak on “peace in the region”, but by condemning Palestinian resistance, they endorse Israeli apartheid and religious-ethnonationalism.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has been quick to condemn the actions of Palestinian fighters, and rightly points to attacks on civilians as war crimes. So where has this condemnation been for the more than 250 civilians slaughtered at the hands of the Israeli state and settler pogroms in 2023 alone? Where has this condemnation been for the year upon year blockade of Gaza, an ongoing act of war against over 2 million Palestinian civilians, or the ten-year-old children arrested by the IDF without cause? Would Hipkins prefer that Palestinians die quietly while waiting for a national liberation that will never come? Surely it is possible to reckon with the horror of a mass loss of life without erasing the humanity of Palestinians in favour of Israeli life.
Hipkins, like so many leaders of capitalist states built on settler-colonies, rush to condemn the oppressed and dispossessed, while decontextualising the revolutionary violence that is rising to meet the larger colonial violence. The leaders of the so-called civilised West wring their hands and call for a de-escalation on both sides. They have done so for decades, while refusing to acknowledge the disproportionate firepower of a highly militaristic state against communities with no army, air force or navy.
Palestinians, socialists, and the tapestry of Palestine solidarity activists have long called on leaders of nations to tip the scales of diplomacy, to create a balance of power between the Palestinian people and the Israeli state. Instead, as we saw for example from Grant Robertson last week, they point at an impossible two-state solution, or tell us the country will vote the right way at the United Nations.
Our leaders treat Israel with a gentle hand and no end of grace, because our nations are connected through a thousand threads of capital. Palestinians have no comparatively strong economic offering because of this violent oppression and the destruction of infrastructure that could facilitate production and industry. The people of Palestine have no argument for their liberation, except that peace cannot flourish without justice, that humans should be free to move and love and work and live. Justice means decolonisation, land back, and the dissolution of Israel’s religious-ethnonationalist and apartheid constitution and laws.
They’re calling me a terrorist,
Like they don’t know who the terror is,
Insulting my intelligence,
Oh, how these people judge