IDF should be begging Palestinians for forgiveness over Gaza op

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
© Mohammed Salem
Anybody still laboring under the misconception that we live in a world underpinned by international law, democracy, and human rights has some explaining to do when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians.

It is a plight brought back into sharp focus on the anniversary of Israel’s military operation in Gaza last year, Operation Protective Edge, during which over 2,000 Palestinians were killed, 500 of them children, with thousands more injured or maimed, many permanently.

No amount of apologetics or denial can possibly deflect from the glaring and grievous injustice of this event, which despite the suffering endured by a civilian population, was commemorated by the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF, with the following recent tweeted message: “One yr ago today, Op. Protective Edge ended. 67 soldiers fell in defense of the country. May their memory be blessed.”

The country referred in this message, it is worth recalling, exists on land taken by force from those who lived there previously. Since then the Palestinian people who have managed to remain - dismissed, dehumanized, and demonized – have posed a threat to no-one apart from those who continue to oppress, kill, and occupy them. If resistance to the aforementioned can be described as terrorism then the word is bankrupt of all meaning.

The siege of Gaza, under which 1.8 million people have been forced to exist in what is tantamount to a vast prison camp for the past ten years, shames the West, without whose continued financial, political, and diplomatic support Israel would find its ability to consistently flout international law vis-à-vis its oppression of a people whose only crime is that they continue to exist.

Despite Israel’s impressive propaganda machine, rolled out before, during, and after every military assault against the Palestinians, only those blind to reality can fail to recognize that this intractable issue and conflict amounts to a struggle between an oppressed people, the Palestinian people, and their oppressor, the state of Israel. Moreover, it is a dynamic that has remained in place since Israel was created in 1948 courtesy of a UN resolution.

The problem with Israel has never been over its ‘right’ to exist, as its supporters maintain is under threat. The problem is and has always been over its right to exist at the expense of the Palestinians’ right to exist, which as these words are being written continues to be under existential threat.

If you don’t believe me look at the map and see for yourself. The contours of Israel’s expansion, involving the steady but sure expropriation of more and more Palestinian land and resources, are clearly delineated going back decades.

In his definitive work on Israel’s creation in 1948, ‘The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’, Israeli academic Ilan Pappe writes that the country’s foundation was “the simple but horrific story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, a crime against humanity that Israel has wanted to deny and cause the world to forget.”

Over six decades later Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians have never ceased, yet rather than being held to account the country is rewarded with trade deals, aid, weapons, and the kind of political and diplomatic support that makes the West an accessory to the mass murder of those 500 children slaughtered by the IDF in Gaza last year. And this is without mentioning the continued violations of human rights reflected in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements.

The exceptionalism and opt-out of international law that Israel enjoys is of course related to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler’s project to eradicate and destroy the Jews of Europe in the 1940s. It was a monstrous crime that must never be forgotten. However it was not a crime committed by the Palestinians or the Arabs, which begs the question of why they are being forced to pay for it? It also describes an inversion of any serious interpretation of justice, which holds that a just response to oppression is to oppress others.

© Mohammed Salem

Regardless of the history, the status quo is clearly and patently unacceptable. A year on from Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which took place over fifty days, a large part of this tiny and overcrowded strip of land, which hugs the Mediterranean, remains nothing more than a pile of rubble. Israel’s refusal to allow reconstruction to take place has resulted in a growing humanitarian crisis, ensuring that unless meaningful intervention by the international community takes place and soon, resistance, however futile, will resume in the shape of rocket attacks from the Strip into Israel.

According to Oxfam International: “One year on from the onset of Operation Protective Edge life for many people in Gaza is getting worse. There has been virtually no reconstruction, there is no permanent ceasefire, no meaningful peace talks, and the blockade is still firmly in place.”

The global charity goes on to report: “More than 100,000 people (more than half of these children) have had their homes destroyed and are still displaced. Most of the water supply is unsafe to drink and there are power cuts of 12 hours a day. Restrictions on essential building materials mean that rebuilding homes has yet to begin.”

This humanitarian crisis in Gaza is no accident. It is the clear policy of the Israeli government to punish an entire people, qualifying as a grotesque experiment in human despair to shame not only the state of Israel but also its allies in the West, refuting at the same time any notion of Western values having anything to do with justice or human rights.

Rather than sending out messages declaring the heroic deeds of its soldiers in an operation in which civilians were targeted, the IDF should be on its knees begging the Palestinian people for forgiveness. This, however, overlooks the extent to which Israel and its supporters and apologists view the world through a distorted racial, cultural and religious lens rather than a human one.

As Ilan Pappe reminds us: “Most Zionists do not believe that God exists but they do believe that he promised them Palestine.”

If there is one thing we can say with any measure of certainty, it is that any God that sanctions the slaughter of children is the enemy of justice.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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