The world is recoiling in horror at Israel’s mass murder in Gaza. More than a million people have marched in anger around the globe. Even some of Israel’s staunchest backers have gone pale at the scale of the bloodshed.
But many feel they must condemn the violence of “both sides”. Others criticise Israel’s actions while accepting its “right to exist”. But it’s just two years since Israel’s last air assault and five years since its last ground invasion. Each time its mask slips further. The seemingly unbreakable cycle of violence is not a conflict of two equal sides. It is a history of occupation and ethnic cleansing, punctuated by massacres.
Palestinians live under constant Israeli oppression—and to deny them the right to fight back is to side with their oppressor. Hamas was elected precisely because it tries to resist. Trapped in the besieged and bombarded Gaza Strip, it has every right to dig tunnels, fire rockets and kill invading soldiers.
As for Israel, violence is hardwired into its existence. It was founded by settlers from Europe who unleashed terror to drive Palestinians from the land.
Its creation in 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba, or Catastrophe. Thousands were killed, hundreds of thousands displaced. Whole were towns vanished. That ethnic cleansing didn’t end.
Today illegal settlements perforate the occupied West Bank, making a mockery of the “two state solution” forever said to be just around the corner. Israel’s power is only made possible by the Western powers that arm it to the teeth. They might wince at Israel’s excesses but they depend on it to keep the Middle East divided.
Israeli politicians say the massacre in Gaza is about defending Israel’s security. This is an obscene euphemism for bombing schools, hospitals, care homes and parks, flattening neighbourhoods and shooting boys playing football on a beach.
But it contains a grain of truth—that there can never be an Israel without horrific violence against the Palestinians. There is an alternative. It isn’t some phantom Palestinian statelet that excludes scattered Palestinian refugees and cowers at the margins of Israel. It is a single democratic state that recognises Arabs and Jews as equal citizens.
The Israeli state is built on racism, just as apartheid South Africa was. Its purpose is to impose Western power, just like the British Raj in India, French Algeria, or the Belgian Congo.
None of those states had a “right to exist” and they were overthrown. The Arab revolutions showed the alternative to dictatorship and imperialism in the region.
Such struggles of the masses of ordinary people can win real liberation for Palestine.