I am constantly amazed at how the Israeli narrative of self-defense is never challenged in the media, particularly since the Palestinian narrative, that they are fighting a war of independence, is so much more accurate and compelling. So here we are again, fighting has erupted between the Palestinians and Israel. Thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza, and Israel has responded with a massive air and ground assault that has killed over 1000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, with thousands more injured and made homeless. Three Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets and at least 43 Israeli soldiers have died in combat. At least 10 West Bank Palestinian demonstrators have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers during demonstrations against the Gaza war.
Israel again is claiming it is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense against Palestinian rocket fire which it labels as terrorism. But that justification ignores the underlying cause of the conflict: Israel’s 47 year illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land and its refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a nation of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians are fighting a war of independence from Israeli occupation.
During the past 47 years, the Palestinians have tried both violent and nonviolent resistance with no success, while the UN, the US, the EU, and other European nations have tried for decades to negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict. Despite those efforts, no Israeli government has been willing to withdraw completely from the occupied territories to allow the Palestinians full independence and a state of their own on the remaining 20 percent of Palestine.
Instead, Israel has continued its oppressive military rule over the Palestinians, increased its illegal land seizures and evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and built hundreds of Jewish settlements. According to a recent statement from Israel’s Housing Minister, there are now 700,000-750,000 Israeli Jews living illegally on Palestinian land and that number is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2019. Based on recent statements from the leaders of its major political parties, including its prime minister, Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories which it considers to be part of the Greater Israel it inherited from Biblical times.
WHY PALESTINIANS FIGHT
Palestinians are fighting Israel because they are fed up with broken promises, failed negotiations, and half a century of Israeli oppression. Palestinians are firing rockets at Israel because 1.8 million Gazans have been trapped in what is often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, a result of Israel’s total blockade of that began in 2007.
When the victim of a violent crime fights back, the perpetrator can’t use self-defense as a justification for doing even more physical violence to the victim. Israel can’t claim claim self-defense as justification for invading and bombing Gaza to stop Palestinian rocket fire since it is the perpetrator of the underlying and ongoing crime, it’s half-century occupation and theft of Palestinian land, and oppression of its people.
It is the Palestinians who have the right of self-defense, the right to fight back against their occupiers. People suffering under illegal occupation by a foreign power have a legitimate right to violently resist. Lacking tanks, planes, and well-equipped modern armies, they typically use the only tools available: bombings, assassinations, and other tactics of asymmetric guerrilla warfare.
TERRORISM AND FREEDOM FIGHTING: IT WORKED FOR THE JEWS
Israel and the US are quick to label violent resistance by the Palestinians as terrorism and have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization. But Hamas is little different than the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi, factions of the Zionist resistance against the British who also used asymmetric guerrilla warfare tactics. Their campaign of terror against the British and the Palestinians from 1939-48 included assassinations of British military and government officials and Count Bernadotte, the UN mediator, hanging of British prisoners of war, and terror bombing of Palestinian communities, and British military, government, and private facilities, including the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Zionist terrorism was highly successful and a major factor in Britain’s decision to withdraw from Palestine, making it possible for the Zionists to declare their independence in 1948 and create the nation of Israel. The violent resistance of the Palestinians against Israeli occupation of their land has the same aim, to force the withdrawal of a brutal occupying power to gain independence and nationhood. This is no different from dozens of other wars of independence in which the colonial powers also accused the insurgents of being terrorists. While the brutality that accompanies guerrilla warfare is horrific and regrettable, it is the only tool available for weak, oppressed people fighting powerful occupying armies.
OPPRESSOR TERRORISM – THE DOUBLE STANDARD
Israel has always responded savagely to Palestinian violence, and has used all the tools typically employed by colonial powers attempting to maintain their hold on valuable colonies. These oppressive measures, which violate international law and can be called state terrorism, include random arrests, torture, assassinations, indefinite imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, mass detentions, collective punishment against civilian populations, strict military rule, and more. Demonizing Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, while excusing Israeli violence that does far greater harm to the Palestinian civilian population is one-sided and hypocritical, particularly since Israeli violence is aimed at maintaining the illegal status quo of occupation, settlement, and continuing theft of Palestinian lands.
The Palestinians are fighting a legitimate war of independence and have been since 1967. Israel’s attack on Gaza isn’t an act of self-defense but just another of its many massive military actions aimed at crushing Palestinian armed resistance to its occupation while it also inflicts an unnecessary and ghastly toll on thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians.
It’s time for politicians, pundits, and the media, to get this story straight, and time for the rest of us to insist that Palestinians get the independence and nation of their own they have long sought and so richly deserve.