Israel reached new depths in its 60 years of murder and maltreatment of the Palestinian people on Dec. 27. The first day of aerial bombardment was its most lethal attack on Gaza since taking over the tiny strip of land in 1967. It is home to one and a half million refugees, 400,000 of them crushed together in Gaza city.
Within a week, at least 500 Palestinians had died from the bombing, including many, many children. This added misery to a population already starved, sick and suffocated from blockades of food, fuel, and medical supplies for nearly three years.
With the escalation to ground troops, U.S.-supplied helicopter gunships and tanks, Israel slaughtered nearly 800 human beings in their mosques, schools, homes and hospitals during the first two weeks. Forty percent were women and children. Ten Israeli soldiers were killed during the same period and three civilians.
Hundreds of thousands have denounced the invasion, from the U.S. and Europe to Africa, Asia, and Australia, demanding that Israel halt its genocidal warfare. In Norway for example, protests were organized in 28 cities and trade unions are calling for divestment and a boycott of Israeli products. In Tel Aviv, 10,000 Israelis protested the invasion — the equivalent of a million people demonstrating in New York City.
Why the invasion? Israel lied its way into Gaza in much the same way the United Stated did in Iraq. It claimed that the purpose of the invasion was to stop the Hamas government of Gaza from launching rockets against Israeli border towns. Absent from this tale is the fact that the renewed rocket firing was a response to Israel’s assassination of six Hamas fighters in Gaza on Nov. 5 during the cease-fire, and because Israel refused to lift the blockade in December, as agreed.
Israel also lied about the danger of these homemade rockets. They are the only aerial weapons Hamas has, and more a symbol of resistance than anything else. These missiles killed not a single Israeli in an entire year. According to the Jan. 9 New York Times, three have died from recent rocket fire.
The Israeli government was more truthful about why it was invading on its recorded message that rang incessantly on home phones in Gaza during the invasion. As the New York Times reported on Jan. 6 the tape announced, "We are getting rid of Hamas."
Now this makes sense. Hamas has led the most militant Palestinian resistance for the last few years, and also provided survival necessities to Gazans. Israel is committed to crushing this resistance and to getting rid of the Palestinian people — the heart of the defiance. Its genocidal level of military force in Gaza today is quite proportionate to these aims.
Indeed, the three years of blockades proves that the entire population of Gaza has been the target all along. Gaza’s economy had collapsed long before the invasion. Joblessness and hunger were widespread, drinking water routinely polluted. When Jewish settlements in Gaza were dismantled in 2005, it was not the peace offering Israel pretended. It was clearing the killing fields of settlers to make way for a future invasion against Gazan refugees.
History is essential to understanding.Founded in 1948 as an exclusively Jewish state, Israel gives rights and material privileges to its Jewish population, and withholds these from native Palestinians. This built-in denial of basic equality is the root cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel set itself up to be permanently at war with the Palestinians.
It is a conflict fundamentally unsolvable short of a single, secular, democratic state where all the inhabitants have equal rights: a state that would be possible with a non-profit economy and the goal of socialism to unify Arabs and Jews.
Israel’s goal is to break down the resistance, kill as many as possible, and make life so miserable that survivors will leave. A grisly repeat of what the U.S. did to Native Americans.
But for 60 years the spirit of Palestinian resistance has not died. This is because its cause is fundamentally just, whether or not its current leadership is religious fundamentalist and its tactics challengeable. The Palestinian people’s steadfast refusal to give up has opened the eyes of the world to the justice of their fight.
Just as Israel would not exist for a day without U.S. support, neither can Palestinians achieve their rights without the help of working people of the world. Only that combined power can thwart the anti-Arab racism and militarism fueled by the appetite of the U.S., Israel and other countries for Middle Eastern oil, land and waterways.
Building international solidarity. Working people must break into this struggle and connect the dots between their own battles and those across borders. Gaza residents need material donations to relieve immediate suffering. And they need political help from workers worldwide. Railway unionists in Norway, for example, stopped trains for two minutes longer than scheduled in every station to protest Israel’s assault (Le Figaro, Paris, Jan. 8). Yes, the United States can veto U.N. resolutions against Israel. But no government can veto the fighting resolve of union workers.
Students and professors can organize academic and cultural boycotts of Israel, as a number of Israeli professors have urged. Everyone can join demonstrations, help organize forums, write letters to the editor. And demand that the U.S. and other countries stop supplying Israel with weapons and blockading Gaza. (Go to www.endtheoccupation.org for a listing of help needed and a calendar of activities.)
Ultimately, only the working people of the world can bring about necessary change — the elimination of imperial power, whose Middle East appendage is Israel itself. Workers in Israel are a part of the fight for that radical change. They gain no benefit from Zionist ideology that segregates them from their Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Steven Strauss is a Jewish activist with the Howard County Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (Maryland) and a Baltimore neurologist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.