Doctor and activist

Gaza- Where Next?

10 April 2024

The world has watched in horror and amazement as Israel has systematically bombed Gaza.

Gaza was an open-air prison in the sense that its people could not move without permission, could not trade, except via Israel so had no industry and even their food supply was controlled.  This led to the rise of Hamas, which was seen as at least willing to stand up to Israel rather than being the patsies of the Palestinian Authority (more on that later).  Hamas was a result of the situation, not the cause.


As I  have posted before, Israel was making friends with most of the countries around it. Jordan was too weak to stand up to it, as was Egypt. Qatar and UAE were mainly interested in trade, and Saudi Arabia, despite being strongly Sunni Muslims were about to sign a treaty.  Netanyahu was captive of his religious Right and talking about a ‘Regional Solution’ for the Palestinians.  This was probably code for them ‘going elsewhere’.


The State of Israel was ‘declared’ by Ben Gurion in 1948. The slogan had been ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.  Palestine had been a colonial state, part of the Ottoman Empire and then, after WW1, a British Protectorate and. But this did not mean that it did not have people occupying it.  The state of Israel set about populating it by putting ‘settlers’ on the West Bank. The myth was that this land was not owned, which was only legally correct because Israel did not recognise land title prior to the declaration of the State of Israel. So Palestinians did not ‘own’ the land that they had occupied for decades.  The ‘settlers’ were given land on the hilltops that the Palestinians were driven off, and the Israeli defence force guaranteed them support if the Palestinians, now defined as terrorists, attacked. A network of roads was built so that the army could come quickly to quell any Palestinian ‘aggression’.  Many of the settlers came from Eastern Europe and had been marginalised in their previous countries so defending their Jewish status and new homes was not a huge conceptual step.


This went on for years with unsuccessful negotiations for a ‘two state’ solution with Yasser Arafat. The Palestinians were portrayed as terrorists while Israel gradually made the two state solution impossible on the ground. The settlers were educated principally in Hebrew which reinforced their Jewishness, but also limited their information input and their options to go elsewhere.  There are now about 750,000 of them, so the West Bank is effectively ‘occupied’ and the settlers will not move any more than the Palestinians want to.


Israel also created Ramullah as the so-called capital of the supposedly-coming Palestinian state.  The international aid agencies moved there, naturally wanting good premises for their staff to live and work and the price of rents and real estate there meant that the Palestinians, on minimal income, had trouble living there. The Palestinian Authority, now actually having a place to rule, could approve land developments, a handy source of income and also of corruption. So the Palestinian Authority was no longer seen as the legitimate rulers, but as compromised by Israel, which is why Hamas won the Gaza elections.  Palestinians are generally not a particularly religious people.


The Palestinains are forced out of their accommodation in Jerusalem by the fact that increasingly Israelis use imported labour from Sri Lanka to do the menial jobs that the Palestinians used to do. So they had no work and could not pay the rents. If they left the house, under Israeli law an unoccupied house belongs to the State and can be gifted to a settler, so there has been a constant house by house clearing of Palestinians from Jerusalem, both the old walled (holy) city and the new part where traditionally Palestinians have lived on the East Side. So the Palesitinaisn were gradually getting to a situation where they had no land and no jobs. They were portrayed as terrorists and there was no negotiation towards any sort of lasting settlement.


Hamas probably launched the October 7 attack because if it did not do so, the Palestinian people had no future.


Israel, with Netanyahu having to stay in power at a personal level because of corruption charges and hostage to the religious Right first bombed the north of Gaza, and now, 35,000 or more deaths later, is intending to invade the last part where 1 million refugees have gathered.  It may be that the religious Right simply want all the Palestinians dead. In Biblical times whole cities were massacred,so it is hard to know their frame of reference.  It seems quite probable that the Israelis assumed that the border would be opened, the Palestinians would flee to a refugee area in the Sinai and they would never be allowed to return, creating a ‘refugee crisis’ which would be a UN rather than an Israeli problem. Israel would have solved its problem, and the precedent would let the West Bank Palestinains follow the Gazans. Unpopular in the short-term, but a ‘regional solution’.


The Israelis were keen to maximise harm to the Gazans, not allowing food trucks in, and the West talked about building ports to get food to Gazans rather than try to stop the Israeli blockade.  It is hard to believe that the food trucks that were negotiating directly with the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) were hit accidentally; rather it was part of the overall strategy to discourage the aid, stop the Gazans getting fed, worsen their plight and get them to go elsewhere.


The idea that hunting Hamas militants is a serious strategy must be dismissed as nonsense. This will not be won as a military campaign. The hate sown by this action will last for generations. But why should Israel be believed when it says that this is its strategy?  They took the West Bank by stealth as they claimed that they wanted to negotiate peace. It  was simply a lie. They have worked for 40 years to make a ‘two state solution’ impossible. Now, amazingly even the Australian government thinks this can be achieved.  There are $750,000 settlers making it impossible.  Jeff Halper, an American Jewish anthropologist who moved to Israel wrote an excellent book in 2010, ‘An Israeli in Palestine’ in which he advocated a ‘One State solution’ on the assumption that the apartheid situation that exists has to be undone as it was in South Africa. This looks a very dismal prospect now. When I visited in 2012 the average Israeli was in a state of denial about what was happening, regarding it as the army and the police’s job to keep the peace so that they could continue ‘normal life’.  It was strikingly similar to the situation when I had visited apartheid South Africa in 1985.  Now the Israeli population is very scared and arming themselves. It will end up like the US with a large number of gun-related deaths and the problems ongoing. In the end a society has to be built on consensus and a degree of trust between individuals and strangers.


So what of the Gaza war? I have drifted off topic.  The actual fighting has had very little attention. Do the Israelis merely bomb the city systematically and then walk in over the rubble with few casualties? Is Hamas actually fighting? There seems to be no attention to this in the mainstream press. And what of the Israelis?  A million people are demonstrating for a change of government, but it seems unclear what they want. Their hostages back?  A cease fire? A reasonable long term peace?  On what terms?


Netanyahu has said that a date is set to invade the rest of Gaza. Does this mean even more casualties than before to force the world to take the Gazans as there is nowhere else for them to go? It looks that way.


Even if the world stops supplying weapons, will the Israelis have enough stockpiled to complete the job?


And if the Israelis stop, either now or after even more carnage, how will Gaza be rebuilt or there be any sort of just solution for the Palestinians?


The world sees Israel as the last and most brutal of the colonial powers, simply taking a land and killing inhabitants who resist. The developed West with all its talk of international law is seen in the global South as hypocrites, unwilling even to condemn a more recent colonial aggressor.  It is hard not to see their point. Countries are judged by what their governments do, not by what their people may think. Australia’s late foray into arms manufacture with the Israeli partnership can be seen for the stupidity it was. We are all losers here. Recognition of a Palestinian state will at least elevate the status of any Palestinian  negotiators. It is too little too late, but what are the alternatives?

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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