Palestinians celebrate atop a burning Israeli tank. Photo: Screenshot / Mohammed Arif Khan / Twitter / Fair Use Palestinians celebrate atop a burning Israeli tank. Photo: Screenshot / Mohammed Arif Khan / Twitter / Fair Use

Michael Lavalette explains the context and history behind the Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation, none of which is being aired by Western media

The Palestinian break out from Gaza has caused consternation in Western media and political circles. Israeli voices have dominated the airways and Western politicians, whose silence on the regular atrocities inflicted on the Palestinians is deafening, have rushed to express their commitment to the colonial state.

We have been offered little context or background to the latest resistance actions. No mention of the Nakba and 75 years of ethnic cleansing and occupation. Little discussion of the provocations of Israeli settlers over the last twelve months in places like Hawarra, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Sheikh Jarrah (in East Jerusalem), or the regular incursion onto the Temple Mount and the desecration of Al Aqsa mosque. And there is only the rarest of mentions of Israel’s regular bombing of Gaza, of the isolation and siege inflicted on the Strip and the desperate levels of poverty and trauma it has generated.

Instead, there has been shock that Palestinian fighters have reached Sderot and Ashkelon or that the Gaza fence has been bulldozed, or that Palestinian youth were celebrating on a bombed-out tank. But let’s delve a little more into what is going on.

Palestinian fighters entered Sderot on Saturday. What the Western media failed to cover was the roots of that city. Sderot was built on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Huj. Israeli historian Benny Morris covers the fate of Huj in his history of the events of 1948 (the Nakba). Huj was known as a ‘friendly’ village. In 1946, the villagers hid members of the Haganah from the British. Indeed, the village was accused of collaboration with the enemy by some Palestinians, and in December 1947, the mayor of the village was killed because of their collaboration.

Yet, Huj’s friendly relations with Jewish forces did not save it. In May 1948, Egyptian forces were advancing and so the Negev Brigade razed Huj to the ground, and forced the inhabitants onto trucks and to move, as refugees, to Gaza. Sderot was built on the land where Huj had stood. Inhabitants of Sderot have gained some notoriety when Israeli forces have bombed Gaza. They regularly take BBQs and drinks up to the hills to watch and celebrate the destruction of Gaza.

The Western media seemed to express some shock that Palestinians were celebrating and taking selfies on top of a captured Israeli tank. Yet the image is perhaps best placed alongside another from the Second Intifada, which shows Palestinian child Faris Odeh confronting an Israeli tank with stones.

The image of Faris became famous because it spoke to the unequal nature of the fight between Israel and the Palestinians. It captured the ‘David versus Goliath’ nature of the struggle. Israel spends millions of dollars on its military establishment, this is supplemented by American arms and payments which make the Israeli army an incredibly well equipped and trained killing machine.

Israeli Barak tanks are some of the most advanced in the world. Each one costs in the region of $3.5 million. They are used against civilians and Palestinian homes. And so, when one of the Israeli killing machines was captured, it was celebrated as it symbolised a breaking of the notion that Israel is an all-powerful enemy, it broke the idea that they were invincible.

Faris Odeh throws stone at an Israeli tank. Photo: Fair Use
Palestinians celebrate atop a burning Israeli tank. Photo: Screenshot / Mohammed Arif Khan / Twitter / Fair Use

Finally, there was some incredulity that Palestinians were bulldozing the Apartheid Wall. Yet there is no mention that Israeli bulldozers are regularly used to destroy Palestinian homes. In the last month alone, Israeli bulldozers have destroyed homes in Tulkarem, Jenin and Nablus. Israelis use bulldozers as a form of collective punishment; the Palestinians are using bulldozers to break down the most notorious symbol of the Israeli Apartheid state.

Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian house. Photo: Moti Sender, Gush Katif / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Palestinian bulldozer tears down Israeli border fence, Gaza. Photo: Screenshot / Twitter / Fair Use

Read Counterfire’s Nakba75 series for more background

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