The brutality visited on Gaza flows from a simple fact; that Israel, the Arab dictators, and Western imperialism would all prefer that the Palestinians did not exist
The Hajj family was asleep when their house exploded in the middle of the night on 10 July. All eight of them – mother, father, and six children – died in the rubble.
Six other families also lost their homes in the Israeli air-strike that killed the Hajj family. It was the Khan Younis refugee camp’s worst night so far: 17 dead.
Khan Younis is one of several sprawling modern slums built of concrete tenement blocks in the tiny Gaza Strip. Measuring just 25 miles long by less than eight wide, Gaza is home to 1.8 million people, making it one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
That is why air-strikes are so deadly. A thousand have been launched in the first four days of bombing. One every five minutes. They have killed more than 120 and injured almost a thousand. The great majority of the casualties are civilians.
As well as being overcrowded, Gaza is also one of the most impoverished places on Earth. For it is a vast concentration camp, an artefact of modern imperialism, a dumping ground for displaced people that the world’s rulers do not want.
For most of the people who live there are refugees, or the children of refugees, or their grandchildren, even their great-grandchildren. The Palestinians of Gaza – like those of the West Bank and the wider diaspora – are the living victims of 20th century crimes of ethnic-cleansing.
A century ago, Palestine meant the whole of the area currently occupied by Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. It was home to 700,000 people. Only 60,000 of these were Jews. The rest were Arabs.
The British grabbed Palestine at the end of the First World War as spoils of victory. They did not like Arabs much because they thought them disloyal to the British Empire, so they encouraged Zionist Jews to settle in Palestine.
The Zionist land-grab, and British repression of Arab protests, triggered the first great Palestinian revolt in 1936 to 1939. Zionist militia units fought alongside 20,000 British troops to crush it. About 5,000 Palestinians were killed. The Palestinians have been fighting an asymmetrical war against dispossession ever since.
In 1948, when the British withdrew, the Zionist militias went onto the offensive and seized 80% of historic Palestine. They were outnumbered. There were only 650,000 Zionist settlers compared with two million Palestinians. But they were not outgunned. Funded by rich Western capitalists, they quickly crushed the poorly armed Palestinian resistance.
The Zionists did not just want the land. They wanted to empty it of people. They needed ‘living space’ for their own kind. So they murdered 250 Palestinians at a village called Deir Yassin and then went around other villages boasting about what they had done. In consequence, at least 700,000 terrified Palestinians fled Zionist occupation. Later, during another war in 1967, a further 350,000 Palestinians joined the exodus.
The State of Israel is therefore a colonial settler-state based on violence and dispossession. It is also a military outpost of Western imperialism. The Zionists were lifted to power by the British, and they have been sustained in power ever since by the Americans. Israel regularly receives up to 25% of total US foreign military aid.
Resistance and solidarity
Gaza therefore represents the human residue of one of the 20th century’s greatest crimes. Here, in this tiny space, devoid of resources, wholly dependent on foreign aid, blockaded on all sides, almost two million Palestinian men, women, and children are corralled and contained. 70% live below the poverty line.
There are no warning sirens in Gaza, no underground shelters, and certainly no ‘iron dome’ air-defences. Nor are there fighter jets, helicopter gunships, naval guns, and advanced missile systems supplied by modern arms factories in Britain, France, and the US. There are just homemade rockets.
That is why, in the exchange of fire since the present war began, 120 Palestinians have been killed, but no Israelis. So it was in 1936, 1948, 1967, and 1982. So it was during the First Intifada of 1987, the Second Intifada of 2000, and the Gaza War of 2008. So it is always for Palestine.
‘They want to destroy all Palestinians,’ said a young man interviewed in Gaza a few days ago. So they do: Israel, the Arab dictators, and Western imperialism would all prefer that the Palestinians did not exist.
But they do exist. And each generation of Palestinians finds ways to fight back, such that they have been an inspiration to the world for 80 years.
But they cannot win alone. That is why, with Gaza under attack again, the solidarity of us all – socialists, trade unionists, student activists, anti-war campaigners, everyone committed to a world of equality, democracy, and peace – should join the protests against the barbarism of imperialism and its creatures.
Neil Faulkner is a freelance archaeologist and historian. He works as a writer, lecturer, excavator, and occasional broadcaster. His books include ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics‘ and ‘A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to Neoliberals‘.
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