Photo credit: “Close up of Palestinian Flags” by Muaaz
There is no defending Hamas sending in fighters to open fire on a crowd of civilians who were reveling at a festival in Israel, nor the massacre at Kfar Aza. There is also no defending an Israel that has made the Gaza Strip an open-air prison and cannot be honestly described as anything other than a modern Apartheid state. Two wrongs no more make a right than one brutal wrong gives Israel the right to reign terror in the Gaza Strip. Keep in mind that Israel is always the aggressor, the settler colony that has pushed the Palestinians to the brink.
The violence that sparked the latest bombing of Gaza was an entirely predictable result of Israel’s regime. As Malcolm X warned in 1965 if there was no easing up of the boot on Afrikan Americans’ necks “you’ll see terrorism that will terrify you, and if you don’t think you’ll see it, you’re trying to blind yourself to the historic development of everything that’s taking place on this earth today.” He argued that once people understand there is no solution to the problem within the framework of the nation they would express their rage in violence. Civil rights legislation and an emerging Black middle class released just enough pressure to temporarily defuse the racial powder keg in the States. But Israel has amped up the oppression since Hamas took control of the Gaza strip in 2007.
Hamas is committed to violent resistance against Israel and is classified as a terrorist group in the West. After they were elected to run Gaza, Israel made a land, sea, and air blockade of the region permanent. This has made life extremely difficult for the 2.1 million residents who are trapped in the Gaza Strip. According to UNICEF, before the year 2000, there were half a million Palestinian exits into Israel, primarily for work. This dropped to just 4,000 in the first years of the blockade before rising to 10,000. The result is almost half of the residents are unemployed, a figure rising to more than 60 percent for young people. Truckloads of goods into Gaza Strip have dropped by 30% since 2007, even though the population has grown by 50%. Almost a third of residents need food assistance and electricity and water supplies are unreliable.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to annex more territory in the Palestinian West Bank, supporting the development of illegal settlements. According to Amnesty International, fifty years on from the drawing of the borders of Israel and Palestine in 1967, 600,000 Israelis were living on 100,000 hectares of land reserved for Palestinians. This process involved demolishing more than 50,000 Palestinian homes. The Hamas attack was symbolically in defense of ultra-orthodox Jewish interference with the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, but Mohammed Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing summed up the sentiment when he declared that “we’ve decided to say enough is enough.” The problem with this strategy is that if we follow the “historic developments” of settler colonialism provoking Israel can only lead to more Palestinian blood being shed.
We have already seen the brutality of the Israeli response. Prime minister Netanyahu promised “mighty vengeance” and, at the time of writing, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed by the mass shelling of the Gaza Strip, which has seen bombs hit mosques, markets, and hospitals. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Palestinians a “beastly people” and declared that “we are putting a complete siege on Gaza… No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed.” Israel has the full-throated support of the West, with British Home Secretary Cruella Braverman going as far as to suggest that waving a Palestinian flag may be a criminal offense.
Watching Western governments, whose nations are built on slavery, genocide, colonialism, and various war crimes condemn Hamas really does prove that Whiteness is a psychosis. If it means winning a war, the West has shown time and again that civilians are not just innocent bystanders but legitimate targets. Bomber Harris turned the tide of the air battle in World War 2 when he took his carpet bombing technique perfected in the Middle East to various German cities. The US raised the stakes by dropping not one but two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities to force Japan out of the war. From Vietnam to Iraq the US has not improved its reputation for the disposability of civilian life, not to mention the up to 1,750 civilians killed in US drone strikes. Israel has the military force and backing from a morally dubious West, which should truly terrify us.
One of the patterns of settler colonialism is that once the oppressed keep up violent resistance the settlers eventually decide that extermination of the natives is the only viable long-term solution. From the US frontier to German-controlled Namibia to the British in Tasmania, I charted this brutal pattern in The New Age of Empire. Conjuring images of genocide is a provocative sentiment when talking about a country founded in the wake of the Holocaust. But it does no use pretending that being a descendant from the victims of one of history’s worst atrocities makes people immune to repeating patterns of brutality. Genocide was not a uniquely Nazi instrument used against Jewish people, it was a fundamental tool in building the Western world. There is outcry if you question the right of Israel to exist but Palestine has never been officially recognized and Israel continues to erase any notion of a Palestinian state through occupation and illegal expansion.
The danger with embracing terror as a strategy of resistance – other than the immorality – is that lashing out does not build a future. It is far too easy to mistake violence for radicalism. In Afrika we have seen people turn to groups like Al-Shabab and Boko Haram precisely because the revolutionary alternatives have disappeared. Once you lose faith in reforming the system and overturning it, unleashing rage seems like the only option. Please don’t take this as some plea for non-violence. Armed resistance is valid and, given the nature of Western society, will likely be necessary for liberation across the globe. But there is a difference between using violence to seize control of the state and trying to spread fear with desperate acts of terrorism. We must also understand that the latest violence against Israel may well trigger a response that ends the conflict once and for all by eliminating the “beastly people.” We should never confuse terror with revolution, and the latest escalation shows the desperate need for radical solutions before it is too late.