REMEMBERING GAZA ONE YEAR LATER

In my book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides I write about Gaza. This blog commemorates the destruction and tragic loss of life in Gaza during the brutal Israeli assault in July 2014.

On July 7, 2014 Israel launched an air, ground and naval assault on the Gaza Strip. Its 51 day assault killed 2,100 and injured 11,000 innocent Palestinian civilians.

Israel’s ability to frame its assault against the Gaza Strip, a territory it occupies by air, sea and land, turns international law on its head. A state cannot simultaneously exercise military control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it poses a national security threat and is acting in self-defense.

Israel has repeatedly rebuffed the applicability of international law as it pertains to the occupied Palestinian territories. In the case of Gaza Israel goes so far as to claim that because it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 it is no longer occupying Gaza. In an attempt to further skirt international law pertaining to occupation, Israel, in 2007, declared Gaza a hostile enemy. Under this policy not only Hamas but the population at large is treated as enemies of Israel. This, according to Israel, exonerates them from specific laws on occupation. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel’s deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory.

The UN General Assembly resolution 3246 of November 29, 1974 affirms “the legitimacy of a peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination by all means including armed struggle to protect itself.” Otherwise stated, a people under colonial domination (the Palestinians) have the right to use armed struggle against their aggressor, Israel.

Israel’s actions are an affront to the international humanitarian legal order which is intended to protect civilians in times of war. Sadly, Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s 2014 onslaught of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense. Since international law lacks a hierarchical enforcement authority, its means and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous for left unchecked the actions of Israel, and by complicity, our own government, will eventually erode a global mechanism that strives to maintain stability and security through a balance of power that is based on legitimacy and responsible behavior.
The tensions began last July when Israeli forces killed two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank. This was caught on tape and viewed worldwide. On June 12th three Israeli youths were abducted and killed. Once their bodies were discovered, a group of Israelis kidnapped a Palestinian teenager, poured gasoline down his throat and burned him alive. These atrocities, committed by both sides, came on the heels of the collapse of the US-led framework negotiations and immediately after Hamas’ ratification of a unity deal with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. President Obama welcomed the unity deal; Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation by using economic warfare. He withheld payment of salaries for 43,000 civil servants in the Gaza strip. On his orders Israel’s armed forces then rampaged throughout the West Bank, abducting more than 560 Palestinians. And finally, claiming Hamas was responsible for the abduction and murder of the three Israeli youths, Netanyahu began bombarding the Gaza Strip in a campaign of collective punishment. The perpetrators, as it turned out, were not members of Hamas but rogue Islamic elements that acted without the knowledge and against the wishes of Hamas leadership.

On July 15 an apparent ceasefire was achieved. It was an optical illusion. The mediator was the new Egyptian dictator, General Fatah al-Sisi, an open military ally of Israel and a client of American largesse. Instead of negotiating with Hamas, he dictated a ceasefire on Israeli terms without consulting Hamas. Hamas leaders learned of the ceasefire from the media and rejected it out of hand. Hamas, in its offer of a ten-year ceasefire, asked for the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed on Gazans seven years ago.
Israel continues full-scale warfare on Gaza, an open air prison and the most densely populated place on earth and Hamas retaliates.

How will this tragedy end? There will be no end, just round after round, unless a political solution is adopted. This would mean: stop the rockets and the bombs, end the Israeli blockade, allow the people of Gaza to live a normal life, further Palestinian unity under a real unity government, conduct serious negotiations with honest brokers, not the tired old US and Israeli imposed impostors and make lasting peace in a region of the world that has already seen far too much war and tragedy.

This book is available for purchase here.amazon

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