This week marks the 10th anniversary of the horror inflicted on the people of the Gaza Strip when Israeli war planes launched massive airstrikes on the besieged strip. Nothing has changed! To add insult to injury, and because the so-called “International Community” did absolutely nothing to put an end to Israel’s war crimes, the latter repeated the attacks in 2012 and in 2014 killing more than 4,000 civilians and injuring tens of thousands. During the 2008 massacre, an Israeli soldier was reported to have said in an interview: “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.” This is an expression of the mainstream ideology ruling Israel.
And now Gaza has returned to its state of siege, confronted with the same international apathy. Ten years after the Israeli assault that lasted 22 long days and dark nights, during which its brave people were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world, Gaza no longer makes the news. Its people die slowly, its children are malnourished, its water contaminated, and yet it is deprived even of a word of sympathy from the leaders of the “civilized world.” In fact, the dehumanization of the Palestinians of Gaza continues unabated. Almost 300 civilians have been killed by Israeli snipers stationed in ditches at the eastern fence on the strip since the eruption of a series of non-violent demonstrations as part of the Great March of Return in March 2018. And the international community is still blind and deaf.
Israel could not have carried out its brutal assault, preceded and followed by a punishing siege, without a green light from leading world powers. The urgent question is how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights in order to forestall further escalation and a larger bloodbath now that Israelis are preparing themselves for new Knesset elections in April. We do know what that means: more Palestinian suffering as the competing Zionist parties will use that to guarantee more votes.
One way to begin holding Israel accountable is through direct witness and citizen solidarity. For example, a group of courageous Israeli citizens demonstrate on the other side of the fence in solidarity with the Great March of Return and to remind the world of the cruel consequences of the siege and the ongoing massacre. It is one of the remarkable undertakings by very few conscientious Israeli individuals that have decided to take action into their own hand. But that is not enough to stop the “greater Shoah” we’ve been threatened with.
The reaction of the international community has been very disappointing what with the American administration, followed by the Australian and the Brazilian governments, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The EU is paying lip service to Palestinian human rights without taking a single concrete step to penalize the perpetrator; both the US and the EU continue to strengthen ties with Israel. The Arab governments, those in the Gulf in particular, have increased their normalization with apartheid Israel regardless of the bloodbath in Gaza.
Once again, we need to refer to South Africa. The South African apartheid regime came under repeated pressure as the United Nations Security Council passed one resolution after another condemning its inhumane treatment of blacks. This gave much-needed succour to the oppressed, while we Palestinians, today, are bereft of even this tiny comfort because the right-wing American government continues to use its veto to ensure that Israel escapes censure.
Today, there is a growing grassroots struggle inside Palestine, much as there was inside apartheid South Africa. An intensified international solidarity movement with a common agenda can make the struggle for Palestine resonate in every country in the world. And this is exactly what the BDS movement is doing making apartheid Israel launching a war against it. In Gaza, our goal now, as civil society organizations, is to lift the genocidal siege as a first step towards implementing all basic rights guaranteed under international law. To accomplish this, many activists, Palestinian and international, have launched a boycott campaign modelled on the global South African anti-apartheid campaign. This campaign is a democratic movement based on the struggle for human rights and the implementation of international law. Our struggle is not religious, ethnic, nor racial, but rather universalist; it is a struggle that guarantees the humanization of our people in the face of a dreadful Israeli war machine. Hence the importance of relating BFDS with the Great March of Return.
In 2009, we argued that Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored. It demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. We never thought that we would witness worse massacres! Now is the time to boycott the Apartheid Israeli state, to divest from its economy and to impose sanctions against it. It is high time that the world imposes a military embargo on Israel the same way it did against the apartheid regime of South Africa.