Listen to this article:
The recent upsurge of violence in Palestine defies simplistic categorization as a mere conflict. It is characterized by a deadly military campaign in the Gaza Strip and intensified operations in the West Bank, inflicting profound suffering upon the Palestinian people. At least 500 lives were tragically lost in an Israeli air raid on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, a day that would become Gaza’s deadliest. Gaza authorities reported that on October 17, an Israeli airstrike at this hospital claimed the lives of approximately 500 individuals, while Israel contended that a Palestinian rocket had caused the devastating blast.
With this appalling incident marking the highest death toll of any single occurrence during the ongoing violence; it has stirred protests not only within the occupied West Bank but also in the global cities of Istanbul and Amman. In the wake of this catastrophic event, Mai Alkaila, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, accused Israel of perpetrating a massacre at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital. This tragic strike, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives, unfolded amidst Israel’s intense 11-day bombing campaign in Gaza. In the face of this escalating crisis, it is crucial to underscore the legitimate right of Palestinians to resist, particularly within the context of an apartheid regime.
A Colonial and Apartheid History
At the heart of the Palestinian struggle lies the Nakba of 1948, a harrowing event marked by the violent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their ancestral lands. Israel’s settler-colonial project has relied on the systematic dispossession and oppression of Palestinians, an enduring legacy. International organizations, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, notably categorize Israel as an apartheid regime.
The recent Hamas assault on historic Palestinian territories within Israel cannot be isolated from its historical, colonial context. From its inception, Israel has pursued a settler-colonial project that entailed ethnic cleansing and mass displacement of Palestinians. The Nakba symbolized the catastrophic expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians; today, more than six million Palestinian refugees remain. The ongoing violence in Palestine should be perceived within this colonial framework.
Palestine Has Been Provoked Since 1948
The portrayal of Hamas attacks as “unprovoked” by Israel is a clear example of propaganda that seeks to paint Palestinians as the aggressors while disregarding the historical context of the conflict. This one-sided narrative ignores the illegal occupation, apartheid system, and systemic oppression that Palestinians have endured since 1948. Such framing demonizes Palestinians as bloodthirsty without addressing the root causes of their resistance.
Every single day under apartheid in Palestine serves as a constant distress to the Palestinian people. In 2023, the West Bank witnessed an alarming escalation of violence and oppression, with dire consequences for Palestinian communities. The West Bank has recorded its deadliest toll this year since the United Nations began keeping records in 2005 when 153 Palestinian lives were lost. The Israeli military’s fresh attack on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank is a poignant example of this ongoing tragedy. This offensive resulted in the loss of eight Palestinian lives and injured 50 others, as confirmed by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The assault commenced with a series of aerial drone strikes, evolving into a large-scale ground incursion that left ten individuals in critical condition.
In September 2023, another distressing incident unfolded as Israeli forces assaulted Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a blatant violation of a revered place of worship. Israeli settlers stormed the mosque during the last day of Rosh Hashanah under the protection of occupation forces, resulting in the physical assault of Palestinian worshippers.
Furthermore, the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes as a form of collective punishment persisted throughout 2023, deepening the anguish of Palestinian families. An illustrative case was the demolition of the family home of a Palestinian prisoner in Ramallah. Tragically, this situation is far from isolated, with close to 1,000 other Palestinians facing forced eviction from their homes, often with the support of the Israeli government and settler groups.
The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails remains a pressing concern, with approximately 5,200 Palestinians currently incarcerated, including 33 women and 170 children facing prosecution in military courts. This alarming situation can be traced back to the oppressive military orders that criminalize civic activities and any form of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Most alarming of all is the consistent arrest and detention of Palestinian children, with over 12,000 children detained by Israeli forces since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000. Each year, at least 700 Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank get prosecuted through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated, and detained by the Israeli army. These children are subjected to a profoundly unjust legal system that further exacerbates their plight.
Amidst this turmoil, the tragic loss of Shireen Abu Akleh, a highly esteemed journalist, underlines the dangerous conditions faced by media professionals in Palestine. Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned TV correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, lost her life while bravely covering Israeli army raids in Jenin. This deeply unfortunate incident, widely regarded as a war crime, emphasizes the hazards faced by journalists operating in the region. 2023 is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges and injustices Palestinians face. It underscores the imperative need for international attention and action to address these pressing issues and actively work towards a just and peaceful resolution to the enduring oppression.
Recognizing these actions as provocations does not imply an endorsement of further violence against civilians. It emphasizes the need for a comprehensive understanding of the crises that acknowledges the complexities of the Palestinian experience. However, if one were to rely solely on Western news coverage, it would be easy to assume that Palestinians are the primary cause of the conflict while Israel perpetually responds to threats. This perspective effectively erases the experiences of Palestinians and misrepresents the dynamics at play.
Additionally, the broader context of the crises is often overlooked, such as Israel’s ultimate control over the lives of five million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, despite denying them the right to vote in Israeli elections. This contradiction to the principles of democracy raises fundamental questions about fairness and equality within the Israeli political system.
The Double Standards
The dehumanizing language that Israeli officials use to describe Palestinians, such as the reference to “human animals,” sheds light on a deeply concerning aspect of the conflict. The announced policy of collective punishment against all residents of Gaza raises serious moral and ethical concerns, and it is essential to confront this rhetoric.
The double standards in international politics are also evident when comparing the support for Ukraine’s resistance to foreign occupation and the lack of equivalent support for Palestinians. Even non-violent methods of resistance, like the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign, are met with vilification and criminalization. These double standards extend to the highest levels of leadership, with the Ukrainian president voicing unequivocal support for Israel’s right to self-defence while denying the same right to other occupied territories.
The fundamental issue lies in the false equivalence that obscures the massive power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinian people. The reality is that one party dominates while the other becomes dominated; one colonizes while the other becomes colonized. The Oslo Accords, promising a negotiated settlement to address these injustices, have increasingly appeared as a necessary illusion rather than a viable path to peace.
As this double standard continues to prevail, we risk entering a prolonged era of armed struggle and violent domination, with both sides becoming increasingly interdependent for their survival. Such a path is neither sustainable nor desirable, leading to unnecessary and horrific bloodshed. It is essential to challenge these double standards and work towards a more just and equitable resolution to the longstanding conflict.
The Right to Resist: Legal Foundations
International law has long recognized the right of occupied peoples to resist their oppressors. The adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 unequivocally affirmed the right of national liberation struggles as a protected and essential right. UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43 in 1982 reaffirmed “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity, and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”
Violence in a Colonial Context
The oppressor’s violence, employed to maintain domination and subjugation, cannot be equated with the resistance of the oppressed striving to restore their dignity and secure their existence. Therefore, comparing the violence from the oppressor to that of the oppressed is both a moral and logical fallacy. The oppressor employs violence to maintain structures of domination, while the oppressed utilize resistance to regain their dignity and fight for their existence. As Nelson Mandela pointed out: “It is … the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle.” Palestinians, like any oppressed population, have the right to self-defence.
The label “terrorist” is a disputed term used to bypass the legal limitations imposed by international law concerning the treatment of adversaries. It’s a term contrived to vilify those opposing the hegemonic influence and global dominance of the US, Israel, and European powers. In the context of Palestine, this label has created confusion and distorted perceptions of the reality on the ground.
It is crucial to grasp the nature of American society, heavily influenced by the financial-media-military-industrial complex. Control over Middle Eastern oil resources is a core interest for this complex, often at odds with the well-being of local populations in oil-rich regions, who are majority Muslims.
To legitimize and sustain its dominance, the US uses media manipulation to shape public opinion, as explained by Professors Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their book, Manufacturing Consent. Furthermore, establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after 9/11 has exerted further control over the population, contributing to the demonization of Islam, Muslims, and, by extension, Palestinians.
Western powers’ condemnation of Palestinian resistance with their endorsement of Israel’s right to defend itself continues a colonial and imperial history. The double standards are evident in Palestine’s ongoing fight for liberation. Gaza has endured a brutal blockade for over 15 years, and its inhabitants have suffered through multiple wars with the Israeli occupation.
Acknowledging the Palestinians’ right to resistance is essential, not just for justice but as a fundamental step toward a lasting regional solution. The denial of this right prolongs violence and instability. Palestinian resistance is grounded in international law and is not an endorsement of all actions taken by various Palestinian groups; it is an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of their struggle against occupation and oppression.
The issue is not the nature of the act of resistance but rather the challenge it poses to the structures of occupation and colonization. Palestinian factions, from leftist organizations to progressives, have all faced Israeli repression. Beyond the borders of occupied Palestine, solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign have been targeted in Western states, reflecting a broader assault on progressive and left-wing politics.
The use of the term “terrorist” and the portrayal of Palestinians as such is part of a broader narrative shaped by power structures and interests. Palestinians have legitimate rights, including the end of occupation, the end of apartheid, the end of colonization, and the right to return for refugees. No workable solution is possible until these fundamental rights are recognized and upheld, contributing to a fair and lasting peace in the region.
The Imperative of Acknowledging Palestinian Resistance
The Palestinian struggle cannot be reduced to a mere conflict. It is a profound historical, legal, and moral necessity deeply entrenched in the Palestinian narrative. The recent upsurge of violence in Palestine underscores the urgent need to place these events within their rightful context. The portrayal of Hamas attacks as “unprovoked” ignores the ongoing oppression Palestinians have faced since 1948, including illegal occupation, apartheid, and systemic oppression. Recognizing these injustices does not condone violence against civilians but emphasizes the necessity of comprehending the complexities of the Palestinian experience.
Furthermore, international law safeguards the right of occupied peoples to resist their oppressors, recognizing the fundamental difference between the violence of the oppressor and the resistance of the oppressed. The label “terrorist” has been used to vilify those challenging the influence of global powers. Palestinian resistance, firmly rooted in international law, acknowledges the legitimacy of their struggle against occupation and oppression.
A just solution in the region rests on acknowledging these legitimate rights, encompassing the end of occupation, apartheid, colonization, and the right to return for refugees. The persistent double standards in Western powers’ response to Palestinian resistance underscore the enduring colonial and imperial history that taints the discourse on Palestine. Understanding the Palestinian struggle in its complete context reveals that it is not just a matter of justice but also an essential prerequisite for a lasting peace. Denying the right to resist perpetuates violence and instability. Only through recognizing these fundamental rights can a just and enduring peace be envisioned in the region.