Israel and its supporters want to destroy Hamas, and kill the “human animals”, as the Israeli defense minister called Palestinians. Such a genocidal strategy will not work.
Even if Israel manages to destroy the leadership of Hamas, another group would take its place. In any case, what is hardly mentioned at all in media coverage of the crisis is that other Palestinian groups were involved in the October 7 attacks – Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Communist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Mujahideen Movement, and the Popular Resistance Committees.
No matter how hard the Israelis pound the Gaza Strip, they will not wipe out the resistance against the occupation. Rather it will act as a recruitment vehicle for the resistance, as Israel’s actions have done for decades, and will not endear people in the region in any way towards Israel.
For instance, during the July 2006 war by Israel on Lebanon’s Hizbullah, I was sitting with Lebanese friends in the Dahiyeh (Beirut’s majority Shia southern suburbs) watching the news of the Qana massacre. My friend pointed at his seven-year-old nephew and said, what do you think he thinks of Israel seeing this? “Nothing good,” I replied.
The same scene is playing out today as the Middle East watches the bodies of men, women and children being pulled out of the rubble in Gaza. The boy I watched TV news with 17 years ago is now 23, and to the best of my knowledge not involved with the resistance, but he still doesn’t like Israel.
Generation after generation has seen and experienced such incredible violence inflicted on Palestinians and neighboring countries. Such a cycle of violence will not cease until there is an end to apartheid and the occupation. As Nelson Mandela wrote, “If the oppressor uses violence, the oppressed have no response but to respond violently.”
The Palestinians have tried every means possible to be heard, yet are faced with unceasing violence. In March 2018, Palestinians protested at the border fence calling for the “right to return” to their ancestral homes. The year-long protests were met with sniper fire and the deaths of 266 people and 30,000 injured.
No Palestinian is safe under the occupation. As the UN has reported, between 2015 and 2022 there were over 8,700 child casualties alone. And last year, as Human Rights Watch has documented, was the “deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank in 15 years, and 2023 is on track to meet or exceed 2022 levels.” That report was as of August, since then over 1,500 children have been killed during the siege on Gaza, while some 50,000 Palestinian women are pregnant.
Despite such violence, the oppressor cannot silence aspirations for freedom. This is not an alien concept to the US. As US President Ronald Reagan said in 1982 when he dedicated the launch of the space shuttle Columbia to the Afghan people, the “struggle” against “occupation … represents man’s highest aspirations for freedom”.
Yet the Israelis, the Americans and their European allies continue to think that massive bombing and collective punishment will somehow work. The Israelis have tried this strategy since 1948, and against Gaza in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2021. It clearly hasn’t worked, but it has produced a lot of post-traumatic stress and suffering.
From 1982 until 2000, the Israelis tried to occupy Southern Lebanon, but left with their tail between their legs, as the USA did after 18 years in Afghanistan. An indigenous resistance, even if not supported by everyone, will inevitably survive. The Palestinians testify to this, as do the Afghanis, the Iraqis and many others. The most sophisticated armies cannot destroy resistance as they cannot win over ‘hearts and minds’.
The white South African apartheid regime and colonizers elsewhere in Africa and Asia found that out too. The status quo could not be maintained unless the indigenous population was totally or largely annihilated, as happened in the Americas and Australia (which still denies its indigenous population a voice).
The US-led Global War on Terror caused the deaths of over 4.5 million people, cost trillions of dollars, and left destruction and mayhem in its wake, making the world a less secure place. This was foreseeable and obvious. As the late Lebanese Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told me in 2004, just after the invasion of Iraq: “As long as American foreign policy remains the same and the Palestinian issue is left unresolved, the US ‘war on terror’ will increase terrorism by 100 percent.”
The Israelis back in 2006 wanted to bomb Lebanon ‘back to the dark ages’ (an oft-repeated mantra), and wipe out Hizbullah. It did not manage to, despite US and British support, which included delaying calls for an end to hostilities. Instead, Hizbullah came out stronger. Out of the devastation wrought on Southern Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs, buildings were rebuilt. The Hizbullah-aligned Al Manar TV, which had its studios totally destroyed, were rebuilt bigger and better (and largely underground). The buildings in which I had interviewed Hamas and Hizbullah members were also rebuilt (the leaders I interviewed survived).
Indicative of Hizbullah’s strength, heightened by years of bruising conflict in Syria, including fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), is that the US and the UK have sent their navies to the Mediterranean to protect Israel should the Lebanese group, and others, enter the fray. It is a clear message to not expand the conflict.
Besieging Gaza then will not achieve the Israelis’ aims, other than assuaging their thirst for vengeance. Even using tactical nuclear weapons to wipe out Gaza, as an Israeli politician suggested, will not succeed in diminishing resistance, as it will then come from elsewhere. Genocide will not make Israelis any safer, nor prevent further attacks against civilians, as happened on 7 October.
The only option left to end the violence is for the occupiers themselves to end the occupation, as the white South Africans eventually had to accept, and the British had to accept in Northern Ireland. One does not hold one’s breath of course.
As for international law, the so-called arbiters of the rules-based system – the US and Europe – only selectively believe in it, from the Geneva Conventions to the Rome Statute, to decisions at the UN. Israel does not abide by the 45 resolutions (as of 2013) passed by the UN Human Rights Council (which comprise almost half of all country-specific resolutions ever passed) while the US has vetoed some 53 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, according to UN data.
The West’s support for Israel has indeed undermined international law due to its hypocrisy. As an unnamed senior G7 diplomat told the Financial Times in an article titled ‘Rush by West to back Israel erodes developing countries’ support for Ukraine’: “We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South … All the work we have done with the Global South [over Ukraine] has been lost . . . Forget about rules, forget about world order. They won’t ever listen to us again.”
This article is dedicated to the memory of Issam Abdallah, a Lebanese journalist and acquaintance killed by Israeli shelling in Southern Lebanon on 13 October.