A Gazan boy being shifted to a hospital after Israelis attacked a school in Gaza (Courtesy: Times of Gaza)
A. Faizur Rahman
There was nothing valorous about the horrific Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that resulted in the killing of 1400 people and the abduction of dozens more. It was a dastardly act of bumptious bravado.
Certainly, the 2.3 million hapless open-air prisoners of Gaza could not have countersigned it knowing full well that retaliatory violence of unspeakable proportions would be visited upon them by the Jewish state. A ‘Joint Statement on Israel’ released on Oct. 9 by France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA had warned that Hamas offers Palestinians nothing “other than more terror and bloodshed.”
More terror and bloodshed were indeed in store for the Palestinians in the name of a retributive war on Hamas. The threshold for civilian casualties was kept so diabolically high in this offensive that Gazans became the main target and Hamas the collateral damage.
There is no verifiable data on the number of Hamas fighters killed. But we do know that the regime of Shock and Awe that Israel unleashed – in which Gaza was hit by the equivalent of two nuclear bombs till November 1 – has resulted in the massacre of more than 11,000 Palestinians including nearly 5000 children, not counting the displacement of about two million people without food, water and medicines, and the bombing of refugee camps, ambulances, hospitals, churches and mosques which shelter the displaced population.
On November 1, President Biden played up the “largest delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance into Gaza so far” adding that he supports “safe passage for Gaza civilians seeking safety.”
But there is hardly anything life-saving or humanitarian about permitting a loaf of bread and a bottle of water to inculpable men, women, and children after blockading and starving them for weeks; or allowing nominal medical aid to the seriously injured residents after pulverising their homes using Precision-Guided 2000-pound bunker-buster bombs, or letting UN aid workers console inconsolable parents after inhumanly killing their children.
Real humanitarianism would have been to stop Israel from imposing collective punishment on all Palestinians especially thousands of children who were unconscionably bombed to death. But Mr. Biden has not just refused to call for a ceasefire he has sought $14 billion more in wartime aid for Israel.
Besides, he spoke of a “safe passage for Gaza civilians” without specifying any safe place for them. The fact is, there is no safe place in Gaza, and their relocation “absent of any guarantees of safety or return, would amount to the war crime of forcible transfer” according to Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Craig Mokhiber, the director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was even more categorical in his resignation letter wherein he accused the governments of the US, UK, and much of Europe of arming Israel and therefore being “wholly complicit” in its “horrific assault” on Gaza which he called “a textbook case of genocide.”
Hamas and Netanyahu
The scale of death and destruction that Israel has brought upon Gaza in the last month leaves no room for doubt that the Oct. 7 Hamas attack was an unmitigated disaster for the Palestinians. It also provided the pretext Israel needed to consider forcibly and permanently transferring Gaza’s 2.3 million residents to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Netanyahu had made this clear when on September 22 he brandished an irredentist map of Greater Israel at the UN comprising all Palestinian territories including Gaza and the West Bank.
Why, then, did Hamas provoke Israel? The answer perhaps lies in what Israeli historian Adam Raz calls “an unspoken political alliance” between Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas. Raz writes that Netanyahu’s policy since his return to power in 2009 has been to strengthen Hamas “militarily and politically” to weaken the Palestinian Authority and sabotage the two-state solution.
Another Israeli historian Dmitry Shumsky confirmed this by quoting Netanyahu as telling members of his Likud party that to “foil the establishment of a Palestinian state” they must support his idea of facilitating the funding of Hamas.
Hamas must have accepted Netanyahu’s patronage because it has been, due to its misrule, steadily losing support inside Gaza and knew that in an independent Palestinian state, it would find itself out of power.
A survey conducted by research network Arab Barometer in Gaza days before the Oct 7 attack revealed that only 29 percent of Gazans expressed either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in Hamas with 44% of them saying that they have no trust at all. Their main concern was “the economic situation, such as poverty, unemployment, and inflation.” Most importantly, 54% favoured the two-state solution.
Palestinians had long back accepted Israel’s right to exist despite having initially rejected the UN General Assembly Resolution 181(II) of 29 Nov 1947 which unfairly partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, and gave the Palestinians only 43% (11,800 sq km) of their territory. The Jews got 57% (14,500 sq. km.) when they owned less than 6% of the land and constituted less than one-third of the population despite forced immigration.
Today, the Palestinians do not even have the 11,800 sq. km. allotted to them. Most of the 5655 sq. km. in the West Bank is under the brutal occupation of Israel and in the besieged 365 sq. km. Gaza Strip they are again at the mercy of Israel enduring endless suffering.
The only way, therefore, to “wipe out” Hamas would be to let the Palestinians politically reject it. For this to happen, they will have to be allowed to establish and live in peace in their own sovereign, economically stable state even if it is on only 43% of their original land.
A. Faizur Rahman is Secretary-General of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Islam. This article was first published in the Deccan Herald newspaper. The writer can be contacted on yjr ,[email protected] and his X handle is: @FaizEngineer