I’ve had several discussions with friends and acquaintances regarding the recent wave of violence in Gaza over the past few days. It’s a complicated situation at best, but I think the excerpt below, from an article by Khury Petersen-Smith and posted at Socialist Worker sums up my thoughts on the subject as well as anything I’ve seen in print so far.
In the U.S., we’re taught to see Israeli occupation and Palestinian resistance as a “cycle of violence,” at which we must throw up our hands and say “it’s too complicated” to understand or choose a side. But when Israel launches attacks like “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” it makes the situation much less “complicated.”
Anyone taking an honest look at Israeli F-16s bombing a trapped and largely defenseless Gaza has to question the U.S.-Israeli line–one that President Barack Obama, among other people, is “fully supportive of”–that Israel is simply “defending itself” from Palestinians.
But many progressives hesitate to place themselves decidedly on the side of the Palestinians, concluding instead that “violence on both sides” is to blame for the conflict.
Part of the reluctance to blame the nightmare unfolding in Palestine squarely on Israel is a desire to view the situation objectively. Objectivity–seeing things for what they are, as unbiased by beliefs and ideology as possible–is a fine starting point for understanding the situation. But if you look at the past week of violence in Palestine objectively, what emerges is a one-sided slaughter.
The most obvious indications of this are the numbers of Israelis and Palestinians who have been killed since Israel’s “operation” began. As this article was being written, three Israelis had been killed by rockets fired from Gaza–and 118 Palestinians have been killed through Israeli violence. This number includes one Palestinian in the West Bank who was killed by Israeli occupation forces as he protested the Israel Defense Forces’ assault on Gaza.
The wildly lopsided death toll is reason enough to doubt that this is a “conflict” between “two sides.” But it is really just the starkest indication of a deeper reality. That reality is the power relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
One side, Israel, has established a state on land stolen from the Palestinians, which it controls and “defends” by force. Everything the Palestinian struggle does is in response to this situation, which can only be called colonial.
Israel has the economic, military and diplomatic backing of the most powerful country in the world, the United States. Having systematically disarmed Gaza through siege and blockade, Israel is attacking a captive, civilian population. As Chris Hedges wrote years ago:
Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and Naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army and calls it a war.
Those words unfortunately ring truer today–after six years of blockade and siege–than when they were written.