What next for Gaza after Israel’s Land Day massacre?


Haidar Eid

After imposing a deadly blockade on the two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip for 11 years and launching three massive, genocidal attacks in the last seven years – aided by the complicity of the so-called international community and the silence of reactionary Arab regimes – last week, Israel has committed a new massacre against peaceful demonstrators commemorating Land Day and asserting their right of return.
On Friday, March 30, Israeli soldiers killed 17 civilians and injured more than 1,400 others – mostly with live ammunition. According to the Israeli military, the massacre went according to plan. Their spokesperson tweeted – and later deleted – that “[On March 30] nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured. We know where every bullet landed”.
At the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, I wrote the following:
Gaza has become a war-zone: the biggest concentration camp on the surface of Earth has become a burial site – a noisy graveyard. The Palestinian body has become the ultimate target of the Israeli bullet – the younger the better (Sara, a two-year-old girl from Nablus was also shot in the head.) The Palestinian body has, in other words, become the site of (in)justice: ‘eliminate the body, and it will leave a vacuum that can be occupied – a land without people for people without land’.
Today, we have a sense of deja vu; we’ve been there before and we know that more of us will be killed in what BBC calls “clashes”! The Israeli military, or what the courageous Israeli journalist Gideon Levy calls “the Israel Massacre Forces”, are a gang of thugs indoctrinated by an ideology that dehumanises children and justifies the shooting of innocent civilians.
It is definitely not the right time for such grandiose philosophical questions, but what is the Palestinian to do when he or she lives such a crude political reality?
The question that is on every Gaza Palestinian mind is “why is this allowed to happen, 24 years after the fall of the apartheid regime of South Africa?” We do know why Israel is doing it; we are the unwanted “goyim”, the refugees whose very existence is a constant reminder of the original sin committed in 1948 – the premeditated crime of ethnic cleansing of two thirds of the Palestinian people. We have been cursed for simply having the “wrong” religion and “ethnicity”, for being born to non-Jewish mothers! The problem is that we are not dying quietly; we are making noise, a lot of noise; we are banging the walls of the Gaza tank – to use one of famed Palestinian intellectual and author Ghassan Kanafani’s metaphors.
Gaza hospitals: ‘Israel was shooting to kill or cause disability’
I have been teaching one of Kanafani’s best novels called All That is Left to You to my students at Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University. In this novel, the hero, who happens to be a refugee living in Gaza, loses everything except his will to resist. Holding on to that will, and confronting the horror of Zionist colonialism requires a vision. A vision that could enable him to return to Jaffa, where he had lost his father at the hands of Zionist gangs in 1948. Most of my students relate to, and some even identify with him. They agree that no political solution can be achieved without the implementation of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which calls for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the villages and cities from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. No wonder, then, that most of my students are among the demonstrators on Gaza’s borders!
In Gaza, we know that Israel is going to get away with it, simply because it has never been held to account for any of the massacres it has committed; we also know that it is going to commit more and worse crimes.
Hasn’t the ESCWA report proven beyond any doubt that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the indigenous people of Palestine? We also know that it would not have been able to carry out all these crimes without support from the United States and the so-called international community. We, therefore, have lost hope in official bodies such as the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Instead, we are counting on international civil society to put an end to this ongoing bloodbath committed by apartheid Israel in broad day light.
The tool? Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with International Law. Forget about meaningless negotiations that have proven to be disastrous, as the late Edward Said had rightly predicted back in 1994; forget about the racist two state solution that has been shot in the head by Israel itself and which fails to deal with the core of the Palestinian question, namely, 6-7 million refugees insisting on asserting their UN-stipulated right of return. The only window of hope, in addition to our own mass mobilisation, lies in the growing BDS campaign supported by conscious people all over the world. They understand that our struggle is non-sectarian, one that is enshrined in the basic principles of the International Declaration of Human Rights, no matter how hard hypocritical Western Media tries to conceal the truth.
And while a 6 per cent unemployment rate doesn’t appear alarmingly high, the rising trend is alarming. There are signs of a pickup in the labour participation rate (LPR) during February 2018. It is likely that LPR, which was hovering below 44 per cent, may just about breach that level by the end of the month. However, the increase in labour participation seen in the weekly estimates shows up in higher unemployment. The estimated number of persons unemployed who are actively looking for a job almost touched 31 million in the week ended February 25. This is the highest count since October 2016, and seems to suggest that labour that is entering the markets in search of jobs is not finding them in sufficient numbers.
All this translates into two narratives running in the country. The decisive and overwhelming one is associated with the BJP and Prime Minister Modi, while the Opposition picks up the pieces to provide a united front against what it sees as polarising and divisive forces. Sadly, communal forces are making a strong comeback, as evident in the bloodletting in West Bengal and Bihar and now the growing flashpoints over the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act in different parts of the country.
The alarming decline in law and order and mishandling of anarchic situations, be it in Panchkula or Hisar in Haryana, or incendiary clashes in western UP has exposed a weak leadership. India, in 2018, needs to retrofit rapidly for its challenges outnumber positives. Hope versus fear will dominate the next general election.