The Legacy of Oppression in Palestine.

Supporters of the current policies of the Zionist State of Israel point to the situation in Gaza as proof as to why Israel can not afford to allow a Palestinian state of any kind to exist until the Palestinians somehow prove themselves to be worthy of such an honour.

They point to the brutality of Hamas militants and other extremists as justification for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state. “What else can Israel do?” they say. Such people seem to forget that self determination is a right, and a right is something you do not have to earn. What sort of behaviour do they think people will exhibit when their rights are continually denied? What behaviour did the Zionists themselves exhibit such that they earned the right to statehood in Palestine? Zionist terrorism in the British Mandate period (when Jews in Israel suffered the oppression of British policies that amounted to collective punishment against Jews) is well documented.

Was it the Holocaust that gave Zionists the right to self determination in Palestine? Do some people groups need to first become victims of atrocities before they are granted the same rights that we in the west take for granted? I think not.

Arab or Islamic extremists were not the cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict any more than the Black Panthers in the U.S. were responsible for the creation of slavery, discrimination and racism against Negroes in the U.S. or Aboriginal Land rights activists in Australia were responsible for the dispossession of Aboriginals in Australia that occurred at the hands of British colonialism. Nelson Mandela and the ANC were not responsible for the creation of Apartheid in South Africa.

Hamas and other Arab or Islamic extremists are the product of the Israel-Palestine conflict, not the cause of it. Those groups (with their hostility and violence towards Jewish people) simply did not exist before the advent of Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Religious Zionists who call for the extermination of Palestinian men, women and children did not exist then either. Those who do not grasp this fundamental reality will never make sense of the situation in the Middle East and hence will never understand the nature of any real solution.

What do we expect as a reasonable outcome of the conditions now experienced by the citizens of Gaza? A society under siege and cut off from the rest of the world. Do we really believe that such a situation is conducive to the creation of pacifism or democracy? Have such conditions anywhere else in the world been able to create such things? Conditions of despair and hopelessness make fertile soil for the voices of revenge and violence. Is anyone surprised that Gaza does not produce 1.5 million Zionists? Did Operation Cast Lead endear the citizens of Gaza to the state of Israel? Apparently not, yet the Zionist state is once again gearing up for another round of destruction in Gaza. Why do they think another episode of murdering Palestinian civilians will solve anything this time when it has clearly only strengthened the resolve of both moderates and extremists to continue to resist the Zionist state in the present?

If we do not approach the Israel-Palestine conflict with a sincere desire to listen to the basic, historic grievance of the Palestinian people, we can be assured that violence and horror will continue in this part of the world. What can Israel do? They can acknowledge the pain of the Palestinian people when they suffered the terrible dispossession of 1948. They can acknowledge the wrongs they have committed against the indigenous Arab population. They can stop perpetuating the odious lie that Israel was a land with no people for a people with no land. They can reciprocate the acknowledgment of the Palestinian people in 1993 that Israel has the right to exist with safe and secure borders. They can acknowledge the legitimacy of International Law that deems the occupation of the West Bank with its Jewish only settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and separation barrier as being illegal. This would be a brilliant start and would not require Israel giving up once square metre of land that was not given to it by international law. I am certain such acknowledgments would bring a lasting peace within a very short period of time.

But Israel is drunk with power. Power that has been inflated by the continued empowerment of the U.S. and the west. And the powerful never just hand over their power; that would require a type of wisdom never seen by politicians. Anyone who empowers anyone else to commit crimes against humanity is no true friend, but is exploiting the other party just as surely as night follows day. The U.S. in reality is no friend of Israel.

The open-air prison that is Gaza will continue to fill the need for justification felt by the supporters of the Zionist state of Israel. The continued oppression of the Gazans will undoubtedly provoke some to violence and this violence will be used by the self righteous amongst us to say yes to yet more oppression of the 1.5 million inhabitants of that tiny piece of real estate. Sanity and humility must prevail. Put yourself in the shoes of the powerful, the ones who have the power to make real steps towards reconciliation and justice. What would you do? If you are a Christian…what would Jesus do?

Craig Nielsen