The dream of return

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By REGINALDO NASSER*

It is sad to see that this terrible cycle of violence will not end until a sovereign and autonomous Palestinian State is established

The current conflict in the Gaza Strip is practically a repeat of previous conflicts, except for the way in which the Hamas attacks were carried out. Using air, sea and land means combined with the launch of rockets, Hamas fighters caused surprise due to the boldness and intensity of their actions in territory occupied by Israel and caused hundreds of deaths among Israeli civilians and military personnel.

As in other episodes of violence in the region, the media debate focused on Hamas and with it the issue of occupation, oppression and humiliation that the Palestinian people, in general, and the inhabitants of Gaza, in particular, have been experiencing for 75 years under the apartheid was forgotten.

From a geopolitical perspective, perhaps the fact that Hamas militants have crossed borders is the most disturbing point for Israel's national security doctrine. Not by chance, two days after the attacks, the Ministry of Defense repeated several times that it had “restored full control” over the Gaza border. This concern of the Israeli government is understandable, since, as recognized in the current international system, defined and secure borders are an essential element for the exercise of national sovereignty. But what were the foundations that guided the creation of these borders?

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly, with the decisive support of the great powers, approved Resolution 181, which resulted in the plan for the partition of Palestine. Jewish settlers, previously owners of 6% of the land and 30% of the local population (600 thousand inhabitants), now own 55% of the territory. Palestinians, who represented 70% of the population (1,3 million), took the remaining 45%. Therefore, there was a violent process of expropriation and expulsion of Palestinians, definitively marking the history of these people.

During the Palestine War, between 1947 and 1949, Palestinians were expelled from around 400 cities and villages where they were the majority of the population. Several cities and communities temporarily taken over by Hamas were mostly inhabited by Palestinians who took refuge in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, from the Palestinians' perspective, this mobilization that began on October 7 was the realization of the dream of return.

There were other important historical moments that shaped Gaza's destiny. In June 1967, as a result of Israel's victory in the war with the Arab countries (Syria, Egypt and Jordan), the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were militarily occupied by Israeli forces and came to be called the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). . In 2005, the so-called Gaza disengagement plan proposed by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began. The withdrawal of all its settlements made a good impression on the international community, as it could be the beginning of a state in Gaza, opening a path to peace. The Hamas spokesman even stated that it was a victory for the armed resistance and that “Israel left Gaza because Gaza had become a burden”.

In 2006, there were elections in Palestine and Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, against 45 for Fatah. This was mainly due to its historic role as a charitable organization combined with popular dissatisfaction towards the Fatah government, accused of corruption and colluding with the Israeli occupation. Hamas' victory was seen with great apprehension in the international community and triggered a real civil war with Fatah, which resulted in the seizure of power in the Gaza Strip.

In 2007, Israel formally declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity and implemented a land, sea and air blockade of the region that continues to this day. To understand the consequences of this enclosure, the UN published a report in 2012 predicting that by 2020 the region would become an uninhabitable place. Approximately 97% of water is considered unfit for use, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, 80% depend on external aid and 64% of young people are unemployed. In addition to the terrible living conditions, the inhabitants of Gaza suffer serious humanitarian crises resulting from six asymmetric wars. Unlike other war conflicts, they cannot escape their territory, which has one of the highest population densities in the world.

An inevitable question concerns the form of legitimate struggle that the Palestinian people should undertake against a much superior oppressor in military terms. Hamas' warlike actions, in addition to causing damage to the Israeli civilian population, only sharpen the destructive and cruel impetus of Tel-Aviv's retaliation at an enormous cost to the Palestinians. Since 2007, the Israeli government has said that the aim of the intensive and disproportionate use of force is to end Hamas terrorism and protect Israeli civilians.

Israel's Defense Minister declared that he had ordered “a complete siege” of the Gaza Strip. “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. We are fighting human animals and will act accordingly.” With this, he intends to blame the victim of his own tragedy, from a supposed moral superiority. The phrases that were most repeated during these years were: they deserve an “exemplary punishment”, “they will pay an unbearable price”, “we will teach them a lesson”. However, the logic of resistance is that the more collective punishments are inflicted on a population, the more determination there is.

Between 2018 and 2019, a broad peaceful mobilization involved tens of thousands of Palestinians who went to the border demanding the lifting of the siege. The movement was carried out in spite of Hamas, which had no participation in the events. Even so, Israeli forces killed 170 protesters and left hundreds injured, with serious physical consequences. It was a very clear message from the Israeli government that it cared little about the methods used.

In the short term, the most important thing now is to cease hostilities in order to preserve civilian lives. The population of Gaza will return to a situation that the international community calls “calm”. In fact, it is a violent peace, a kind of calm of misery and oppression that precedes the storms and, when that happens again, we will talk about the same things we are debating now.

It is sad to see that this terrible cycle of violence will not end until a sovereign and autonomous Palestinian State is established. To do this, we need to go back to the beginning of this entire process, that is, when the great powers at the UN created the State of Israel. Now would be the time to pay off this moral debt, the biggest cause of the tragedies in Palestine.

*Reginaldo Nasser is a professor of International Relations at PUC-SP. Aauthor, among other books, of The fight against terrorism: the United States and Taliban Friends (Contracurrent Publisher). [https://amzn.to/46J5chm]

Text published via PUC-SP page, whose original version is from edition no. 1281 of the magazine capital letter.


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