By SORAYA MISLEH
The world is now witnessing another chapter of ethnic cleansing in the ongoing Nakba: the Palestinian catastrophe that has been ongoing since the formation of the racist state of Israel on May 15, 1948. In the midst of a new massacre in Gaza, the shameless complicity of governments around the world is truly frightening. The same goes for the ideological propaganda carried out by the media in the hands of the big capitalists, as they equate the colonizing and oppressive Israel with the oppressed Palestinian people who live under colonization, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
Using the fallacy of “two sides” at war, the media’s distortion of information amounts to something like believing in a “conversation between the sword and the neck.” The phrase was uttered by Palestinian Marxist Ghasan Kanafani in a historic interview with Richard Carleton in Beirut 1970, when he was asked about the possibility of negotiating with the colonizer. Assassinated two years later by Israel in the Lebanese capital at the age of 36, his legacy is fundamental to understanding that, contrary to the misinformation we see, this is not a circumstantial or one-off war.
“It’s not a civil war, it’s a people defending themselves against a fascist government. It is not a civil war or conflict, it is a liberation movement fighting for justice. […] It is a discriminated people fighting for their rights. This is history,” emphasizes the revolutionary Kanafani, refuting the journalist’s misleading questions and specious arguments.
In the same interview he is categorical in his remarks: “Our people prefer to die standing up. Our people can never be defeated.” This is the mark of the heroic and historic Palestinian resistance that inspires the struggles of the oppressed and exploited all over the world. Resistance is existence, in all aspects of daily life and is legitimate in all its means; it is the only option in the midst of the ongoing Nakba.
The beginning of the tragedy
The Palestinian population has been facing the colonizer’s violence in alliance with the reigning imperialism of the moment. Formerly Britain, it is now the United States that sends billions of dollars every year to the Zionist death industry, which has been ongoing since before 1948. The Nakba is a process that began with the rise of modern political Zionism in the late 19th century and its colonial project.
Under the rule of the Turkish-Ottoman Empire, Palestine was chosen as a destination for colonization at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. The determination was to secure a majority Jewish population on lands where there was a Palestinian minority (only 6% at the end of that period). To this end, the idea was to promote “population transfer.” A euphemism for ethnic cleansing, the waves of immigration of Jews from Eastern and Central Europe to Palestine were to carry out the project of conquering land and work, which was to be exclusively theirs.
As a result, Palestinians began to be expelled at the beginning of the 20th century. The 1920s and 1930s were marked by their resistance against the British mandate, which retained the territory as booty among the victorious Allied powers of the First World War (1914-1918), and the Zionist colonization which happened with their blessing. A powerful revolution took place between 1936 and 1939. Defeated by the actions of the classic enemies of the Palestinian cause revealed by Kanafani in The 1936-1939 revolt in Palestine (Sundermann Publishing House) as imperialism/Zionism, Arab regimes and reactionary Arab-Palestinian bourgeoisie, the Palestinian population was left absolutely vulnerable to what was to come: the Nakba.
On Nov. 29, 1947, the first special session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, with Jerusalem under international administration. This is where the long history of Brazilian complicity with Zionist colonization began. Brazilian diplomat Osvaldo Aranha presided over the session and voted in favor of the partition, which delegated just over half of those lands to the colonizer, obviously without consulting the non-Jewish native Palestinian inhabitants.
The partition resolution was the green light long-awaited by Zionists, who had worked on building up the population of Jews on those lands in several waves of immigration. Twelve days later, the ethnic cleansing that had been planned in the early 1940s began. What sealed the tragic fate of the Palestinians was called Plan Dalet, which was carried out over a six-month period in 1948. As a result, 800,000 Palestinians were expelled, and more than 500 villages were destroyed. About 15,000 Palestinians were massacred with expert cruelty. There are documented cases of genocide in dozens of villages, which served as propaganda for the expulsion of Palestinians in neighboring towns and villages, where the rape of girls and women was likewise systematic. Israel, with the world’s complicity, was created in 78% of the historic territory of Palestine. In 1967, it militarily occupied the remaining 22%: Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Another 350,000 Palestinians became refugees and 13,000 were killed. Palestinian society remains entirely fragmented. There are 13 million Palestinians, half of whom live under occupation and apartheid (even in the areas occupied in 1948, where there are 65 racist laws against them) and the other half are refugees or live in the diaspora and are deprived of the legitimate right to return to their lands.
The Palestinians have never stopped resisting. In 1964 the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was created, which would be led a few years later by Yasser Arafat. Many guerrilla and direct actions marked the subsequent period, as Palestinians sought national liberation and the end of Zionist colonization. Many protests and massacres mark the recent history of Palestine, such as the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and those perpetuated by the Phalangists in Lebanon, along with others which have happened with the support of Israel and the United States as in the events of September 1982 and others.
In 1987, the powerful Intifada (popular uprising) of “stones against tanks” was unleashed and, to put an end to this process, secret negotiations were initiated between the PLO and Israel with the United States as mediator.
The Oslo Accords
The final result was the signing of the Oslo Accords on Sept. 13, 1993, which marked a veritable “peace of the cemetery.” The PLO, which in its founding charter – reissued in 1968 to include the territories occupied a year earlier – had declared the objective of liberating all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, recognized the State of Israel and surrendered to the now dead “two-state solution.” This would create a Palestinian state on only 22% of the original territory in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. This is the “solution” that the UN and governments around the world continue to proclaim, which is as unjust as ever and absolutely unfeasible due to the continuous and aggressive Zionist colonial expansion.
The spectacular scene of the handshake 30 years ago between Arafat and the then Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin in front of the White House and under the intermediation of U.S. imperialism in the figure of then President Bill Clinton, was sold to the world as a step towards gradual “peace.” In reality, it simply marked another chapter of the ongoing Nakba. Since the Oslo Agreements, with the help of the Palestinian Authority as a taskmaster who created these agreements, Palestine has been left with no autonomy whatsoever, with total economic dependence, and those in power even cooperate with Israeli security forces. The West Bank was initially divided into Areas A, B and C (the latter representing more than 60% of the land under total Israeli military control). Palestinian organizations in the diaspora were closed and weakened, which hollowed out the solidarity movement. Any resistance that arose in the occupied territory was repressed by the PA in the areas under its administration, imprisoned by it, or handed over to Israel to join the ranks of its thousands of political prisoners, which include women and children among them. It is not for nothing that Palestinian intellectual Edward Said called Oslo the “Treaty of Versailles” of the Palestinian cause.
Dissatisfaction with the ongoing occupation would lead to a second Intifada, followed by the provocation of the butcher Ariel Sharon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sept. 28, 2000. This lasted until 2005. That year, Israel decided to expel 8000 settlers from the Gaza Strip. The stage was set for what came next. In 2006, the Islamic-oriented political party Hamas won the legislative elections in occupied Palestine, but Israel and the United States did not accept the democratic result. An inhumane siege was then imposed by the Zionist occupation and a series of massive bombardments began, as we saw in 2008-2009, 2012, 2014, 2021, and now in 2023. Palestinians in Gaza were the protagonists of the “Great March of Return” in 2018, as they were violently repressed by Israel. Snipers left 189 dead, including 35 children, health professionals who tried to rescue the wounded, and journalists wearing press vests, in addition to the more than 20,000 wounded.
The pretext is always that Israel is defending itself in the name of “civilization against barbarism.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the aggressor, the colonizer, the occupier.
What is happening this year, 2023?
Assassinations and brutal violence have continued. In this year alone, and before October 7, Israel had already killed 270 Palestinians, including 65 children. The Jenin refugee camp was invaded by the Zionist occupation forces several times since the beginning of 2023. And in the previous years, dozens of Palestinians were massacred, homes and communities were destroyed, and a dramatic situation had unfolded in which refugees have had to leave their homes and flee once again, thus becoming internally displaced.
With hundreds of attacks on Palestinians amidst the horrendous colonial settlements that keep expanding and usurping their land, checkpoints, the wall of shame, and the whole apartheid apparatus, Gaza was already being bombed in “dribs and drabs.” And within the narrow strip covering 340 square kilometers with 2.4 million inhabitants, the vast majority of whom are young people and families of refugees from the 1948 Nakba, the humanitarian crisis is dramatic.
In the context of a terrifying history of massacres in the last 15 years and of the inhuman Israeli siege 17 years ago, Gaza has been transformed into a veritable open-air prison, where nothing enters or leaves without Israel’s permission. Half of the children living in Gaza suffer from chronic malnutrition, and half of the women have anemia. According to UN data, 80% depend on humanitarian aid, the poverty level is 81.5%, and around 50% are unemployed; among the youth this rate jumps to 64%. Under the blockade, they have no more than four hours of electricity a day, 96% of their water is polluted, their agricultural areas have been poisoned by Israel, and the area where they can fish has been increasingly reduced. Palestinians are living in a situation where they are subject to starvation, the lack of infrastructure for medical care, and they are also prevented from leaving the territory to seek necessary treatment, when they are not dealing with the fear of being bombed.
Echoing what they commonly write on walls and shout – “Death to Arabs” – and amplifying the violence they have routinely imposed on Palestinians for decades, Zionist settlers have been carrying out pogroms in Palestinian villages such as Huwara and Turmus Ayya in the occupied West Bank in early 2023. This is an expression of the barbarity of a state that was built on the bodies and corpses of Palestinian children, women, men, and the elderly. In recent days, a settler set fire to a Palestinian child in Al Khalil (Hebron) in the occupied West Bank.
But the Palestinian people had all but been forgotten before the latest violence they have faced. The “blindness” and complicit silence of governments and the media has made clear why Palestinians tell everyone who visits them in their occupied lands: “Tell the world what you saw, because the international community has abandoned us.”
There has never been anyone who has characterized historical Zionist violence as the state terrorism that it is. Despite numerous UN resolutions condemning crimes against humanity, impunity has been the hallmark in relation to Israel. In a document compiled between July 2017 and November 2021, Amnesty International concludes: it is an apartheid regime throughout Palestine, from the river to the sea. Human Rights Watch, as well as the Israeli human rights organization BT’Selem, among others, had already stated the same in extensive and detailed reports.
Lula’s government in Brazil
The Israeli economy has fallen by 60% and is facing an internal political and economic crisis, as well as a global crisis of Zionism. Yet governments around the world continue to shake their blood-stained hands, even in military agreements. Brazil is not against what is happening. Unfortunately, during the first governments of Lula and Dilma, it became the fifth largest importer of Israeli military technology. State governments are following this trend. These are the same weapons Israel tests on the Palestinians every day, and which then serve for the genocide of the poor, black people, and in the extermination of indigenous peoples.
Now that he is back in government, Lula has maintained his rhetoric that Brazil is once again a “friend of the Palestinians,” which was not the case when the genocidal Bolsonaro was openly and blatantly spreading Zionist ideological propaganda during his presidency.
Since then, social and popular movements have been calling for the Palestinians to be heard. Since 2005, when the BDS movement against Israel began, they have been demanding the recognition of Zionist apartheid and the end of international agreements with Israel, starting with an immediate military embargo. The reference point for the current movement is the international solidarity campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s. But so far, the above demands have fallen on deaf ears. Since Lula assumed his third term as president, Brazil’s traditional and pragmatic diplomacy has resumed its defense of the “two-state solution.” He has been issuing notes condemning Israel’s attacks, but in the perspective that “both sides” should refrain from committing acts of violence and negotiate. This discourse equates the oppressed and their oppressor.
The Palestinian resistance is being led by youth who, on the one hand, are confronted with utter abandonment by the international community, and who, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. They have been organizing since September 2022 in what they call the “Lion’s Den” and have been rearming themselves. They are young people with no prospects, the so-called “sons of Oslo,” who are making their way to martyrdom. The repression of the occupying forces increases in step with the expansion of colonization. Today, 5200 Palestinian political prisoners, including 170 children and 33 women, are subject to degrading conditions and torture. Their only crime is that they have resisted. In the face of Hamas’ astonishing coordinated action on the morning of Oct. 7, which spelled a political defeat for Israel by revealing that the world’s fourth-largest military power is not invincible, the media and governments around the world, including Lula in Brazil, were quick to condemn what they call these “terrorist attacks.”
Despite political differences, this characterization needs to be refuted. Hamas is not the (counter)Islamic state or Al Qaeda that Israel wants to make it out to be, as it does by spreading fake news. At the U.N. Security Council meeting that followed the latest developments, Israel’s ambassador Gilad Erdan went as far as saying that “this is our 9/11,” referring to the attacks on the twin towers in the United States in 2001. Zionist ideological propaganda seeks to tap into the idea of Islamic terrorism that predominates in the media, which even some hasty left-wing analysts have echoed. Malcolm X’s famous quote fits well here: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Created in 1987, Hamas is an organization that has long sought to come to the negotiating table and be accepted as a representative of the Palestinian people. To this end, in 2006 it even changed its founding charter calling for an Islamic Palestine and accepted the “two-state solution” as the starting principle for a liberated Palestine. Hamas has sought dialogue with governments around the world. Its aim is to guarantee a bourgeois-democratic Palestinian state like any other after the process of national liberation is complete, not a socialist state as we at the IWL and its parties defend.
In addition to making clear that the State of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and company are the parties responsible for the history of brutal violence done to the Palestinian people and its current manifestation, it is imperative to highlight that this is an anti-colonial struggle for national liberation being led by a heroic and historic resistance that continues to inspire the oppressed and exploited around the world.
Meanwhile, the bombardment of Gaza has continued at full steam, accompanied by racist statements such as that of Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who openly said that he was dealing with “animals,” and that this is how the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza should be treated. There are already more than 7000 dead, nearly 3000 of which are children. The Palestinians, once again, do not know whether they will die of starvation or bombs. It is urgent, at this point to understand what Malcolm X has taught us: “The reaction of the oppressed cannot be confused with the violence of the oppressor.” The Palestinians are saying today that “enough is enough!”
(Read also: “Stand up against the imperialist war in Gaza!”
Photo: Belal Khaled / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images