Gaza 2012: Palestine’s Long Walk to Freedom

A Palestinian school girl walks past members of al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, as they take part in an anti-Israel parade in Gaza City 2 December 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Mohammed Salem)

By: Haidar Eid

Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Injustice is human; but more human still is the war against injustice.
Bertolt Brecht

The long walk to South Africa’s freedom is marked by two immensely tragic events: the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Soweto Uprising in 1976, both of which led to the galvanizing of internal and international resistance against the apartheid regime. Ultimately, these events would lead to the long-called for release of Nelson Mandela and to the end of one of the most inhumane systems the world has ever seen.

Without Sharpeville and Soweto, among other landmarks towards victory over settler colonialism, South Africa would still be ruled by a minority of fanatic, white settlers claiming to fulfill the word of (their) God.

Palestine’s long walk to freedom has gone through similar harrowing events, beginning with the 1948 Nakba to the latest eight-day onslaught on Gaza.

In order to understand Gaza in 2012, one ought to trace its origin back to 1948. Two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were kicked out of their cities, towns, and villages in 1948. In After the Last Sky, the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said argues that every Palestinian knows perfectly well that what has happened to us over the last six decades is “a direct consequence of Israel’s destruction of our society in 1948...”

The problem, he argues, is that a clear, direct line from our misfortunes in 1948 to our misfortunes in the present cannot be drawn, thanks to “the complexity of our experience.”

At 139 square miles, Gaza is the largest refugee camp on earth, a reminder of the ongoing Nakba. The inhabitants of Gaza have become the most unwanted Palestinians, the black heart that no one wants to see, the “Negroes” of the American south, the black natives of South Africa, the surplus population that the powerful, macho, white Ashkenazi cannot coexist with.

Hence the calls to “flatten” Gaza and “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

In 2008-9, Gaza was bombed by Apache helicopters and F-16 jets for 22 days, killing more than 1400 civilians. As if that was not enough, Israel decided to return to Gaza in 2012 and repeat the same crimes in eight days, this time killing more than 175 civilians and injuring 1399. These are massive losses for a population of just over 1.5 million people.

Israel’s airstrikes, which damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population, are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Even more, they are war crimes forbidden under international humanitarian law, specifically the Geneva Conventions.

Yet Israel consistently gets away with war crimes. The official, government-based “international community” does not seem interested in the suffering of the native Palestinians. The much-admired, “better than Bush” American president, Obama, thinks that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The same right does not apparently apply to Palestinians.

Likewise, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague believes that Hamas is “principally responsible” for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end. This is in spite of the deadly siege imposed on Gaza for more than five years, so much so that Israel even used calorie counting to limit the amount of food that entered Gaza during the blockade.

The fact that Palestinians in Gaza are not born to Jewish mothers is enough reason to deprive them of their right to live equally with the citizens of the state of Israel. Hence, like the black natives of South Africa, they should be isolated in a Bantustan, in accordance with the Oslo terms. If they show any resistance to this plan, they must be punished by turning the entire Strip into an open-air prison.

Both the US and the UK display deliberate and unconscionable ignorance in the face of the brutal reality caused by Israel to Gaza. As a result of Israel's blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish Palestinians, about 70 percent of Gaza's workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the UN, and about 80 percent of its residents live in grinding poverty.

But don’t Obama and Hague know this?!

As Hamid Dabashi put it:

Obama is fond of saying Israelis are entitled to defend themselves. But are they entitled to steal even more of Palestine, terrorise its inhabitants and continue to consolidate a racist apartheid state…? Was South Africa also entitled to be a racist apartheid state, was the American south entitled to slavery, India to Hindu fundamentalism?

The only option for Palestinians is to follow the same route as the South African struggle. The South African internal campaign aimed to mobilize the masses on the ground rather than indifferent governments around the world. What hope could they have gotten from the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Helmut Kohl? It was left to ordinary South Africans and global citizens to show their moral rejection of crimes committed by the ugly apartheid system.

In South Africa’s long walk to freedom, there was no compromise on respect for basic human rights. Apartheid’s attempts to point fingers at “black violence” and “intrinsic hatred” toward Western civilization and democracy, did not hold water.

Similarly, international civil society, and some governments, have seen through Israel’s propaganda campaign where the aggressor is turned into the victim. Across the years, Palestinians have been completely dehumanized. Instead of Reagan and Thatcher, we have Obama and Hague, blaming the victim and condemning resistance to occupation, colonization, and apartheid.

But South Africans did not wait for the American administration to “change its mind.” The global BDS campaign, steered by South African anti-apartheid activists, coupled with internal mass mobilization on the ground, was the prescription for liberation, away from the façade of “independence” based on ethnic identities. Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity.

Gaza 2012 has, undeniably, given a huge impetus to this process by making all Palestinians inside and outside of historic Palestine realize that “Yes, We Can!” We are no longer the weaker party, the passive victim who does not dare bang on the walls of Ghassan Kanafani’s trunk in Men in the Sun, but rather Hamid in All That is Left To You, the Palestinian hero who decides to act.

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor with Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

Comments

Greg The cleverness is to know when and where to use your cszniaers to obtain maximum deterrence. If you use only cszniaers without being a little bit clever, then you are just plain crazy.Quoting from Greg : “Arab/Muslim mentality”.Not hard to figure that out. The only thing that gets their attention is VIOLENCE, MASSIVE VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT THEM! You are sooo wrong .Wonder why America fucked up in Irak and Afghanistan ? This is why , thinking that plain massive violence will just work. Well, I have news : violence only, it will not work. You need to exercise wit also, but maybe that is something you do not know.

Like most crappy hrsabaists you only dig a deeper hole for yourself when you are confronted with the facts. provides citations to reliable published sources which explain that it was NOT pretty clear at that time, and that plenty of people in the Jewish community condemned the bombing because the victims had not volunteered to participate in the underground's conflict with the British authorities: The role of the Haganah was not publicly revealed and a story was put out that the deportees, out of despair, had sunk the ship themselves (the version recounted, for example, by Arthur Koestler [Koestler, Arthur. Promise and Fulfilment - Palestine 1917-1949, p. 60]). For years the British believed that the Irgun was probably responsible. Ha-Po'el ha-Tza'ir, a newspaper of the ruling Mapai party, unaware that all of the persons responsible were Mapai leaders, lamented that On one bitter and impetuous day, a malicious hand sank the ship. The article led Ben-Gurion's son Amos to physically assault the newspaper's editor.Meanwhile, a bitter debate over the correctness of the operation was raging in secret within the Zionist leadership. The decision had been made by an activist faction, without consulting more moderate members according to normal procedure, and this caused serious internal divisions that persisted for many years. An effort was made to enshrine the incident as an icon of Zionist determination, but this was largely unsuccessful.[Meir Chazan, The Patria Affair: Moderates vs. Activists in Mapai in the 1940s. Journal of Israeli History, Vol. 22, No. 2 (2003), pp 61-95.] Some leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine, the Yishuv, argued that the loss of life had not been in vain, as the Patria's survivors had been allowed to stay in the country. Others declared that the Haganah had had no right to risk the lives of the immigrants, as they had not decided of their own free will to become participants in the underground Jewish conflict with the British authorities.[Dalia Ofer, "A Dual Perspective: Yaakov Shabtai and the Historian's Account of the Deportation to Mauritius", in Ronit Lentin, Re-presenting the Shoah for the Twenty-first Century, p. 95. Berghahn Books, 2004. ISBN 1571818022]The Haganah conducted its own investigation but still publicly blamed the British:The Haganah also put up an investigative body to find out why such a relatively small amount of explosives could create such a huge hole in a large ship. That the entire ship would sink within fifteen minutes was incomprehensible. It came to the conclusion that the superstructure was in extremely poor condition and that it was unable to withstand the pressure.As for the justification that caused the damage to be inflicted in the first place the Haganah blamed the government of the Mandate. They announced that victims of the Pataria were the sole responsibility of the Mandate and the British Empire. So, yes the Patria Affair belongs right up there with the Lavon Affair as one more dishonest and sleazy chapter in Zionist history.

Gaza's ultimate response is brilliantly depicted in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book, “Palestine.”

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