I do not believe in violence. Not as an instrument of justice, nor as a form of strength.
Violence has plagued our planet for centuries and created every ill known to humanity: generational suffering, enmity, torture, hostility, racism, poverty, death, destruction, hunger, starvation, disease, homelessness, refugeehood and much more. Violence is not based on reason or discourse; it continues to barbarise us and impede our civilisational progress. In essence it’s about who has the heaviest fist; propelling to power those who subjugate and oppress.
Self-defence is a complex issue. If it’s ever needed, the violence deployed must not be collective punishment, must be limited and proportional, legal under international law, and end swiftly, leading to talks and negotiations.
Given that this blog discusses the Israel-Gaza war, I want to state categorically, that I condemn Hamas’s attack of October 7th2023. And I also condemn the disproportionate response of Israel, and its continuing targeting of civilians, hospitals and infrastructure.
Far more than self-defence underlies Israel’s war: the Israeli dehumanisation of the Palestinian people. They’ve been made a non-people, non-human. The title of this blog is a quote from an interview given by James Elder to channel 4 News. Elder is a spokesperson for Unicef, working in Rafah City in the south of Gaza. Palestinians driven from the north to the south, are now being attacked by Israel in a sadistic, hellish game of ‘no hiding place’. An old Palestinian man, speaking in the report, who’d fled Northern Gaza as he’d been instructed to do, full of despair at his enforced refugeehood declares he won’t run any more, and they can kill him if they want. As the Israeli army probably will; their implacable carnage and destruction providing its own evidence that Palestinians have been re-categorised and exiled from the human family. The Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has himself called Palestinians “human animals.”
It’s not the first time in human history that dehumanisation has been used for the purposes of acquiring power, territory and resources. Dehumanisation was used as the foundational justification for slavery, colonialism, racism and apartheid. Atrocities and massacres were buried beneath its rhetoric.
In 1917 Palestine contained a Palestinian majority, with a small Jewish minority and other small ethnic groups. In September 1917, with the Balfour Declaration, Britain pledged the establishment of a Jewish state, in Palestine. Although the British only occupied Jerusalem in December 1917 and Palestine didn’t become a British mandated territory till 1920.
Amidst growing persecution Jewish people began migrating to Palestine, claiming an ancient right, that God had promised the land to Abraham’s descendants. Pressure for a Jewish continued to intensify in the following decades. The idea of a Palestinian Partition took hold (notwithstanding the horrors unleashed by the Indian Partition in 1947, its bloodshed and displacement of millions of people, glacially ignored by the colonial power). Britain announced in advance, its intention to relinquish its mandate over Palestine. The date set was 14th May 1948.
When 14th May 1948 arrived, and the British gave up their mandate (against a background of violence between Palestinians and Jewish people), David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Recognised by the United States on the same day.
From 1947 to 1950, during the Nakba or “catastrophe”, Zionist military forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent was divided into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During the 1967 war, Israeli forces occupied all of historic Palestine and expelled a further 300,000 Palestinians from their homes. Today, Israel continues to force Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank from their homes and lands, which are often taken over by Jewish Israeli settlers.
Since 2007, Gaza has been known as an ‘open-air’ prison. Israel’s military control every aspect of Palestinian lives.“Israeli authorities have, with narrow exceptions, banned Palestinians from leaving through Erez, the passenger crossing from Gaza into Israel, through which they can reach the West Bank and travel abroad via Jordan. Israel also prevents Palestinian authorities from operating an airport or seaport in Gaza. Israeli authorities also sharply restrict the entry and exit of goods.
The killing of children, the elderly, and civilians, the mass destruction of homes and neighbourhoods is presented as collateral damage. I would suggest that dehumanisation confers intention and planning. Netanyahu was never interested in a two-state solution. That would require partnership, a commitment to respect and co-operation. Such values cannot exist where there’s racism and dehumanisation.
We stand by and watch harrowing reports on our tv screens of children screaming in pain and homes bombed and destroyed. If the Palestinian people are pushed into the smallest corner of Gaza or the desert, the whole world has a duty to help them. The millions spent on supplying Israel with bombs and munitions must be diverted to helping the dispossessed and persecuted.
Within this pervading darkness an alternative narrative has found a voice. The massive global demonstrations, from London to Lisbon, Paris to Perth, demanding a ceasefire, justice and respect for the rights of Palestinians, signals a fight-back. Against the men of war and violence. Against the colonial legacy. Against the dehumanisation.