By Fadhlullah Wilmot || 19 November 2023
To live in a world where the countries that claim to uphold the ‘rules-based order’ and its media claim to uphold free speech and objective journalism can countenance the ongoing genocide of the people of Gaza and oppression of the Palestinians in the West Bank is a frightening prospect especially as it has been fully recorded for the world to see. The oppression in China is less in the public view but the Israel Defence Force (IDF), with the complete backing of the United States and European leaders, continues its ongoing genocidal assault on the defenceless people of Gaza, maniacally targeting hospitals, schools, refugee camps, apartment blocks, mosques, schools, and UN facilities. This is why the slogan “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians from the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” is so important because the dehumanisation, the misinformation, the disregard for human life, the attempts to silence critics of genocide by false claims of antisemitism is already impacting on us all.
Israeli war crimes similar to those of the Allies in WWII
Hasan Spiker puts it well when he writes “The West’s vacant ratification of the most transparent Israeli evil, of arbitrary and unrestrained mass-murder, is for Muslims surely the final nail in the coffin of Western moral legitimacy, at a time in which the West is simultaneously devouring itself in culture wars, and in the frenzied worship of whimsical dysphorias.[i] Since Israel’s existence is based on two main lies 1: that Palestine was a land without people for a people without land and 2: that there was no Nakba, it will fight to the death to defend those lies; and it is an ‘existential’ and hence ‘moral’ exigency for it to annihilate anyone and anything that calls out the lie. And since the United States and Britain have founded their self-definitional moral leadership of the world upon ‘saving’ the Jews from the Nazi death camps, the survival of their own moral narrative also rests upon propping up the lie, at all costs. Yanis Varoufakis asks, “How far must Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians proceed before our [European] justified guilt over the uniquely evil event in history, the Holocaust, no longer prevent us [Europeans] from challenging Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians? Or to put it more brutally how much Palestinian blood do we [Europeans] need to wash off the guilt of the Holocaust?”
Spiker points out that Israel is using the same techniques that were used by the Allies in WWII — the firebombing of Hamburg and Tokyo, the annihilation of Dresden and atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are rolled out to justify Israel’s actions citing the genocidal evil of Hitler in destroying six million Jews. Never mind the facts, targeting of German civilians in Hamburg and Dresden had precisely nothing to do with a ‘fight against the ultimate evil’ of the Nazi genocide of the Jews; no, Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris’s stated aim in sanctioning those horrific crimes, in which over half a million civilians were crushed or burned alive, was to ‘break the spirit of the Germans’ to resist: simply to win the War at all costs. ‘The Government, for excellent reasons,’ Harris said in 1941, ‘has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call “military targets.” I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples.’ Indeed, the first ‘area bombing’ targeting civilians in the Second World War was ordered by Churchill, and carried out by the RAF in Mönchengladbach, not by Hitler’s bombing of London.
Premature babies fair game in war
What is happening right now is horrific– premature babies in incubators are seen as fair game in war. The deaths of over 11,000 civilians half of whom are children and tens of thousands injured for life is seen collateral damage. Some right-wing commentators, politicians and journalists are blaming the whole population of Gaza thus approving of Israel’s illegal collective punishment of a whole population. There is an absolute collapse of humanity and empathy by the commentators, diplomats, politicians, media, and leaders in the West. There is a complete negation of the norms of the Geneva Conventions, International Humanitarian Law, and customary international law. It is true that powerful nations only gave these norms lip service, but these conventions were seen to have some sort of legitimacy even though many nations including permanent members of the Security Council never signed up to or ratified them.
These conventions are currently collapsing before our very eyes. Of course, is not the first time that international law has been broken on such a scale — Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan are examples. But western countries did act when Russia invaded Ukraine illegally and sanctions were imposed. In the case of the assault on Gaza and the violence in the West Bank, however, the stand against genocide and ethnic cleansing is completely crumbling before our eyes. The world stood by in Rwanda, it has done little in Myanmar, done nothing about the genocide of Uighurs in China nor the violence against minorities in India, it has for decades remained silent about the horrors inflicted on the people of Kashmir, and did nothing about Putin’s brutal war in Chechnya.
Arab leaders only concern is their own survival while western leaders endorse genocide
Arab leaders remain passive worried only about their own survival rejecting a proposal for an oil embargo and banning of US use of their airspace to transport arms to Israel while Western politicians, diplomats, the mainstream and right-wing print, electronic and social media, and the right-wing influencers of the West cry out repeatedly ‘Israel has a right to defend itself,’ never crossing their minds, let alone their lips, that Palestinians have rights as well. The western ruling class and media never anticipated the level of support that is being shown for the Palestinian people across western and Arab society – people of all faiths and none including many Jews. This support has emerged in spite of the western ruling class and media’s cheerleading of Israel’s war crimes even when it has been combined with a strong dose of anti-Muslim, anti-Islam and anti-migrant xenophobic hate speech, attempts to ban or call demonstrations anti-Semitic, a cancel culture regarding any criticism of Israel, even at universities and in the US Congress, as well as an almost uncritical acceptance of (in many cases disproven) allegations of ‘civilian shields,’ tunnels under hospitals and schools and even the extent of friendly fire casualties on October 7. Which media outlet or western leader has exposed the fact that it was Netanyahu himself who explained to his ruling Likud party in 2019 that “bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas” were the best way for Israel to “thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state”?
A strategy designed to permanently split, physically and politically, the two main territorial components of any future Palestinian state: the West Bank and Gaza sealing off and removing Palestinian residents. Did any western leader or media outlet criticise Daniel Hagari the Israeli military spokesman admitted that the mass destruction underway in the besieged Gaza Strip: that the goal of Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign is to inflict severe damage on the occupied territory, not to strictly target Hamas military installations. “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” said Hagari’s remarks came after Israeli airstrikes leveled residential buildings, ripped through a crowded marketplace in Gaza’s largest refugee camp, damaged hospitals and mosques, and wiped out families.
The attempt of some Jewish groups to label the opposition to Israeli war crimes as anti-Semitic seems to have backfired. This level of support for Gaza and criticism of Israel’s war crimes is impacting voter intentions in the Anglosphere as people feel unable to vote for politicians who are green lighting the horrors being inflicted on Palestinian civilians, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank. This is why it is incredibly important that people in the west – particularly the Anglosphere — the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada to keep up the pressure and make sure that their voices are heard by their elected representatives because ultimately, even though they don’t care about the Palestinians in Gaza, they care about their own careers and the prospect of not being elected. It is therefore vital that people keep getting out on the streets and demonstrating, emailing MPs, and responding to the biased print and electronic media as well as the social media. Even the Arab rulers have been forced to pay lip service to standing up for the Palestinians and their populations as far as possible need to keep up the pressure.
Israel’s aim is depopulation of Gaza and eventually the West Bank of Palestinians
Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has called on Palestinians in Gaza to leave the territory. “I welcome the initiative of the voluntary emigration of Gaza Arabs to countries around the world. This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region after 75 years of refugees, poverty and danger.” He ignores the fact that the 75 years has been 75 years of occupation, land theft, displacement, murder, incarceration without charge, torture, and cold-blooded assassinations. Another minister Amichai Eliyahu, not satisfied with the death of one 11,000 Palestinians, of whom over 4,500 were children and over 3,000 women, suggested the nuclear option as “one way” to deal with Gaza. While the slaughter was going on in Gaza, settlers went on the rampage in the West Bank aided and abetted by the Israeli Occupation Forces that wreaked havoc in Jenin, Tulkarim and Hebron leaving at least also 200 Palestinians killed and communities forced to leave their homes.
Smotrich said an area as small as the Gaza Strip without natural resources could not survive alone,” adding: “The State of Israel will no longer be able to accept the existence of an independent entity in Gaza”. Not only did he neglect the fact that there are huge reservoirs of oil and natural gas wealth, in Area C of the West Bank and the Mediterranean coast off the Gaza Strip worth about US$524 billion but he is also ignoring the fact that those who choose to get out alive aren’t voluntarily emigrating but are being ethnically cleansed. In fact, many of the people living in Gaza are descendants of refugees driven from their homes during the 1948 Nakba who are well aware that once Israelis forcefully remove Palestinians from Palestinian land, returning is a near impossibility. Some of the refugees from Israel’s first ethnic cleansing ended up in Gaza but the majority ended up in neighbouring Arab states and, despite UN resolutions, they have not been allowed to return. This is why Arab leaders have said any move to displace Palestinians from Gaza is unacceptable. And, given the conditions in Gaza right now, there’s no question of there being anything voluntary about an exodus. Even if people are in the South, an area declared safe by Israel, it continues to be bombarded with heavy shelling with the city of Khan Younis being targeted by Israel.
This city’s population has more than doubled, going from just 400,000 to more than a million in only five weeks. Palestinians from the north sought shelter there after Israel issued an evacuation order and began their ground operations, but few have found safety. The latest bombardment hit civilian neighbourhoods in Gaza with rockets striking apartment buildings, homes and tents that sprang up to house refugees. These are the conditions in Gaza inflicted on a civilian population by the Israeli government. There is no safety in the north of the territory, nor in the South, nor in the hospitals, not even for babies in incubators.
We are all Palestinians: Gaza is a reflection of the new world order
To live in a world like this is a frightening prospect. This is why the slogan “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians from the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” is so, so important. Yes, it is obviously an articulation of solidarity, but it also should be taken very literally, because Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied Territories are facing a constant state of dehumanisation, of exception, inequality, lack of human rights, lack of freedom of expression, and lack of legal rights, just like the Uighurs in China. This can just as easily happen to us and to others. In fact, the Palestinian population has been a Petri dish for this sort of control — a population that can be endlessly experimented on to see how far discrimination against an ethnic or religious group can go. Not only is there an abuse of human rights and an experimentation in the breaking of humanitarian norms, but also the use of various technologies of domination using information and surveillance technologies. Israel especially over the past 50 years has become a leader in technology and surveillance and policing because it has this population that it can experiment on in ways that are not acceptable in other contexts. It can because Palestinians are such an unprotected population. Mass surveillance technology has also been employed in the ongoing cultural genocide of the Uighurs in China. Israel’s technologies of domination are being exported around the world, and we are all becoming subject to them.
So, the slogan “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians, From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” is not merely an articulation of solidarity against the slaughter, dispossession, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the horrific conditions they are living under today. It is standing up and campaigning against the conditions that humanity will be living under in the future – mass surveillance, discrimination, and lack of fundamental rights. There is also a real threat to what is left of our civil liberties – the surveillance state took away many civil liberties after 9/11 and now some European countries have tried to delegitimise demonstrations by calling them ‘hate marches’ or anti-Semitic or have banned demonstrations showing solidarity with the Palestinians. A Jewish Israeli woman who lives in Berlin was arrested in Germany for standing with a placard on which was written “As an Israeli and as a Jew I say stop the genocide of Palestinians”. The slogan “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians, From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” is particularly important at this point in time as the world is entering into an era of mass displacement caused by the destabilising impact of climate change.
That displacement is increasingly going to become the norm and not the exception. In Gaza what we are seeing is a testing ground for the response — how far can a population be abandoned and how far can our civil rights be constrained? That is why it is very important that people, in what democratic space is left in western democracies, to make it clear that there will be consequences for our elected representatives. Arabs need to show their leaders that they will not accept the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and even more limits on their civil liberties. Western politicians will have to pay with their careers and Muslim leaders will lose their authority if they green-light the inhumanity and abuse of human rights that is happening in Gaza and the West Bank today. We must remember that unless we act the world of the Palestinians today will the world of all of us tomorrow. And that is why we are all have a stake in a ceasefire happening immediately.
Haji Fadlullah Wilmot is a member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Renaissance Front. He formerly served at universities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia but after the tsunami in Aceh became involved in the humanitarian and development sector. He has worked in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. As a volunteer with the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network he is now monitoring anti Muslim hate speech in the electronic as well as social media that is exploding in response to right wing posts about what is happening in Gaza and also works with organisations supporting Muslim converts.