As is common when the Israeli state flexes its military muscles in one of its imperial wars, its defenders are resorting to an argument about the moral equivalency between rockets being launched at Israel from its colony, and Israel’s bombardment of and ground incursion into the colony. Israel, the regime’s supporter’s argue—and I use the word ‘regime’ because it is hard to defend the legitimacy of a government which colonises other people—has no choice but to attack Gaza so long as Hamas sends rockets over the border into Israeli territory.
What defenders of the regime’s colonialism fail most to understand is that however much many of Israel’s critics might abhor the violence used by Hamas, both the desperation of many of Israel’s colonial subjects and the history of anti-colonial struggles across the world suggest that this violence against the colonial regime will continue so long as the colonial relationship endures.
After all, the Israeli government wields the formidable weapons of sovereignty and the legitimacy that accrue to a state, extraordinary military might, and the misguided backing of the world’s foremost superpower. However much Israeli citizens might suffer from the bursts of dissatisfaction and violence brought about by their government’s colonial policy, the zealots in the regime will continue to benefit from the disorder and uncertainty their barbarous conduct generates.
And can people outside of Israel really believe—particularly those of us who live in and have grown up imbibing the history of a country which came into existence by freeing itself from colonial rule—that it will in the long run by possible for one group of people to rule over another against their will, using violence and segregation as their primary methods of enforcing what is ultimately an unjust and indefensible rule?
Given the opposition of the United States (with its Security Council veto) to ending Israeli colonialism, the regularity and impunity with which Israel violates international law, and the desperate social and economic condition into which colonial rule has forced many Palestinians, even those of us who are disturbed by violence can likely understand the decision of some Palestinians to follow the example of our own Thirteen Colonies in mounting armed resistance to colonial rule.
And given Israel’s overwhelming military might, its status as an illegal nuclear power, and the economic and military aid it receives as a colonial power from the United States, we should not be surprised that when some Palestinians decide to resist colonialism using armed resistance, they decide—as did our own predecessors—to fight in guerrilla fashion.
Israel’s response to the latest surge of armed resistance in Gaza looks like the flailing gasps of a regime that is increasingly isolated, under pressure from its physically, morally, and psychologically besieged citizens, and desperately trying to maintain a social structure—colonialism—that finds favour virtually nowhere in the world. And, crucially for the well-being of Israel’s citizens, the regime’s colonialism risks reigniting the anti-Semitism that was such a scourge to some of its citizens and its founding generation in the twentieth century, and which returns with pathetic ease to the lips of certain of the country’s critics.
In some respects the Israeli regime is very like the apartheid regime in South Africa during the latter part of the last century, not only in the delusional paranoia with which it conducts itself in a world with which it is out of kilter. The South African regime was engineering its hideous colonial state at the very moment that most colonized countries in Africa and Asia were getting their independence. And the Israeli regime continued to consolidate its authority over its Palestinian colonies through the decade when the Berlin Wall came down and as the Soviet empire collapsed.
Like the apartheid regime with its “homelands” or “bantustans”, the Israeli regime tries to force a fictive independence on its colonies while looming over them with its economic and military might, and preventing their entry into the United Nations. Palestinian “governments” are kept deliberately fractured, and are asked to assume all of the responsibility for keeping peace and order while being given none of the tools they would need to do so, the colonial regime thereby deliberately engineering an almost perpetual humanitarian crisis and crisis of confidence in Palestinian authority figures, thus weakening the bond between the “government” of the colonies and the colonial subjects.
And like many other colonial regimes in their early and later stages, as moral and juridical arguments are demolished by its critics, the savagery of the colonizing military force is becoming increasingly naked and unguarded, ever more indiscriminate, and defended with to hysterical and apocalyptic rhetoric. Just days ago, the Israeli Defence Force ordered its subjects in Gaza to move into the area surrounding a hospital for their own safety, and they proceeded to bomb that hospital, a place of sanctuary and healing, killing five and injuring scores more.
The man-made humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the unacceptable spectre of colonial rule, and the grotesque violence generated by that rule means that the United States and other countries which have hitherto given their backing to the Israeli regime should think twice. It should be clear to them that neither the cause of humanitarianism nor their own public interest—nor, indeed, the security of Israeli citizens—is served by backing a violent pariah state as it attempts to rule people against their will using armed force in violation of international law.
Photo details: "The home of the Kware' family, after it was bombed by the military" by Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem's field researcher in the northern Gaza Strip - http://www.btselem.org/photoblog/201407_gaza_strip. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_home_of_the_Kware%27_family,_after_it_was_bombed_by_the_military.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_home_of_the_Kware%27_family,_after_it_was_bombed_by_the_military.jpg