The ferocious conflict which has erupted with the astounding Hamas attacks in southern Israel and the Israeli counteroffensive with the savage bombardment of Gaza constitutes a new chapter in the ongoing history of the occupation and the resistance to it by the Palestinian people.  

At the time of writing this editorial, after the fourth day of the conflict, it is reported that 1,200 Israelis have been killed (of which 155 are soldiers) and 2700 injured.  On the Palestinian side, 1,055 people have died and 5,128 injured so far in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza; in the occupied West Bank, 17 Palestinians were killed and 80 injured.

The loss of civilian lives, including tragically of women and children, due to the Hamas attacks within Israel and the mounting deaths of civilians in Gaza, where also women and children have been killed due to the bombardment, is something to be strongly condemned.

At the same time, it is necessary to reject the narrative put out by the global corporate media and the western ruling circles, in particular, that what has happened is a gruesome terrorist attack on Israel without any mention of the Israeli occupation. 

The Hamas attack must be set in the context of the decades-long Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.  Since the 1967 war, West Bank and Gaza were taken over by the Israeli armed forces and remained under its occupation for the past 56 years.

By international law and United Nations’ resolutions, these are occupied territories.  Over the years, illegal Jewish settlements have been established in the West Bank and the territory cut up into different parts with security barriers.  A wall was built to seal off the West Bank from Israel.  An apartheid system has been instituted.  With the advent of the far-right government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2022, the oppression of the Palestinians has intensified.  The ultra-nationalist government has made life hell for the Palestinians with settler mobs and far-right gangs driving out Palestinians from their homes and villages and killing people with impunity. In this year alone before the conflict, 248 Palestinians have been killed by the security forces and settlers, which is one Palestinian a day.

In Jerusalem, Palestinian families are evicted by force and their homes occupied.  There is a process of ethnic cleansing taking place in East Jerusalem.  The Al-Aqsa mosque complex, the third holiest site of the Muslim world, has seen provocations by extreme Jewish mobs and the security forces entering the mosque and beating up worshippers.

As far as the Gaza strip is concerned, after withdrawing their military force in 2007, Israel imposed a blockade of the strip, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.  For the past 16 years, Gaza has been under the merciless siege and become an open air prison.  During this period, there have been waves of aerial bombardment whenever efforts to resist the blockade occurred.  It is from this “strip of hell” that Hamas mobilised and organised its latest unprecedented assault.

The much vaunted Israeli intelligence and military were taken by surprise and the myth of the invincibility of the Israeli defence forces shattered.  In revenge, Netanyahu and his cohorts have decided to wage a total war against Gaza and in the words of Netanyahu “alter the reality in Gaza”.  The Israeli defence minister Gallant has ordered a full siege of Gaza with no fuel, food or electricity supply to the strip.  He called for a struggle against the “human animals” in Gaza.

In the four days of aerial bombardment, nearly 900 people, including women and children, have perished and thousands injured. There is no electricity, water or food in many parts.  The United Nation’s Human Rights chief has called this siege “a collective punishment”, which is a war crime as per international law.  Israel is amassing troops on the border with Gaza and a ground invasion is imminent. What will unfold will be the massacre of thousands. Despite all the havoc and destruction, this will only lead to another round of resistance by the Palestinian people, who have never given up their fight for liberation in the last seven decades.

The United States, which is the main backer of Israel, has stepped in to supply lethal arms and ammunition to the armed forces which will be used to slaughter Palestinians.  Throughout these years, the United States and its western allies have done nothing to prevent the subjugation of the Palestinians, even though they pay lip service to the two-State solution. 

In the present conflict, Narendra Modi has echoed the US position condemning the terrorist attacks and declared “solidarity with Israel”. There is no mention of support for the Palestinian cause and the two-State solution. As long as the occupation of Palestinian lands continues and the Palestinian people are oppressed, there can be no lasting peace for Israel and West Asia.

From the days of the national movement under Gandhiji’s leadership, India has always stood by the Palestinian people. Now is the time to reiterate this resolve.