End Israeli Aggression, Free Palestine
THE Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli aggression on Gaza are not disparate or coincidental events. They are part of the long war waged by the Israeli State against the Palestinian people – in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank and the suppression of Arab-Palestinians within the pre-1967 boundaries of the state of Israel.
The present conflict is one episode in the history of occupation, settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing and the setting up of an apartheid regime in the occupied territories. What was being done in the Sheikh Jarrah locality in East Jerusalem was the eviction of Palestinian families settled there since 1948 when Israel was founded by dispossessing Palestinians of their lands and houses.
With the ascendance of far-right Jewish parties and the successive right-wing governments headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, the racist and apartheid policies targetting Palestinians were intensified. The current onslaught is taking place when a new government has not been formed despite a fourth election having been held.
Rightwing settler groups with their armed vigilantes and aided by the police were seeking to evict Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. This was being resisted by the Palestinians. At the beginning of Ramadan, the Israeli authorities blocked off the seating area where Palestinians used to gather, next to Damascus Gate. This is on the route to the Temple Mount which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest place of worship for Muslims in the world.
The attack on people protesting within the premises of the mosque on May 7 by armed police who fired teargas, stun grenades and rubber coated bullets caused outrage among Palestinians all over. Hundreds were injured in this attack. Palestinian-Arabs protested in towns all over Israel and were met with vicious violence by Jewish right-wing gangs and police.
Responding to these attacks, the Hamas authority in Gaza gave an ultimatum to the Israeli forces to leave the East Jerusalem and Temple Mount area. When this demand went unheeded, they resorted to rocket attacks from Gaza.
Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel (aided by Egypt) for fifteen years, ever since the Israeli troops withdrew from this narrow strip of land, which houses 1.9 million Palestinians. In 2008 and 2014, Israel launched aerial aggression on Gaza. In the 2014 war, 2,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died and 18,000 houses were destroyed.
Gaza has now faced bombardment for nine days (as of May 19) and 227 people have been killed, including a shocking 64 children and 38 women. The savagery of the attacks by missiles and bombs has shocked the world. Nothing is spared, apart from residential blocks, a building housing international media and the lone Covid testing centre in Gaza were demolished. The rocket attacks have killed 12 people in Israel.
Israel has rejected all calls for a ceasefire and declared it will continue the attacks till its “purposes are achieved”. Israel can get away with these criminal policies and aggression because of the staunch support of the United States. Under President Trump, the US had recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (when the United Nations recognises it as occupied territory). Trump also brazenly declared that the illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territory are legal.
President Biden has not departed from the basic support to the Israeli regime. Just days before the conflict erupted, the Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, the type which is now being used in Gaza. It did not allow the UN Security Council to issue a statement on the crisis despite four meetings so far. It was only on May 17 that Biden called for a ceasefire. The US tactic is to allow Israel time to carry out its aggressive plans in Gaza before putting an end to hostilities.
The Arab countries, closely allied to the United States like Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia, have long since abandoned the Palestinian cause, except to pay lip-service to it. It is in such a difficult environment that the Palestinian people have risen and protested this time.
A new feature this time around has been the Palestinian citizens within Israel coming out in large numbers to protest in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents and after the Al-Aqsa mosque was stormed. In the cities of Akka, Lydda, Ramle, Haifa and other places, Palestinian youth came out into the streets. They were met with violence by Jewish gangs and police. Communal violence erupted and the Israeli army had to be called out in some towns. The internal contradictions of a Jewish racist regime lording it over a second class Arab citizenry have burst out.
The Palestinian citizens within Israel, who did not join any protests during earlier attacks on Gaza have now become part of the Palestinian national protest in all areas. In the West Bank, there has been a general strike and more than a dozen Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces there.
The Modi government, which has forged close ties with the rightwing Netanyahu government, is following the US line on the current conflict. Given the extensive security and military ties with Israel, Narendra Modi has been constantly resiling from India’s past positions on the Palestinian issue. In the Security Council meeting on May 16, it called for immediate de-escalation but not a ceasefire. While it condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel, it termed the Israeli aggression as “retaliatory strikes”. It supported the Palestinian cause and a two-state solution in vague terms, but did not call for East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine. This was dropped by the Modi government in 2017.
Unlike the BJP-RSS, the democratic political forces in India have always supported the Palestinian struggle for independence. This is a legacy of our freedom struggle. This is the time to extend the Indian people’s solidarity with the Palestinian people. Due to the raging second wave of the pandemic, it has not been possible to demonstrate our solidarity in the streets, like it is happening in many places around the world. But we must be able to express our support and solidarity in all other ways possible.
The Palestinian struggle for self-determination is the longest lasting national liberation struggle in the world spanning over seven decades. This struggle will not end till there is an independent state of Palestine with territory alongside the pre-1967 borders of Israel.
(May 19, 2021)