OP-ED: Defiant Gaza – The Reasons for Resistance Are Clear

by Oct 11, 2023All Articles

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on 9 October 2023. Mahmud Hams/AFP

As astonishing as the break-out of the Gaza concentration camp has been, and ensuing attacks within Israel’s southern settler towns, seized from indigenous Palestinians in past ethnic cleansing, the reasons for the actions are clear for all with open minds and a sense of justice. Those resistance fighters have been driven by the suffering of their people. They have been motivated by the justice of Palestine’s cause for freedom. This originates in the wholesale theft of their land, ethnic cleansing and incremental genocide, consequent of a racist Zionist project arising from even before Israel’s creation 75 years ago.

Murderous military occupation since 1967 provided a new twist to repression and resistance. Five hundred Palestinian villages were erased in 1948, covered over by artificial forests. Netanyahu’s criminal regime aims to erase Gaza from the face of the earth if they can get away with it. Israel’s military chief refers to Palestinians as animals. Hitler referred to Jews as cattle. Even cattle are allowed food and water! And how tempting Gaza’s off-shore oil fields must be to Israeli imperialism.

The present resistance follows 16 years of the inhumane siege of Gaza, which along with starvation and depravation, has seen series of bombardments from land, sea and air, by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Thousands of deaths have included hundreds of women and children, entire families, in a fascist plague of collective punishment. Horrifically reminiscent of Nazi methods.

The words of a survivor of the raid on the Israeli music festival near the border with Gaza makes a mockery of the unending chorus of Western leaders and media claiming the attacks, irrespective of how shocking, have been “unprovoked”. He remarked: “You can thank the Israeli government for terrorizing Palestinians daily and radicalizing an opposition to act in such a way. By their policies and support, the US, British and EU governments, have been party to Israel’s bloody provocations and war mongering throughout its history, and the impunity of the Zionist state’s crimes against humanity. 

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, regular military assaults, blood-thirsty settler pogroms baying “Kill the Arabs”, and land seizure for illegal settlements, have terrorised Palestinians. Resistance in towns like Jenin and Nablus against the daily nightmare of military occupation signalled a new phase of armed struggle, ahead of the Gaza offensive. 

South Africans who fought for freedom have repeatedly compared the plight of the Palestinians to our own suffering – and stated it as even worse. The situation has gotten even more provocative under Netanyahu’s ultra-right regime, a logical development of Zionism, in which his minister of police, Ben-Gvir, is proud to call himself a fascist. We suffered gruesome brutality and massacres but never on the scale perpetrated by the IDF on the Palestinians. Like them, our people suffered from land dispossession, elimination of rights and loss of freedom. We turned to armed action for the same reason as the Palestinians – there was no other option. 

In the latter phase of our armed struggle, our leaders issued the call to “take the struggle to the white areas” and make the country ungovernable – so that whites could understand we were not simply going to continue allowing the regime to confine death and destruction to the black townships and neighbouring states. We exposed the lies of the regime that they were in control; that their intelligence, security and defence capability was supreme; and that our efforts were derisory. The psychological impact on the oppressor and oppressed was incalculable. The former was filled with dread; the latter was inspired with hope.

South Africa’s apartheid regime was made to pay the price of its supremacist arrogance. It seems that this is exactly what Operation Al Aqsa Flood has achieved. True, the people of Gaza will be paying a horrific price for these actions, but noted journalist Mohammed Mhawish, fearful for the life of his family, writes: 

“For those of us watching from within besieged Gaza, the situation has been nothing less than terrifying…The world has watched as we’ve lived here, trapped in this open-air prison yearning for freedom. We’ve endured this existence for decades, and despite it all we’ve clung to our hope and our determination to resist: if we ever had the chance, we would.”

He adds: 

“What the world fails to understand is that the Palestinian people have the right to utilize armed resistance in the struggle for freedom and to defend themselves against Israeli aggression. Indeed, many of those currently condemning Hamas’ attacks on civilians have been awfully quiet while Israel has committed unspeakable crimes against the Palestinian people, including imposing collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. Any analysis or commentary that fails to acknowledge this reality is not only hollow but also immoral and dehumanizing.”

Whatever the outcome of this current episode in Palestine’s protracted struggle for liberation from apartheid settler-colonialism, and the massacre that Israel is now carrying out, it is to be noted that Hamas, operating from the least favoured conditions, has taken the tactics of guerrilla warfare to new heights. This capacity and determination needs to be understood by the oppressor. 

Jews around the world should recall the daring and contempt for death of those of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazism, where those incarcerated preferred to die fighting rather than tolerate a living death or being led to slaughter like animals. One is reminded of the daring and contempt for death of our own people who confronted the enemy guns in hand. 

At this point in time, we can only speculate on the impact of this Palestinian uprising on the collaborationist Arab states and fate of the US-brokered Abrahamic Accords. Certainly, Palestinian resistance holds a trump card in the pitiful captives it holds for an exchange of those held in Israeli prisons, including women and children. Of course, one’s sense of humanity feels for the civilians among them – the women, children, and aged –  if not for those who are soldiers of a criminal occupation army. If Israel has concern for those abducted, they need to relieve them and their families of distress as soon as possible, end the savage onslaught on Gaza and negotiate prisoner exchange. No one should revel in human suffering but the responsibility for death and destruction lies on the side of those responsible for oppression. Don’t expect pity from those who have been imprisoned in the most horrific conditions imposed by Israel all these torturous years. 

As with the struggle against apartheid South Africa, the international community needs to strengthen global solidarity with the Palestinian people – and more so now with the unholy alliance of US-Israel on a warpath for vengeance poised to obliterate Gaza, with Palestinians elsewhere within Israel’s reach. Palestinians continue to pay a high price for resistance, but non-resistance means continuing to live as prisoners in the most appalling conditions. They are not the first people in history to refuse to submit. Their yearning for freedom, peace and justice, is unvanquished. If the Palestinians can match the tactical ingenuity of Operation Al Aqsa Flood, by uniting and developing a political strategy for an inclusivist secular, democratic state for all – the antithesis to Zionism – the end of apartheid settler colonialism that is Israel in its present construct could be a matter of time. That’s the only way in which Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others, can co-exist in peace and security in historic Palestine.  

Ronnie Kasrils is a Former Minister of Intelligence in the South African Government; and Chief of Intelligence in the ANC’s armed wing, uMkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation). 

*This Opinion Piece was first published by News24

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