The Bombing of Gaza Has Ended for Now, But the Oppression of Palestinians Continues

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Palestinian lives

The eleven day bombardment of the Gaza Strip came to an end early on 21 May, following an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

The attack on the Palestinian population of Gaza left 248 dead, over a quarter of whom were children. Thousands of Palestinians were injured and over 100,000 were left homeless. While the health infrastructure of the beleaguered region was destroyed during a pandemic.

Twelve Israelis were killed during the conflict, including two children.

The Biden administration has trumpeted the measures it took to bring about the ceasefire. Yet, it’s been less forthcoming about having blocked multiple UN resolutions and statements calling for an end to the violence as the assault on Gaza was underway.

Of course, there was widespread relief as the apartheid state of Israel halted the punishment it was meting out upon the people it has sought to erase over the last 70-odd years.

Indeed, despite the mainstream version of a nation defending itself, it is quite clear that Israel provoked the fighting.

So, as the dust settles and the reconstruction commences, the question has to be asked whether the Netanyahu government unleashed the violence in order to maintain the apartheid status quo in its wake.

The act of provocation

Like many who unquestionably support the settler colonial state of Israel, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison suggested during the conflict that Israel had a right to defend itself.

However, the way Israel conducted itself prior to the violence suggests that rather than seeking to protect its own, it was pushing for an excuse to attack the people it has long oppressed.

In the leadup to the violence, the Israeli state was ramping up the forced evictions of Palestinians from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. This ongoing ethnic cleansing sees Palestinian families displaced by the 1948 Nakba being evicted from the homes they’ve owned since the 1950s.

As Ramadan commenced in mid-April, Israeli police attempted to shut down Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate to Palestinian civilians, blocking access to the al-Aqsa Mosque. Unarmed Palestinian youths resisted, and despite the use of extreme force by police, they succeeded in ending the blockade.

On the eve of Eid Mubarak, Israeli police then stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque as worshippers were inside at morning prayer. The rubber bullets and stun grenades injured around 300 Palestinians that morning. And by the end of the day, Israeli officers had injured 700 Palestinians in the area.

As this crackdown was taking place, Hamas called on Israel to stop attacks upon unarmed Palestinians in Jerusalem or it would step in. And when the random violence continued, Hamas fired its first rockets from Gaza, which has been suffering under a 14 year Israeli-enforced blockade.

A shift in global support

As the Netanyahu government unleashed its larger state-of-the-art military forces upon the Gaza Strip, media outlets globally focused on the Hamas rockets. Palestinians were labelled the provocateurs, and Morrison and his ilk proclaimed Israel had a right to continue attacking civilians.

Yet, across the planet, Palestinians organised rallies and the solidarity coming from wider populations was overwhelming. And in recognition that the oppression of Palestine has not ended with the ceasefire, the demonstrations have continued.

Thousands rallied for a free Palestine in Sydney’s Hyde Park last Saturday afternoon, as participants vowed to continue the fight to see justice for Palestinian people post ceasefire. A long line of protesters took over Elizabeth Street, as they made their way down to Central’s Belmore Park.

Protesters gathered at the 22 May Sydney Free Palestine rally
Protesters gathered at the 22 May Sydney Free Palestine rally

“Many people might be asking who are Palestinians,” said Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Assala Sayara, as she addressed the 22 May rally in the park.

“I say Palestinians are an Indigenous nation… We are the people of Gaza. We yearn for freedom. We lost our homeland, and we will not surrender to oppression,” the Palestinian women continued. “We will not surrender to the Israeli occupation.”

Anglosphere complicity

The reason that Israel is such an enormous force in the region is that the US supplies it with unconditional financing. Last year, as part of an Obama administration initiative, the US gave Israel $3.8 billion in funding, almost all of which was military aid.

This long-term propping up by Washington has seen the 73-year-old nation of Israel develop one of the most sophisticated military forces on the planet. And it also comes with a distinct lack of criticism of its ongoing breaches of international law in terms of its treatment of Palestinians.

Australian Centre for International Justice executive director Rawan Arraf told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last week that “the Morrison government has been the most pro-Israeli government that we have seen in Australian history”.

Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Assala Sayara addresses the Hyde Park rally
Palestine Action Group Sydney spokesperson Assala Sayara addresses the Hyde Park rally

In 2018, the current Australian PM undertook some blatant pro-Israeli posturing in regard to recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – soon after Donald Trump had done the same – seemingly in an effort to score points in a local NSW byelection.

Following the May 2018 massacre of 58 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli snipers, Australia voted against a suggestion that the UN Human Rights Council commission an independent investigation into the human rights violations that had occurred.

Our nation has a long history of voting against any UN condemnation of Israeli actions against Palestinians.

US political commentator Noam Chomsky has put Australian support for Israel, along with that of the US and Canada, down to all four nations being settler colonial states.

Palestinian lives matter

Solidarity from the US

Renowned US political dissident Angela Davis read out a solidarity statement on Democracy Now on 21 May. She recalled visiting Sheikh Jarrah in 2011, where she met with families being pushed out of their homes, adding that while progressive Israelis were protesting back then, nothing has changed.

“Israeli settler colonialism will only be halted, when people all over the world demand that the rights of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestine be respected,” Davis said.

“Stop the evictions. Stop the demolitions. Stop the bombing. And end the occupation. Justice for Palestine.”

The Palestine Action Group has organised the Stand With Palestine rally at Sydney Town Hall at 1 pm on Sunday 30 May

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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