28.05.2024 Author: Veniamin Popov

Israel’s war against Palestinians in Gaza is an acute international crisis


On May 14, Israel celebrated a gloomy 76th birthday. More than seven months after the October 7 terrorist attack, the war still rattles the Gaza Strip, continuing to wreak unprecedented devastation, and the goals set by Israeli forces continue to evade them.

Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy Hamas and release the hostages, but those objectives have yet to be achieved. This military failure is coupled with a political impasse for which it is the Prime Minister who bears responsibility. According to a recent poll, 62% of the Israelis believe that an agreement on a temporary ceasefire to release surviving hostages in Gaza should take precedence over a new military offensive on Rafah, but Netanyahu is resisting—hardliners in his cabinet have threatened to topple the government if the war is put on pause.

“Today’s military failure,” wrote Le Monde on May 13, “and the appalling loss of life are the result of the Israeli strategy that has turned Gaza into a gigantic open-air prison, an arena of repeated battles that the current war has brought to its climax.”

This was facilitated by the reprehensible passivity of the international community, which was unable, despite numerous attempts, to stop military action due to the American vetoing of Security Council resolutions.

The whole world believes that the time has come to stop the slaughter in Gaza, but US officials say there is no genocide by Israel. Nevertheless, facts are stubborn things. Even the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recognized that a paradigm shift in the current Middle East crisis is needed: he said an Israeli victory over Hamas could be followed by “chaos, anarchy and eventually Hamas again.” Meanwhile, despite international condemnation, Israel continues to expand its offensive on the southern city of Rafah.

On May 15, Palestinians marked the 76th anniversary of their mass expulsion from the territory of present-day Israel, an event that lies at the heart of their national struggle. Palestinians call this phenomenon “Nakba,” which means “catastrophe” in Arabic—700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed the establishment of the Jewish state. After the war, Israel refused to allow them to return, as that would have created a Palestinian majority within its borders.  Instead, it is as if they have become a community of refugees, now numbering about 6 million, living in urban refugee camps that resemble slums in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

In Gaza, refugees and their descendants make up three quarters of the population.

Israel’s rejection of what the Palestinians call their right of return has been a major reason for the continuation of the conflict and one of the most pressing issues in negotiations that last failed 15 years ago. Refugee camps have always been the main bastions of Palestinian militancy.

The war in Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 Palestinians—by far the deadliest round in the history of the conflict. The first Hamas attack killed about 1,200 Israelis.

The war has forced 1.7 million Palestinians—three-quarters of the Gaza Strip’s population—to flee their homes, often several times. This is twice as much as the number of people who fled before and during the 1948 war.

The international community strongly opposes any mass expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza—only the extreme right-wing members of the Israeli cabinet support it, calling it “voluntary emigration.”

Israel has long called for accepting 1948 refugees in neighboring countries, saying the claims for their return are unrealistic because they threaten its existence as a Jewish-majority state. The argument makes reference to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who came to Israel from Arab countries after the war.

The destruction of the Gaza Strip under Israeli bombardment is immense—according to recent UN estimates the rebuilding of destroyed homes will, at best, last until 2040.

Israel has unleashed in Gaza one of the deadliest and most brutal military campaigns in recent history, occasionally dropping 900-kilogram bombs on densely populated residential areas. Entire neighborhoods have been turned into ruins, among which there are many unexploded shells.

The World Bank estimates that Gaza has suffered $18.5 billion in damage, roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of all the Palestinian territories in 2022 (these figures are effective for January of this year, before the devastating ground operations in Khan Yunis and Rafah).

Even before the war, Palestinians spoke of the ongoing Nakba, an action to gradually squeeze them out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with continued demolition of indigenous homes, construction of settlements and other discriminatory policies that can effectively be equated to apartheid.

It is noteworthy that there is a growing global backlash against US policy in Gaza—such sentiments are spreading to the US itself: there is a growing movement in support of Palestine not only in European universities but also in American ones. Several US officials resigned in disagreement with Biden’s policy: this contradictory line of Washington is leading to the isolation of the US, and even, according to The Washington Post, it is causing discontent across the political spectrum—the US administration manages to criticize and justify Israel at the same time. The New York Times, for example, ran an article on May 12 about US policy focused on Israel under the headline “Biden is doing it all wrong.”

The Arab mass media openly accuses America of hypocrisy—while making loud statements about the need for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, Washington just gave Israel another billion dollars.

It is the American side, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on May 13, that has repeatedly blocked the UN Security Council draft resolutions demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, while the US continues to provide Israel with military assistance even amid the Israeli army’s clearing of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge, including 600,000 children.

After May 10, when the Resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood was approved by the tenth Extraordinary Special Session of the UN General Assembly, there is hope that the Security Council will finally take a decision that “will be a moral obligation and a correction of historical injustice.”


Veniamin Popov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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