by Raffaele Crocco
The statement is: Israel has the right to defend itself. And that is indisputable. But there is an additional question, inescapable if one is honest: does it also have the right to defend the territories it has usurped, the territories it has illegally conquered, driving out the Palestinian people, with weapons and the complicity of the international community?
This enormous new phase in a war that has been going on since 1948 forces us to ask this question. There is no doubt that nothing justifies an armed attack. The hundreds (possibly over a thousand) of dead, on both sides and in two days, the thousands of wounded and hostages, are there to prove once again that war is not the decisive instrument, never. Nor will it be this time, certainly not for Hamas and the Palestinians who attacked. But the reality is that Israel, with its slow, inexorable occupation of the Palestinian territories, with its expansion with the obvious aim of expelling an entire people from its territory, has always behaved like an aggressor state. And therefore, in the name of the same principle outlined above, the Palestinians have the inviolable right to defend themselves with the means, time and manner at their disposal.
Interestingly, many international observers do not agree with this principle. Instead, they speak of Israel’s right to take back the territories the international community has on several occasions (UN November 1947 and Oslo Accords, August 1993) allocated to the Palestinians. There is no legal basis for this belief. International law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, geography and common sense clearly tell us that Israel is a country occupying territory that is not its own. Not only that, but its policies oppress an entire people, depriving them of their right to a future and forcing them to live in squalor, without jobs or services, in large open-air prisons. In the name of appealing to a myth – the biblical story of Greater Israel – Tel Aviv is destroying lives and hopes. When you think about it, it’s like saying that Rome is entitled to take back part of Germany in the name of its imperial history: Let’s be honest, it doesn’t hold water.
The problem is that Tel Aviv finds in this occupation policy the complicity, perhaps a little irritated, of Europe and the United States. An interested support, useful to those who want to maintain an armed and powerful “Western stronghold” in the heart of the Near East. Israel plays on its status as a “fortress of the West” and allows itself to do what all others are rightly forbidden to do: conquer and illegally occupy territories that are not its own.
Sooner or later, however, the contradictions of this action will become apparent. We cannot forget that in recent decades Israel has been transformed into a sectarian state, where religion can determine its politics and the daily lives of its citizens, which will increasingly distance it from Europe and its traditions. Tel Aviv is therefore building a network of alliances to protect itself from what it sees as its main enemy, Iran. This is why it has established peace relations with Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the most fundamentalist of the Sunni Islamic countries and the great enemy of Shiite Iran. On the other hand, Riyadh has always defended the Palestinians, a Sunni people, and has always declared the ‘Palestinian cause’ central. What will happen now? Will the alliance continue, or will it run aground in the disputes of principle and the clashes between religious, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalisms?
The situation is indeed dramatic. It was before the bloody Hamas attack, it will be in the coming days with the violent Israeli retaliation. Those who will pay the highest price, as always, will be civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, who will die under the bombs or at the hands of some fighter. And in the end, there will be no solution to this eternal war, no constructive, useful peace agreements. What will remain on the ground and in the bellies of the survivors will be more hatred, more desire to destroy an enemy that now seems eternal to both sides. All that will remain is the conviction that they must fight endlessly until the enemy is destroyed. And then it will all begin again.
To learn more, read our Israel/Palestine conflict factsheet
On the cover photo, members of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades © Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.com