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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Israel and Gaza 2) 8 October 2023: What should have happened 

Had I been able to talk directly to men, women and children in Israel and Gaza, this piece would certainly have been different (or, arguably, would not exist). Instead of it, I would have created a piece of reportage, with under- and over-currents of what follows here.

I did and do not have such access. As a result, this piece is pure analysis – the first section historical, the second regarding Hamas' attack, and the third about what should happen next. 

To read this piece in full, click here

To read Part One, (A bit of) History, click here

To read Part Three, What should happen next, click here

Israel and Gaza

2) 8 October 2023: What should have happened 

On 7 October 2023, the Hamas terror organisation launched an attack in Israel, killing 1,139 people and kidnapping roughly 240 others.

It should of course go without saying that no-one sane thinks this was anything other than a horrific, unacceptable act.

While one should try to understand why such an outrage occurred, and attempt to avoid similar attacks by avoiding the processes – including the stripping of Palestinian people of their homes, land and possessions, and forcing them into a tiny strip of land which was then made into a prison surrounded by walls, and over which the Israeli government imposed complete control over any person or item, including food, which entered or left, as well as launching heavy bombardment and shooting dead civilians over the course of several decades – none of that serves to 'excuse' the Hamas attack. It was inexcusable.

But just as there is no excuse for the attack, nor can anyone seriously excuse the Israeli government's response.

In less than five months, the Israeli government has, in its invasion of Gaza, carried out crimes including:

·        Killing close to ten times as many people as the Hamas attack – at least 12,300 of them children

·        Killing those people at the fastest rate of any military activity since World War Two

·        Killing more aid workers than in every conflict, combined, of the last five years

·        Attacking and completely disabled every hospital in Gaza

·        Bombing refugee camps, killing men, women and children within

·        Killing men, women and children using routes the Israeli government demanded they take, to reach 'points of safety' while the Israeli government bombed their homes to rubble

·        Killing Israeli hostages under the excuse that 'we thought they were Palestinian' (note: not 'we thought they were Hamas fighters')

·        Killing men, women and children in the 'safe zones' to which they had been ordered by the Israeli government

·        Killing at least 112 men, women and children, maiming hundreds more, in Rafah, the last Gazan urban area not to have been carpet-bombed by Israeli forces

·        Refusing aid entry to Gaza, meaning the government is using the starvation of men, women and children as a weapon

·        Killing 106 people attempting to get food from an aid delivery, opening fire on them and running people over with tanks

The ruling of the International Court that there is sufficient evidence that the Israeli government is carrying out genocide for there to be a full investigation (made on 26 February 2024) is well known. Even if it is ruled that an act of genocide has not been carried out, there is at least equally significant evidence that the Israeli government is carrying out ethnic cleansing, as well as committing a number of war crimes, not least the act of collective punishment – holding an entire population responsible for an act carried out by a group, and punishing all as if they were all equally to blame.

While we are on the subject, in the early stages of the Israeli government's 'response', when it was still possible for people to claim to believe that it was anything other than a vicious piece of revenge, and perhaps also the government seizing an opportunity to clear the entire Gaza region of Palestinian people (the Israeli government, backed by many others including that of the UK, claims the expression 'from the River (Jordan) to the sea' {the point being that all the land would be governed by Palestinian people} is racist and anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has explicitly stated the same aim, for Israeli people), Israeli and US politicians claimed that 'the people of Gaza' were responsible for the attack because 'they voted for Hamas'.

The problem with this position is not only that it is absolutely illegal to fire on a civilian population for the way it voted, but also that it's largely untrue.

First of all, the only time Palestinian people have ever elected a Hamas government was in 2006.

That election took place under unusual circumstances: Hamas had been losing support, but the Palestinian public were disillusioned by the party then in power, Fatah, because of the latter's corruption. Hamas campaigned not on its attitude towards Israel – it in fact removed its previous intention to 'wipe Israel from the map' and included a pledge to negotiate with Israeli representatives to reach peace agreements (a de facto recognition of Israel as a state) but on a promise to be less corrupt than Fatah.

Those Palestinian people who voted for Hamas in 2006, therefore, specifically voted for an alternative to Fatah's corruption, and for a party which promised negotiations with Israeli representatives for a peaceful end to both countries' situations.

The second problem with the claim is that as in most elections, its winner, Hamas, did not win an outright majority. It took 44.5 per cent of votes cast on a 75 per cent turnout. That is, 55.5 per cent of people directly voted against it, and 66.6 per cent – two thirds – of Palestinian people who could have voted, did not vote for Hamas.

Not only that, the election took place almost 18 years ago, and more than 40 per cent of the population of Gaza is aged 14 or younger. Gaza's median population age is 18 (itself a reflection of the extreme food deprivations and mass bombing campaigns inflicted on it by consecutive Israeli governments).

The majority of people in Gaza not only did not vote for Hamas at the time of the election (more than two thirds allowed to vote, did not vote for them), they were not legally entitled even to vote, and close to half the current population of Gaza were not even alive when the election was held.

Even were it not absolutely illegal to kill civilians because of the way they voted – and it absolutely is – the vast majority of Gazan people have never voted for Hamas. More than two thirds of those who even had the chance to vote for them did not do so, and the majority of people who voted in the 2007 election voted for parties other than Hamas.

In much the same way as there is no justification of the Hamas attack on 7 October 2023, there is no moral or legal justification for the Israeli government's subsequent invasion of Gaza and massacre of its population.

This fact is perhaps most starkly indicated by the fact that even the US government, by far the staunchest ally the Israeli government has, has repeatedly called for 'restraint' and in recent days a ceasefire in Gaza (though their commitment has not prevented them vetoing ceasefire motions at the UN, or indeed continuing to sell the Israeli government weapons, paid for by aid grants handed to the Israeli government by… the US government).

Nor is there any sensible pragmatic reason for the Israeli government's attack.

The government has consistently claimed that it wishes to retrieve the 240 hostages (minus at least three killed by Israeli soldiers as noted above) taken by Hamas, and to destroy Hamas as an organisation.

But five months later, it has not come close to achieving either stated aim.

Nor could it, as it must know. Even if the government succeeds in removing every Palestinian person from Gaza, those left alive, having experienced in some cases several decades of effective torture and very real trauma, and those who have experienced only this onslaught, losing family, friends, often limbs, as a result, are unlikely to simply accept their 'fate'.

This attack and mass slaughter is likely to strengthen Hamas, or if not Hamas another group with similar aims. Within five years, or significantly less, such a group would be ready to 'act', and then the cycle will begin again.

But had the Israeli government's aim truly been to end Hamas and retrieve the hostages the group took, it could in fact have done so.

Its first step should have been to address the United Nations, and request assistance, backing, or at least neutrality regarding its plan, which should have been first to request the assistance of Palestinian people and organisations opposed to Hamas – of which there are many – in finding both the hostages and the Hamas members involved in the attack and its planning.

Had this failed – and there are reasons to expect it may well have done – the Israeli government should then have called on the UN to assist, first with the direct aid of neighbouring states, many of which have openly and deliberately moved to improve and normalise relations with Israel in the last five years, in the same operation.

Had this failed, the Israeli government should have called on the UN to back and support it in its own efforts to bring those responsible to justice, and those who had been taken hostage, home.

(As a sidenote, there are flaws with this plan, primary amongst them that it may have resulted in people who had nothing to do with the attack being named and arrested. To avoid this, a civilised state would have requested that trials were held not within its own borders – as the victims of a terrible crime, the Israeli state could hardly be expected to be as restrained and even-handed as justice requires – but within the international court system. The Hamas attack was a serious breach of international law and deserved to be tried at an international court).

Instead, the Israeli government responded with fury, heavy weaponry, the devastation of an entire region, and the – ongoing – massacre and displacement of the men, women and children who live there.

There is zero evidence that any of the people killed were active Hamas members – though the brutal law of averages means probably a few of them may have been – Hamas remains in operation, and 134 of the 240 hostages remain kidnapped and missing, with somewhere between 20 and 55 dead.

The Israeli government has, because of its fury and desire for bloody revenge, as well as its desperate wish to portray the entire UN system as anti-Semitic, chosen not to achieve the aims it claimed motivated it, and has instead massacred tens of thousands of people, maimed tens of thousands more, forced 1.95m from their homes, overseen and certainly in some cases directly caused the deaths of roughly one fifth of those people taken prisoner, and arguably strengthened – at least in the hearts of those who have lived the hell the Israeli government has forced them into – Hamas and its awful ideas.

All of this could have been avoided. The hostages could be back at home. Hamas could be severely weakened, inside and out.

The reason they and it are not, is not Hamas, not the international community, not the Jewish religion, not Jewish people across the world, not the majority of Israeli citizens, and certainly not the Palestinian men, women and children being slaughtered wholesale, but the Israeli government: a vicious, violent, rogue institution headed in every position by violent racists, hell-bent on sating their bloodlust regardless of the impact on Israel itself, and actively enjoying the deaths of Palestinian people many of them are on record as stating they regard as something other, and less, than human.

To read this piece in full, click here

To read Part One, (A bit of) History, click here

To read Part Three, What should happen next, click here



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