Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Bashir Abu-Manneh

[I]t is rather uncontroversial to conclude that for Israel the invasion of Gaza has essentially disrupted everyday life in the areas close to Gaza, but that for Palestinians in Gaza it has been experienced as devastation on an unprecedented scale. It will take years for Gaza to recover from the Israeli army’s material destruction, and even longer for Palestinians’ psychological scars, grief, and wounds to heal — if, that is, Israel allows them to live without bombs and invasions in the future.

What solidarity work is about is defending a democratic principle of self-government for an oppressed people, within the limits of international laws and universal norms. The right of self- determination basically means that ALL Palestinians (wherever they happen to reside) have a right to actively participate in shaping their political future.

On May 2, 2011, the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University held a program on “Gaza: Israel’s War and the Goldstone Report.” The speakers included Norman Finkelstein, Peter Weiss, and Rashid Khalidi. The program was moderated by Bashir Abu-Manneh.

A panel discussion dedicated to examining the reality and consequences of Israel’s war and siege of Gaza. The panelists are Norman Finkelstein, Rashid Khalidi, and Peter Weiss. Columbia University, New York – 2 May 2011.

IOA Editor: An outstanding and memorable event with each of the participants excelling. This was another successful, informative event organized by Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies.

Video recording of the event can be found HERE

IOA Advisory Board member Bashir Abu-Manneh speaks about current events in Egypt.

IOA Advisory Board member Bashir Abu-Manneh speaks about current events in Egypt.

Al-Shabaka Policy Advisors discuss strategies for Palestinians and their supporters if peace talks “succeed.” Over the past few weeks, Al-Shabaka Policy Advisors Bashir Abu Manneh, Ali Abunimah, Naseer Aruri, Diana Buttu, Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Mouin Rabbani and Samah Sabawi commented on Nadia Hijab’s policy brief, What if Peace Talks “Succeed?” Their comments are published here.

international public opinion would welcome a mass Palestinian revolt. Voices for boycott and sanctions against Israeli apartheid would grow. Voices to lift the siege on Gaza would strengthen. And Israel would again confirm itself in popular world opinion as a pariah state. Will that cause a crack in its own flawed self-image? One hopes so. Will Israelis come to see themselves for what they really are: brutal, self-indulgent occupiers who are holding a whole people hostage? They may well do. There are certainly some beleaguered Israeli anti-occupation groups who are in desperate need for supporters and sympathizers.

Months before the expiration of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which Israel violated and refused to renew, the IDF began its preparations. Palestinians needed to be punished for supporting and democratically electing Hamas, for resisting the Israeli occupation, and for believing that their national rights are within the realm of possibility.

We watch in horror as Israel unleashes yet another war on the dispossessed and weak. Hundreds are killed (mostly police and civilians, not trained militants), thousands are injured, and a million and a half are terrorized, punished for defying the will of their besiegers and refusing to submit. Again the media colludes and sells a barbaric aggression on a basically defenseless and deprived population as a war between two sides, mystifying fundamental inequalities of power through words like “disproportionate response” and “ceasefire.” Again “shock and awe” is bandied about as military currency, as if it worked the first time round in Iraq, or the second in Lebanon 2006.

Israel’s goal has been a constant: Jewish sovereignty in Palestine. Israel has always sought to expropriate as much Palestinian land as possible and to rule over as few Palestinians as possible. This has been the single most important ideological and political principle informing the practices of the dominant strand of Zionism which founded the Jewish State in Palestine against the wishes of the Arab indigenous majority. 1948 epitomizes this principle: 78 percent of Palestine was forcibly conquered and 750,000-840,000 Palestinians were systematically expelled and prevented from returning to their cities and villages (hundreds of which were completely erased) in violation of international law and of UN General Assembly resolution 194 safeguarding refugees’ right of return.

What has U.S. support for Israel actually meant for the Israeli state? Which state capacities have been enhanced and which were curtailed as a result of this support (importantly, force or peace)? And what impact has this had on Israeli society and its economy at large? To answer such questions would involve specifying the nature of U.S. involvement in Israel-Palestine, spelling out the kinds of policies and objectives the U.S. state has allowed the Israeli state to pursue. It would, in fact, involve raising the specter of Israel as a colonial and occupying power, and this the various contributors to Israel Studies seem unwilling to do. Colonialism and occupation are far from mainstream concerns in the Israeli academy. This may sound strange since both practices have defined the history of Israel since 1967 if not before. Yet it is not so strange if one considers that in this respect the Israeli academy merely reflects the attitudes of wider Israeli society: academic evasion mirrors popular denial and indifference.

Since occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has been the only sovereign state in British Mandate Palestine. Palestinians have been living either as second-class citizens in the Jewish state; or as colonized residents of the West Bank and Gaza with no human or political rights; or as refugees dispersed and stranded in neighboring Arab countries, in often extremely difficult conditions. The chances of Palestinians overcoming exile and exercising their right of return seem as far away as ever. Hardly more promising are the immediate prospects for ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza in accordance with the international and Arab consensus, in place since at least 1976 and rejected by the United States and Israel.