Palestine: Israeli Massacres Escalate, Palestinian Resistance Spreads

Editors’ Note and A Brief Background: The escalating conflict in Palestine and Israel has dominated the news this last week. For more background on the state of Israel—its history and its nature as a reactionary settler state and its oppression of the Palestinian people, U.S. imperialist support for it, and for basic points of orientation and analysis, go here

On April 13, a month ago, Israeli police officers marched into Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and cut the cables to the speakers that broadcast prayers, ostensibly to prevent noisy disruption to another official event nearby. This was the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, and Al-Aqsa is one of the most sacred sites in that religion. This began and provoked an escalating series of events with Palestinians resisting, rebelling and acting against Israeli occupation; outrageously disproportionate Israeli retribution and response, from the official military and police, and from attacks by Zionist mobs. Compared to previous Israeli attacks against the Palestinian territories of Gaza and West Bank, these have now engulfed areas within Israel-proper itself, especially in areas of Palestinian Arab populations.  

As we go to press, Israel is escalating the mass, indiscriminate bombing and slaughter of Palestinian people in Gaza1 in their homes and communities. The dead include dozens of children. On the West Bank2 and in Israel, police and fascist mobs are on a rampage. Palestinian people continue to defiantly protest these attacks and moves to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem, one of the major cities.

Death Toll from Israeli Attacks Rises Daily

As we wrote last week, after Israeli authorities attacked anti-eviction protesters and Muslim worshippers in Jerusalem, the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, and other Islamist forces there, launched low-tech missile attacks on Israel. Hamas is a reactionary Islamic-fundamentalist jihadist organization that does not stand for anything liberatory for the Palestinian people. But what is going on is no “equal exchange” of missile attacks. Hamas’s crude missiles are not comparable to Israel’s massive, cutting-edge death machinery and the death toll in the missile attacks is massively disproportionately Israel massacring Palestinians in Gaza. Nor can Israel claim “self-defense” when it has blockaded, starved and attacked Gaza for years (see, for example, here and here).

May 16 was the single deadliest day in an ongoing massacre that has led to the deaths of at least 188 people in Gaza. For days, Palestinians living along Gaza's northern and eastern borders with Israel have been fleeing intense Israeli bombardment and ending up in temporary shelters in central Gaza City. Families who were already struggling to survive in a vast outdoor prison, Gaza—where Israel has locked down over two million people—are arriving daily in pickup trucks, on donkeys and by foot. Thousands have taken shelter in sixteen schools run by the United Nations, but in past massacres against the people of Gaza, Israel has targeted schools run by European agencies and the UN for bombing with children inside or nearby.

On May 15 Israeli jets bombed a three-story house in Gaza City's Shati refugee camp killing eight children aged 14 and under and two women from an extended family. The 1.5 million Palestinian people living in refugee camps are families driven from Israel during the Nakba—the explosion of terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine that “cleared the ground” on which the state of Israel was built in 1948.

On May 14, Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children, ages 7 and under, were killed after an Israeli warplane reduced their four-story apartment building to rubble in the neighboring town of Beit Lahia at the northern tip of Gaza. “It was a massacre,” said a relative, “My feelings are indescribable.”  In this case, an Israeli military spokesman told the media there was no attempt to minimize “collateral damage” because that was not “feasible this time.”

As Protests Spread Through West Bank, the Lebanese Border, and Jordan, Israel Murders At Least Ten Protestors

In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other towns and cities, Palestinians protested against the Gaza massacre and the moves to evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem. They waved Palestinian flags, set up burning tire barricades and defended themselves with stones thrown at Israeli soldiers who shot and killed at least ten of the protesters.

On Israel’s northern border, troops opened fire when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed. One Lebanese protester was killed.

Most people living in Jordan are Palestinian or have close ties to Palestine and protest there has been met with violent repression, by a U.S.-friendly regime. On Friday, May 14, Jordanian riot police attacked pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach a bridge that leads to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Protesters called on Jordan’s ruler, King Abdullah, to open the border with Israel to allow Palestinians to escape and to allow people in Jordan to cross the border to come to their aid. And they demanded an end to Jordan’s official alliance and diplomatic recognition of Israel.

 

People in Jaffa protest Israel attack on Gaza

 

Residents of Jaffa, Israel, protest Israel's attacks on Palestinians, May 15, 2021.    Photo: AP

Palestinian Citizens of Israel Join the Protests, and Are Targeted for Violent Attack.

Saturday, May 15 saw protests continuing in many mixed Jewish-Palestinian cities for the sixth day, as Palestinians marked Nakba Day, which commemorates the terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionists3 in 1948. Demonstrators also protested Israel's ongoing slaughter in Gaza. In cities with Palestinian populations, police attacked and arrested protesters using sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades in a classic confrontation of militarized Israeli police violence against Palestinians defending themselves with stones.

There is widespread street fighting in cities in Israel with significant Palestinian populations.  While there have been cases reported in which Palestinians are said to have ganged up on Israelis, overwhelmingly this has been a wave of organized mob attacks on Palestinians by right-wing racist Zionists, in collusion with and at times actively supported by Israeli police. The refusal of the Palestinians to back down in the face of this has caused talk of “civil war” and has seriously shaken Israeli society.

The city of Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv, is about two-thirds Jewish and one-third Palestinian. On May 14, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was wounded by firebombs thrown at his home in Jaffa, and remains in serious condition. His 10-year-old sister was wounded in the head. The boy’s father told Haaretz newspaper the family was sitting in the living room "when the house was hit, and fire started coming in through the window." The boy's grandfather said the police prevented him from coming to help, and cried out, "How long will it stay like this? And they say we're the terrorists. They lock us in our homes and let the settlers do what they want.”4 Neighbors told Haaretz, "the police protect the settlers and let them enter Jaffa. These are militias working with police permission. We don't touch the Jews living here, and treat everyone with respect."

On May 15, hundreds of people demonstrated in a park in Jaffa to protest the attack. Demonstrators carried signs reading "Where is the sane Jewish voice?" One protester, Liza Koma, said: "I don't feel safe in my own city. I'm not supposed to go to sleep fearing that I'll be burned. We, the Arab community, will protect ourselves."

People fill downtown Chicago in support of Palestine.

 

Protest in Chicago in support of the Palestinian people, May 13.    Photo: @jonathanaphoto

Biden Defends Israel’s Slaughter

On May 13, as Israel was well into the massacre in Gaza, racist Jewish fascists were running wild, and Israeli police were shooting and killing protesters with live ammunition, U.S. President Joe Biden gave a show of support to all this, saying, “there has not been a significant overreaction” in what he claimed was Israel’s response to Hamas rockets. The reality is that for the rulers of the U.S.—whether Democrat or Republican—Israel has been and continues to be the most reliable armed garrison and instrument for enforcement of American imperialist interests in this strategically crucial region of the world. That is why, as Bob Avakian pointed out in Bringing Forward Another Way, Israel plays a “special role” and continues to receive firm backing (including billions of dollars in aid each year) from the U.S.

At the same time, there has been significant anger against this among people in the U.S., with various demonstrations in the streets and many public figures speaking out against the Israeli attacks and the general Israeli role in the region.  Revolutionaries have gone into this ferment, showing that the source of the problem is within the imperialist system itself and organizing people for revolution, while uniting in this struggle against what the system is perpetrating in the Middle East. Stay tuned to revcom.us for more coverage, analysis and orientation.

 


1. Gaza is a tiny strip of land six miles wide by 25 miles long. It is inhabited by over two million Palestinian people—refugees (and their children and grandchildren) who were driven from their homes in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine (known as Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe”) in 1948 that resulted in the establishment of the state of Israel. Gaza is often called “the world largest outdoor prison.” Both Israel (which largely surrounds Gaza on land and sea) and Egypt (with whom Gaza shares a small land border) have essentially locked in the people in Gaza. Poverty levels are extremely high and more than half the people of Gaza are “moderately to severely food insecure,” according to the UN.  [back]

2. The West Bank, along with Gaza and Israel itself, was part of historic Palestine where Palestinian people had lived for many centuries. With the establishment of the settler-colonial state of Israel in 1948, 77 percent of historic Palestine was seized, with the backing of the U.S. and other powers. In 1967, in a war of aggression, Israel seized the remaining 23 percent of historic Palestine. Today, the occupied West Bank is home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians—many living in refugee camps. There are also more than 200 official and unofficial Israeli settlements that have taken over Palestinian land, with hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers—all of it illegal under international law. These settlements, barriers, and the Jewish-settler-only roads that connect them to Israel, are instruments of ethnic cleansing—surrounding, isolating, and literally walling off what are increasingly concentration camp enclaves where Palestinians are confined. Many are essentially militarized bases from which virulent racists carry out a reign of terror on the Palestinian population.  [back]

3. Zionism is an openly pro-Western colonialist, imperialist ideology and political movement among Jewish people founded with the goal of establishing a Jewish nation-state. Go here for more.  [back]

4. Here, the speaker is referring to Zionists who move into Palestinian cities, towns and neighborhoods in Israel who intimidate, terrorize and aim to drive out the Palestinian population.  [back]

The destruction of AP and Al Jazeera offices

 

The destruction of AP and Al Jazeera offices, May 15.    Photo: AP

Israel Bombs Associated Press and Al Jazeera Offices: A War Crime to White Out War Crimes

On May 15, Israeli jets bombed and demolished an 11-story building housing the office of the Associated Press (AP), a leading mainstream news service based in the U.S., along with the offices of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news service and other offices and apartments. For 15 years, the AP’s top-floor office and roof terrace were a prime location for covering Israel’s assaults on Gaza, including wars in 2009 and 2014. Reporting by AP and Al-Jazeera from this building has been one of the main ways people around the world have been able to witness and get some sense of the hellish impact of past, and current Israeli massacres in Gaza.

A statement from the head of AP said, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.” That is the intended result.

Journalists are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law against direct attacks unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. Such attacks amount to war crimes. The destruction of the entire building housing the AP offices sends a message that Israel declares itself exempt from the most widely accepted international laws governing the conduct of armies during war, including those demanding proportionality in military exchanges and not targeting press for attack.

Bodies of two women and eight children killed by an Israeli air strike on Gaza City

 

Bodies of two women and eight children killed by an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, May 15.    Photo: AP/Manhoud Zaanoun

Indiscriminate Slaughter of Civilians Is Israeli Military Doctrine

On May 15, Israeli jets bombed a three-story house in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp, killing eight children aged 14 and under and two women from an extended family. The people, hundreds of thousands of people living in refugee camps, are, or are descendants of, people driven from Israel during the Nakba—the explosion of terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine that “cleared the ground” on which the state of Israel was built in 1948.

In fact, indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is at the core of Israeli military doctrine. Since the Nakba; this doctrine has been escalated and explicitly articulated as an essential element of Israeli military strategy. A 2008 article in the journal of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, “Disproportionate Force: Israel’s Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War,” publicly discusses this and the genocidal logic behind it.

Written in the aftermath of fifteen years of the brutal and unsuccessful Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon, the article sums up lessons Israeli political and military leaders took from that:

Israel does not have to be dragged into a war of attrition with Hizbollah [also spelled Hezbollah, the Islamist militia that was the target of the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon]. Israel’s test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hizbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full-scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition. [Emphasis added]

The doctrine and morality (or lack thereof) of any military force is a concentration of its objectives and values. And in the case of Israel, those objectives are those of a racist settler-colonial state that plays a pivotal role as an enforcer of U.S. interests in a world of exploitation and oppression, and the values of anything that serves that U.S. empire and of our people (that is, Israelis) is justified, and no crime against humanity is too egregious. 

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