Gaza 2021: An apartheid déjà vu

Today’s assault on Gaza may be Palestine’s Sharpeville massacre. It may well trigger the beginning of the end of Israeli apartheid.

Mourners pray over the bodies of 17 Palestinians who were killed in overnight Israeli air raids in Gaza City on May 16, 2021 [AP/Sanad Latifa]

In 2019, I wrote a piece for Al Jazeera, in which I reiterated that we, Palestinians of Gaza, have already made our choice. I wrote: “We will not die a slow and dishonourable death while thanking our killers and labouring under the self-deception that portrays slavery to the occupier as a fait accompli.” Our struggle is non-sectarian, one that is enshrined in the basic principles of the International Declaration on Human Rights, no matter how hard the hypocritical Western media tries to conceal the truth.

And now apartheid Israel has decided to launch yet another murderous campaign of bombardment against one of the most densely populated areas on earth, the Gaza Strip. Again, the victims include innocent civilians: children, women, and men. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed, including 40 children. On May 15, dozens of Palestinians were massacred in Al Wehda Street in downtown Gaza City alone.

Medical staff have also not been spared. On May 16, Dr Ayman Abu Alouf, head of the internal medicine department of the Al-Shifa Medical Complex, was killed along with most of his family.

With American-made F-16 fighter jets, Israel has bombed and flattened dozens of residential buildings and hundreds of homes.

Ambulance and civil defence crews have been attempting for days now to retrieve Palestinians who have been buried by rubble, some using their mobile phones to call for help before taking their last breaths.

The message is very clear to us – it is civilians that Israel is after!

Once again, apartheid Israel has deployed its longstanding Dahiya doctrine – a blueprint for massacre and devastation outlined by Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern division, after the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.

Having decimated the Dahiya neighbourhood of Beirut with a vicious 34-day air bombardment, Eisenkot declared that “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on … From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”

In other words, every resident of Gaza, even a day-old baby, is a legitimate military target for Israel.

The ultimate goal of the Israelis is to brutalise Palestinians into submission, into giving up any resistance, any claim to their own land. As former Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in 2002, for the Israeli army victory would be “sear[ing] into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness” that “terrorism and violence (read: resistance) will not defeat us”.

As with previous massacres, this time once again Israel and the Palestinians – the oppressor and the oppressed – are equated as “two sides to a conflict” and what constitutes legitimate resistance under international law is put on the same level as a brutal illegal occupation. US President Joe Biden says apartheid Israel has the right to defend itself. The fact that Israel has an actual army, disproportionately greater firepower and is an occupier is neglected as usual, as is the stark difference in the death toll. Biden, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and other Western leaders and their “house Arabs” are just incapable of seeing the humanity of Palestinians.

Despite all the evidence, they reject recognising that this is an occupation, launched by a settler-colonial power that seeks to ethnically cleanse an entire indigenous population in order to solidify and legitimise its colony. What is happening in Gaza is incremental genocide, not a “security operation”. And yet Palestinians are being asked to give in to a slow death, die aimlessly, showing no form of rebellion, and accept that if they die resisting, then it would be their own fault.

The question that is on Palestinian minds is: Why is this allowed to happen, 27 years after the fall of the apartheid regime of South Africa? We know why Israel is doing it – we are the unwanted goyim, the refugees whose very existence is a constant reminder of the original sin committed in 1948, the premeditated crime of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It is worth mentioning that two-thirds of Gaza residents are refugees entitled to their right of return as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

In Gaza, we know that Israel is going to get away with it, simply because it has never been held to account for any of the massacres it has committed. We also know that it is going to commit more and worse crimes. The United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, the so-called “international community” at large, have failed the Palestinian people and will continue to do so.

The question is: What more do people who love freedom need to see in terms of death and destruction to translate their words of support into action? What more than the dead bodies of hundreds of Palestinian children? No child, whether Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian or of any other religion should see what Palestinian children are seeing right now.

Palestinians will no longer accept the dictates of the so-called “international community” which continues to favour Israel and cover up its war crimes. In the light of the great sacrifices made by our people, any talk of merely improving the conditions of our oppression is a betrayal of the Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes.

We do not want crumbs. We want to return to our lands and we want to live in them with our full rights under international law.

It is the ethical responsibility of every single person who believes in freedom for all to make sure that genocide and apartheid do not happen again.

This is why we say now that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel is the responsibility not only of civil society organisations, but of every single individual. This is what we can all do. We can boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions, divest from Israeli businesses and demand sanctions on the Israeli government.

If we do so together and in solidarity, only then will Israel start to reconsider what it has done to the Palestinians.

Gaza could be the spark that initiates a different Palestine between the Jordan River and Mediterranean in the heart of the Middle East. The current uprising in the West Bank and Palestinian towns in Israel could be the birth pangs of a new reality characterised by the end of the racist two-state solution and the establishment of a secular democratic state on the historic land of Palestine, an inclusive state like South Africa.

Let the Gaza war in 2009 be like South Africa’s 1960 Sharpeville massacre, in which white apartheid police opened fire on unarmed Black protesters, triggering a movement that brought down apartheid. Let the 2021 massacre in Gaza be the beginning of a new, more democratic Middle East, with a secular, democratic state of Palestine that treats all its citizens equally, regardless of religion, race, and gender.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.