By Salim Nazzal
In the year 285, Silvanus the Palestinian bishop of Gaza was given two choices, either to give up his faith or to die. Off course Silvanus knew that his power was little compared with that of the Roman Empire, the superpower of the time. But what can man do when he has to choose between freedom and slavery?
History provides us with numerous examples of men who chose to die rather than live lives of servitude. History recorded that Silvanus defied the Pax Romana peace. Bishop Sylvanus died as a martyr, but Christendom lived and the Roman occupation became history.
This event took place in the days of antiquity, when the concepts of freedom and self-determination were not yet known and the charter of human rights has not come into existence, long before the Geneva Convention, intended to protect civilians in occupied countries and war zones, was born. In that period, there was no modern media to report the atrocities committed against humanity, there was no United Nations; there was no International Red Cross, no Amnesty International and no human rights organizations to watch and to report.
The contemporary problem is that, despite these organizations’ existence, they still stand powerless in the face of the state of Israel which has, for 19 days at the time of writing this, been carrying out a systematic act of genocide which the whole world can see on their TV screens and computer monitors. So when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni says that her army is not against Palestinians but against Hamas, she knows, we know, the whole world knows that she is not telling saying the truth.
To know she is not saying the truth, it is enough to see the horrific pictures of the hundreds of Palestinian kids murdered by Israeli jets, To know she is not saying the truth, one needs only read the harrowing reports written by the United Nations, the Red Cross, and the human rights organizations, none of them composed by Palestinians. Reading these, one sees the shameful and appalling reality that the world, as the United Nations points out, is still unaware of the catastrophic dimensions of.
Today the state of Israel is not pleased with the Vatican because it said Gaza is like a concentration camp; the state of Israel is not pleased with UN which condemned the Fakhoura school massacre, nor with the International Red Cross which says Israel hinders its work, nor with human rights organizations which write report after report about Israel’s serious violations of basic human rights. The state of Israel is not pleased with the international media, which is denied entry to Gaza, clearly demonstrating Israel’s fear of the world’s opinion. Israel is not pleased with global public opinion, which organized demonstrations around the globe; everybody else is wrong, it seems, except the Zionist troika that runs this criminal war.
All this must raise a serious question about the Zionist state’s qualification to be a recognized state; it must open the question of whether Israel is a state which meets all the obligations and requirements of a modern state in observing human rights or a ruthless terror organization which gives no weight to the international community.
It must be remembered that the UN accepted Israel as a member in the UN on two conditions, which Israel has never respected; the first of these was accepting the partition plan for Palestine, the second was allowing Palestinian refugees to return home. As Israel has not honored either of these resolutions, it cannot be a full member of the United Nations. In this case, Arab states can demand in the UN General Assembly that Israel’s status is reduced to that of an observer status.
In November 1995, the EU allowed Israel to become a partner, under Euro-Mediterranean Partnership arrangements with states bordering on the Mediterranean. At the time Israel continued, as it still continues, to occupy Palestine and parts of Syria and Lebanon, both signatories to the Barcelona declaration which states clearly that each signatory nation must “respect the territorial integrity and unity of each of the other partners.”
Europe, however, did nothing to punish Israel for its violation of the Barcelona declaration and basic human rights in the occupied Palestine. Having this shameful history and bearing in mind the current genocide in Gaza, the question is when and how Europe will react to the Israeli crimes.
As Palestinian journalist Abd Al-Bare Atwan observed last week in an editorial on the subject, Gaza represents a test of Western morality simply because Palestinians want no more than to see the same Western standards applied to the Palestine question as to other issues, not to mention to the UN Resolutions which Israel has a history of disrespecting. Yet what we have seen in the last 60 years or so, as the Palestinian bishop Father Na’im Atiq, who practices a non-violent form of struggle against the Israeli occupation based on liberation theology dogma, points out is that the Western world has consistently ignored what Israel does, listening instead to what Israel says.
A few days ago, I was talking to a group of students about the current conflict in Palestine. One of the students told me that he thinks the conflict is too complicated to grasp. I answered by saying that the conflict in Palestine is not complicated at all, despite the thousands of books and thousands more Masters’ and doctoral theses written about it. David Ben Gurion the founder of the state of Israel made the conflict clear to anybody who needs to understand the current Israeli war on Palestinians in Gaza when he said, "We have come here and stolen their land, why should they accept that?" Is there any sentence more clearly summarizing the nature of the conflict than this?
A quick analysis of three major Palestinian-Israeli wars determines the common link connecting all these wars, which is the conflict between the native Palestinians and the imported Zionist settlers. The first war was the 1948 war between the poorly armed indigenous Palestinians and the highly trained and well-equipped Jewish terror organizations imported to the Middle East from Europe and supported by the imperial powers.
The result of this war was the uprooting of more than 415 Palestinian villages and towns. The second major war is the 1982 war, which the Israeli paradoxically called the ‘Safe Galilee’ war. This war basically targeted the Palestinians in Lebanon who were uprooted by the Jewish terror organization from the Galilee region. So although Israel launched the war claiming to be defending the Israeli population of the Galilee, these were not even Galileans but imported settlers who replaced Palestinians while the native Galileans are either second-class citizens in their homeland or refugees for 60 years.
In the war on Gaza, the same story is repeated, with Israel claiming that this war was launched to protect the Israelis in the southern parts of the country. The reality is that over 90 percent of Gaza’s population was made refugees by the Zionist terror organizations, with most they’re having come from the southern area around Jaffa and Ashdod, as well as Escalon and the Negev, which Israel claims paradoxically to be aiming to protect. Therefore the Israeli propaganda is groundless simply because it ignores the basic fact in the conflict.
Much of the Zionist propaganda is based on the question: if you’re in your home and somebody shoots at you, wouldn’t you defend yourself? Yes, the question is a good one, but has been based on a wholly false premise from the very beginning because the home in question belongs to the native Palestinian and not to the imported settlers. The settlers defend a home, which they stole rather than which they own. And the settlers must recognize, as Ben-Gurion pointed out, that the natives won’t accept their home being taken from them.
The Zionist settlers in Palestine have no villages but settlements, which indicates the nature of their project. The villages in the state of Israel belong to Palestinians, not to Israelis. The settlements were built to be more military forts than residential areas. There is an obvious affinity between Zionist words and the Zionist deeds. This is an ideology whose words are often filled with the smell of death, and destruction. As an example, a few months ago, Israel’s deputy defense Minister Matan Vilnai warned Palestinians in Gaza that it would inflict upon them a "bigger shoah," the word used by Israelis to refer to the Nazi genocide or holocaust. His words were not much reported in the media, perhaps because racist terms have become more or less synonymous with Zionist leaders. Terminology ironically identical to that used by the Nazis against Jews, describing Palestinians as animals, insects, creatures less than human, has been commonly used and indeed preferred by Israeli leaders to describe Palestinians. This would explain the extreme violence that Israel does to Gaza and its people.
What is going in Gaza, in Palestine now, is not a war by the classical definition. It is genocide by all definitions. The resistance in Gaza uses arms from the First World War, while Israel is equipped with the most sophisticated hi-tech military equipment. F16 fighter jets designed to bomb strong army positions are instead used to bomb Palestinians’ homes in Gaza. Anybody can put himself into the shoes of a Palestinian in Gaza. Imagine your parents uprooted from their original home. Those who uprooted them besiege you and then come to murder you in the refugee camp where you live – wouldn’t you defend yourself with whatever arms you could obtain? Therefore the question is not about Hamas or about any party; it is about Palestinians defying the Pax Zionista ‘peace.’ They are defying the Israeli occupation which has become their only reality for many decades.
Therefore the conflict is between the settlers and the natives; it is a war between Palestinians whose hands are extended for an honorable and just peace where Palestinians and the Jewish immigrants to Palestine can enjoy its fruits and the Zionists settlers whose ideology is based on dispossession, terrorism and murder. It is a war between the Zionist ideology, which describes Palestinians as subhuman, and the Palestinian natives whose culture has been based on coexistence between the adherents of the different faiths. Jean Paul Sartre was right when he observed that in any conflict between the oppressors and the oppressed there is no escape from choosing the oppressed side. Sartre is right.
In recent weeks, we have seen demonstrations around the world in support of Palestine. This is, I hope, the beginning of the awakening of humanity’s conscience regarding the crimes committed by Zionists. Western conscience and Western morality are at stake at this moment. The Western world and even all humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test at this time, consists of its solidarity towards the people of Gaza and of all Palestine.
And since the charter of human right has become part of the western constitutions Palestinians expect that Western countries will implement their constitutions. Europe needs to send a blunt message to Israel to stop its aggression and it is a major shame on the West that Gaza became a concentration camp while all Europe did and continue to do nothing about it. Most importantly, a strong message must be send from Europe that there should be no hiding place in our world for those Zionists who murder Gaza children without mercy.
– Dr. Salim Nazzal is a Palestinian-Norwegian historian on the Middle East. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.