A Locus of Instability – For Israel the Writing is on the Wall

A Palestinian youth walks through the Erez crossing on October 7. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Dr. M. Reza Behnam

Israel is the creation of European colonialism and US imperialism. They have abetted and sustained a predatory settler-colonial regime and a society that has become adjusted to injustice.

The October 7 Palestinian uprising was the inevitable reaction of a people who have been under Israeli colonial subjugation for over 75 years. As Frantz Fanon wrote in his 1961 classic “The Wretched of the Earth,” colonial humiliation engenders fury in the hearts of the colonized. The oppressed revolt, he said, when they can no longer breathe.

It is the wish and right of all subjugated people to free themselves and to be masters of their own fate even if that freedom requires armed struggle. It is in this context that the events of  October 7, 2023 should be understood.

The violence of that day did not grow out of a void; it was bred by decades of injustice and the desire of Israel, the United States and its allies to make Palestinians disappear. Two different realities, within a mile of each other, collided in October: While the colonizers celebrated life at a music festival, the colonized, imprisoned in their own land trapped behind a 30-foot concrete wall, rebelled.

The colonized have either to accept subjugation or use whatever means necessary to demand their humanity. For demanding that right and refusing to disappear, Hamas – an Islamist political party and military movement in Gaza – has been condemned by the Global North. No such condemnation has ever been directed at the state violence and terrorism of the Israeli colonizers, whose acts of dispossession and repression have made Palestinian collective rebellion inescapable and essential.

If we are to condemn Hamas, then we must censure all liberation movements starting with the United States, with the insurrection by “patriots” in the 13 colonies who rebelled against British colonial rule in 1775, leading to the American Revolution. We would also have to condemn the enslaved in America, who like Nat Turner in Southampton, Virginia in 1831, violently revolted against their enslavers.

Generations of Palestinians have been denied the right to have normal lives to imagine a day free of occupation; days without daily harassment and violence from Israeli colonists and occupation forces; days to freely move about in their own country; days without arbitrary evictions, home demolitions; nights without military raids, homes ransacked, arbitrary abductions and detention; and days without endless walls, gates, roadblocks and checkpoints. It is like “living in a zoo,” said one Palestinian man who, like others, is forced to wait in long lines, sometimes for hours, to pass through turnstiles and caged walkways to reach one of many checkpoints.

Much has changed since Palestinians refused to accept another day of occupation. Their struggle has stirred the Arab world. It has demonstrated the ingenuity, strength and determination of a colonized people to be free. With no organized army, air force, and modern weaponry, and with no support from most Arab leaders, Palestinians have been able to battle against one of the most advanced militaries in the world.

Shamefully, family-ruled Gulf states, like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have remained committed to the Biden administration’s efforts to integrate Israel into the region.

Prior to October 7, for example, the United States and Israel, with the support of the European Union and Saudi Arabia, had been working on a covert infrastructure plan to construct a trade land corridor (a rail network) linking the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to Europe and India through Israel. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) project, while a potential boon for Israel, would have crossed the Gaza Strip and excluded Palestine and the other 13 countries in the region.

A month before the Palestinian incursion, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the IMEC project a breakthrough that would transform the region; that it “…leads us to a new era of regional integration and cooperation.”

Although the long-term IMEC has stalled for now, its work continues through the “Land Connectivity by Trucks” project —the transportation of goods from the Gulf of Dubai to Israel through Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The United States, like Israel, believes that Palestinian lives are expendable and that genocide is tolerable. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demonstrated that during a panel discussion on 17 February at the Munich Security Conference. Blinken remarked that “Virtually every Arab country [meaning ruler] now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalize relations…” and that an “extraordinary opportunity” exists in the months ahead. He also included reference to the creation of an imagined Palestinian state.

US Palestine policy is rich in hypocrisy and poor in morality and rationality.
On one hand, the United States proclaims itself the supreme conveyor of universal “rights, reason and vision,” of what is right and wrong; while on the other, it is the avatar of apologists for the heinous crimes committed against Palestinians by its Israeli proxy.

Biden, like his predecessors, is operating within a paradigm that no longer exists. Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Israel was seen as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the Middle East and a counter to Arab nationalism.
Neither is at play in today’s Middle East.

Israel has been a locus of instability and costly liability. The people of the region as well as Americans have paid a heavy price because of its destabilizing presence— regime changes, wars, invasions, sanctions, apartheid occupation and the attack of 9-11. Lawrence Wright thoroughly documents all in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Looming Tower.

Biden and his circle of Israeli supporters have yet to condemn Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians with the same intensity that they have condemned Hamas, Russia and the recent death of imprisoned Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. The best Biden has been able to muster have been statements about Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza and that its actions have been “over the top.”

Biden has expressed only gratuitous empathy for the estimated 100,000 Palestinians killed and wounded (as of February 22, 29,410 dead and 69,465 wounded) and the 75 percent who have lost their homes and livelihoods since Israel began its bombardment of Gaza. In contrast, he has repeatedly referenced the suffering of Israelis and Israeli captives.

The president has appeared to have given Israel the green-light to attack the last remaining refuge, Rafah, where over 1.5 million Palestinians have been pushed to the Egyptian border. Behind closed doors, the White House has made it clear that Israel will face no opposition or repercussions from their Rafah offensive.

The United States routinely gives Israel the green-light to violate international law, through its veto power in the UN Security Council. Israel’s atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank have finally forced its history of occupation into the open.

On February 19, the International Court of Justice began hearings (6 days) on the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of Palestinian lands captured in the 1967 war. Fifty-one countries—the largest ever—are scheduled to present arguments. The Court is being asked to render an advisory opinion on Israeli policies or to declare the occupation illegal.

As the ICJ, in 2024, has taken up the issue of the legality of occupation, it is worth noting that Lassa Oppenheim (1858-1919), known as the father of the modern discipline of international law, wrote in 1917, that: “There is not an atom of sovereignty in the authority of the occupying power.”

Although international law is very clear that territorial conquest, occupation and annexation are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations, until the South African genocide case against Israel on January 11, 2024 and the current proceedings, there have been any number of criticisms of Israel’s actions, but an absence of any consequences.

Israel has no viable future in the Middle East in its present form. Many Israelis seem to agree. According to data from the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority, nearly half a million Israelis have left the country since October 7.

The insurrection has delivered a verdict to the United States, Israel and to the Palestinians. The US-backed Israeli response has been brutal, and has shocked and awakened most of the world. For Palestinians everywhere, the message is that you can end colonization.

For new generations of Palestinians the verdict is in Frantz Fanon’s 1961 prescient observation that, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.”

– Dr. M. Reza Behnam is a political scientist specializing in the history, politics and governments of the Middle East. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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