Theater of Cruelty

Gaza: The causes need attention

Rita Giacaman
Rita Giacaman
Giacaman is a professor of public health at the Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University. Founder of the Institute, Rita has chronicled the effects of Israeli military occupation on the life and health of Palestinians under occupation.
ATTACK / The Western press and governments' coverage of the latest brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians is historyless.


(18.5.21): Yesterday I spoke with our colleague and friend Dr. Khamis Essi, a doctor who lives in the middle of Gaza. He said that what they are experiencing now is terribly frightening. When I listened to what he said, I thought that in addition to the horror experience of being in mortal danger, or being injured, the psychological terror comes when the planes come towards the Gaza Strip with lights, loud noises and shaking. Of course, this affects everyone, and the children in particular.

We experienced the second Palestinian uprising in 2000-2004, so I know how attacks affect children – both our own ten-year-old and the children of relatives and friends who were exposed to this.

Given all that is happening now, I find it disturbing that many Western media – including Arab media – as well as many Western governments are still preoccupied with current events without addressing the cause of the problem.

Homes are leveled

Surprisingly, the world appears to be more shocked by Israel's bombing and destruction of the office building in Gaza city ​​where the Associated Press was located, than by the bombing and destruction of people's homes: Families are exterminated when multi-storey apartment blocks are razed to the ground, and civilians flee with nowhere to go – some seek protection in UN UNRWA schools, unprepared on receiving people.

What kind of power relations, interests and considerations underlie the Western way
leaders and media mention Palestine on?

Western media also omit important background information, and even use specific words to obscure reality, rather than mention the historical causes of the Palestine question. For example, we read that "23 died in Gaza, 8 Israelis killed by Hamas rockets"!

In addition, Western media portray Palestinians and Israelis as equal, even though Israel is the occupier and colonial power, while the Palestinians are occupied and colonized and controlled by an Israeli apartheid regime.

This fact is still hidden, although some media are beginning to raise their voices about Apartheid-Israel and Israel's colonial project, as an outstanding New York Times column recently that explained that Palestinian refugees deserve to return home. Previously, this would have been unheard of. Perhaps this is a ripple effect of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, which opened the world's eyes to injustice, structural and systemic discrimination and oppression not only of blacks in the United States, but of people elsewhere, including Palestinians.

Photo: Ashraf Amra

What is going on?

The following points can help people understand what is really going on:

The following points can help people understand what is really going on:

  1. In general, it seems that many Western governments and media present the events without mentioning the cause of the problem: It dates back to 1948 with the establishment of Israel, the dissolution of Palestinian society and the forced relocation that made two-thirds of the Palestinian population refugees without the right to return to their own home country. This is what it is nakba (disaster in Arabic); it took place 73 years ago and has lasted until today.
  2. Although I understand that it is part of the British colonial mentality, I still find it surprising that the British offered Palestine to Jews from Europe who suffered under anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The Palestinians had nothing to do with this terrible and tragic historical phase. The colonial power's slogan "A land without people for a people without land" to justify the settlement of Jews from Europe and the expulsion of Palestinians from their land is simply a lie. I and many other Palestinians have family trees and other documents that show that we have lived in Palestine for centuries. My family tree dates back to 1636 and shows that we have been here in Palestine for some time.
  3. I also think it's incredible that FN decided to share Palestine. The UN divided a country – a country the organization did not own – to give over half of this country to what is now called Israel. This led to the disintegration of Palestinian society, with two-thirds of the population dispersed as refugees to neighboring countries, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and around the world. This is the root of the problem, which is often covered up, denied and pushed aside.
  4. This was reinforced when the West Bank, including the Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, came under Israeli military rule and was colonized as a result of the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, called map (setback in Arabic).
  5. In the West Bank, this colonization meant – and still means – illegal takeover of land, illegal political violence by the settlers and the Israeli army, fragmentation of land, enclaves, control of the economy, control of people's movements as well as the transport of goods. This means control over land, water, air, Israeli checkpoints everywhere, and a ban on societal development. This means the establishment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
  6. The Oslo Accords of 1993 consolidated Israel's control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As a result, 60 percent of the West Bank was completely controlled by Israel, 18 percent was under Palestinian control.
  7. From the 1990s there was an increasingly extensive siege Gaza Strip. In 2006, the situation intensified as a result of the democratic election of Hamas. The West and Israel refused to recognize the democratically elected government and forced a split between Fateh in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This led to a division of the two areas and the people, as we know it today.
  8. For many years, Israel has worked systematically to make Palestinian East Jerusalem Jewish. The methods include annexation and forced deportation of Palestinian families. The Palestinian people become citizens without political or other rights.
  9. We are now facing an annexation of the Jordan Valley, around 30 percent of the West Bank, and frequent attacks by the Israeli army and settlers against Palestinians at various times. They want the country without its current inhabitants. The Palestinians are an endangered people.

The future?

Although tragic, these events seem to have united all Palestinians, in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in the Gaza Strip, in Israel and abroad.

We'll see how things unfold. The situation is likely to calm down, as in recent years. Some call this a third intifada, although it is different from the previous uprisings.

The world seems more shocked by Israel's bombing and destruction of the office building where the Associated Press was located, than by the bombing and destruction
of people's homes.

And the question is: What was the background to the last brutal attack?

Why does the world not recognize the cause of the problem: the creation of the state of Israel at the expense of Palestinians who had nothing to do with European anti-Semitism, with millions of Palestinian refugees rightly waiting to return home, with Israeli military occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip including East Jerusalem, which wants the land without its people; with the apartheid regime and a siege in the Gaza Strip?

What kind of power relations, interests and considerations underlie the way Western leaders and the media describe Palestine?

See also: No place is safe

Translated from Arabic to English by AZ Foreman. Norwegian translation by Iril Kolle. Parts of the text are published in A Map of Absence: An Anthology of Palestinian Writing on the Nakba.

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