(Photo Credit: Reuters)
This year, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people comes amid one of the most tragic episodes in the history of the Palestinian people and the world.
Entering its fifth day, a truce deal between Israel and Hamas has divulged, at a shocking scale, the extent of the humanitarian catastrophe and the massive destruction caused by Israel’s intense bombing of the densely populated Gaza Strip, which has resulted in the death of more than 14,800 people, including some 10,000 women and children, since Israel launched its attacks on the Palestinian enclave following Hamas’s October 7 raid on southern Israel.
Today, as many are enjoying their natural rights to the warmth of family and a sense of belonging to a safe home, more than 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are internally displaced, including over one million internally displaced persons staying in various UNRWA-run shelters.
46,000 homes have been destroyed in the Gaza Strip and more than 234,000 damaged –about 60 percent of the entire housing stock in Gaza. Witnesses also said that they found entire residential neighborhoods containing hundreds of buildings and tens of thousands of homes completely destroyed.
There is enough historical evidence that forced displacement and ethnic cleansing usually precede genocide. While genocide and ethnic cleansing constitute different kinds of criminal action against a group of people, they are, however, used by Israel inter-changeably to wipe out the Palestinians by all kinds of force. Entire families have been removed from Gaza’s civil registry after Israel pummeled overcrowded homes, hospitals, and schools-turned-shelters with barrages of missile strikes and relentless air raids.
This fate befell a population which has already suffered five major wars since 2008 in the context of an unlawful blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 and which has been widely condemned by the international community as collective punishment.
While the Israeli army heavily bombarded the blockaded Gaza Strip, raids have also been carried out in the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, resulting in the detention of Palestinians. A wave of tensions and confrontations on the ground has taken on an escalatory turn coinciding with increased home demolitions, movement crackdowns, and mistreatment of detainees behind Israeli prison bars. More than 220 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli forces in the West Bank since 7 October in addition to over 2,800 others who were injured. At least 100 Palestinian children in the Occupied West Bank have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers this year.
This International Solidarity Day is not only reminiscent of the chapters of Israel’s nightmarish onslaughts on Gaza since Oct.7. but also of the 1948 Nakba inflicted on the Palestinians more than 70 years ago, when some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled into refugee camps that still exist in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Millions of Palestinians, including those displaced with the establishment of Israel, now found themselves having to live under military occupation, as well as further Israeli expansionism in their lands. When Palestinians remember the Nakba, they are not only remembering a violent historical event that took place 75 years ago which led to the uprooting of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland; Nor just the destruction of more than 400 villages and towns and the killing of thousands others; They are also marking the fact that the Nakba did not end in 1948, but continues in different forms to this day; And Gaza is the best, or perhaps ‘worst’, case in point.
Today, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and Gaza, has reached fever pitch. The international community has the responsibility to prevent and protect populations from atrocity crimes. Accountability for international crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces must be immediately pursued.
PRC is gravely concerned that what the Palestinians are witnessing in the Gaza Strip is another facet of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale.
The civilian death toll in Israel's attacks in Gaza and remarks by Israeli officials against Palestinians suggest genocidal intent according to international law.
Article 2 of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines genocide as any act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
Poring over this definition, it becomes evident that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, killing over 14,500 people, including more than 6,000 children and 4,000 women. At the same time, Palestinians in Gaza, including tens of thousands of wounded, are reported to have suffered "serious bodily or mental harm," which is also included in the definition of genocide.
At the same time, cutting off electricity, water, food and all other humanitarian needs, and the displacement of 1.5 million people, falls in line with the act of "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
While a time-limited 'humanitarian pause' is currently underway, the forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza continues unabated. Israeli forces have dropped leaflets all across southern Gaza warning people not to return to their homes in the north during the pause. It has been reported that on 24 November, the Israeli military killed two Palestinians who were attempting to return to their homes in northern Gaza, while several more were injured. This policy, together with the systematic destruction and damage to civilian housing and infrastructure by Israeli forces, which has rendered Gaza's northern towns, including Gaza city, uninhabitable, suggests the possibility of permanent displacement, which is one of the desired upshots of genocide.
Obviously, Israel’s military operations have gone well beyond the limits of international law. The international community must stop these egregious breaches of international law now, before tragic history is repeated.
The United Nations and international community must act urgently in response to Israel’s mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians under the fog of war. Again, in the name of self-defence, Israel is seeking to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing.
This year’s observance is also a stark reminder that Palestinians living inside the state of Israel are increasingly treated as second-class citizens with state-sectioned laws that continue to deprive them of the equality citizens are granted in democracies.
At the same time, we must not forget about the Palestinian refugees in exile across the Arab region and the world, living in poorly-equipped refugee camps and substandard migrant facilities, where they have been facing discrimination. In particular, Palestinian refugees from Syria have been caught up in the violence of the war-torn country, where their status and ability to return to their homes remain uncertain.
PRC reiterates its call for UN bodies, world governments, NGOs, and civil society representatives to speak up for the Palestinian cause, particularly the reconstruction of Gaza and the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid, until the occupation of Palestine is ended, refugees return to their homes, and an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital is established on the 1967 borders, as per international law and relevant UN resolutions.
The situation in Palestine cannot be seen as a simple military occupation; it is much more than that. Israel’s geopolitical strategy involves not only occupying the land of Palestine, but also controlling the Palestinian people through ethnic cleansing, forced displacement and isolation. Thus, any understanding of the context of the situation should start or end with decolonisation, because Israel has been a settler-colonial regime from its creation in 1948.
Today, the decolonization narrative and imperative unfold with an unparalleled complexity and, above, all, urgency. Rather than opting for double standards, the world should seek to rectify historical injustices and empower marginalised communities toward self-determination and freedom. It is high time the world stood on the right, just, and truthful side of history rather than on history’s disgraceful and most appalling edge.