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History contradicts claims that October 7 attacks unprovoked

The lack of historical context presented by media outlets in the wake of Hamas’ attack distorts understanding of the conflict

Middle EastWar Zones

Posters calling for the return of Israeli hostages in Gaza. Photo by Oren Rozen/Wikimedia Commons.

Canada’s mainstream media has expressed outrage at the “moral equivalency” of the International Criminal Court’s simultaneous “arrest warrants for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

I note the editors’ exclusion of historical matters such as past United Nations resolutions designed to induce (unsuccessfully) Israeli compliance with international law and the Geneva Convention. Both the United States and its Israeli proxy have long exempted themselves from such restrictions.

Mainstream editors claim that Israel’s ongoing Gaza campaign is completely justified by Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attack. The Hamas attack killed approximately 1,200 Israelis and resulted in over 200 hostages taken and retained. Unfortunately, this “unprovoked” assault was entirely predictable given occupied Palestine’s tragic history.

Throughout 2023 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and settler gangs killed hundreds in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and violently harassed Muslim worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites. The Netanyahu government did nothing to prevent this abuse.

Since 2008, 6,263 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military and security forces, mainly in Gaza but also as a result of access prevention, demonstrations, Israeli settler attacks and during search and arrest operations in the OPT. IDF violence against Gaza accelerated sharply after Israel’s 2005 “exit” from the crowded coastal zone.

The IDF’s military presence within Gaza’s borders was quickly replaced with total IDF control of its airspace, coastline, land borders, as well as the entry/exit of people and goods—an external occupation. The stage-managed 2005 exit was designed to stymie the peace process and facilitate the Sharon government’s accelerated West Bank settlement plans. A year later, Hamas’ 2006 election victory and successful resistance to the failed US/Israel-backed Fatah coup attempt resulted in Hamas’ designation as a terrorist entity by Israel and its allies.

This strife could have been avoided had Israel not rejected both Hamas’ 1988 peace offer and the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative stipulating the “establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel” because both offers required “full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967.”

Secure in their US-backed military might and diplomatic cover, Israel chose to keep all Palestinian and Syrian territories taken by force, in open defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.” If anything, Israel’s nationalist leadership is increasingly contemptuous of world opinion as it embraces religious extremists and accuses even reasonable critics of antisemitism.

Perhaps mainstream editors ought to have referenced the above information before declaring that the October 7 Hamas attack was unprovoked. Among other offenses, both Israel and its allies highlighted Hamas’ alleged but unverified use of human shields, a bizarre charge given Gaza’s densely populated environment.

Although the use of civilians as human shields is prohibited by the ICC and the Geneva Convention, it is a traditional tactic of guerilla forces facing vastly stronger enemies. Powerful modern armies like the IDF have the luxury of moralizing about the inhumanity of their irregular foes, calling them terrorists or worse. Such demeaning rhetoric is standard practice in all armies.

Hamas’ violence against civilians is unacceptable. However, occupied people do have a legal right (under the Geneva Convention) to resist occupation by force. This is not terrorism. Palestinian Arabs are aware that modern terrorism was introduced to the region by pre-state Jewish groups like the Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang), violent factions willing to kill Arabs, Britons and even fellow Jews whose support for Zionism was questionable.

Hamas’ killing of Israeli civilians exceeded their right to resist occupation and must be prosecuted. However, Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of populated areas also exceeds the definition of self-defence but follows the IDF’s brutal Dahiya doctrine of disproportionate retaliation.

If unchecked, the IDF will completely destroy Gaza’s infrastructure, kill or exile its population and render it uninhabitable due to pollution and unexploded munitions. The IDF is currently planning to attack the over-crowded Rafah area on Egypt’s northern border, with predictable results.

The devastating violence of the “most moral army in the world” has severely damaged the IDF’s reputation and guaranteed a new generation of enemies to justify the increasing militarization of Israel’s economy and society in general. That might actually be the goal of an Israeli state that openly thrives on conflict and has little patience with peaceful opposition or fair negotiations.

The oft-referenced but disingenuous two-state solution remains an Israeli expansion ploy that has facilitated Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and the best parts of the West Bank. Only a binational state with equal rights for all citizens has any hope of bringing a lasting peace to the region. For now, though, the Western powers derive great benefit from Israeli dominance and see no profit in supporting Palestine autonomy.

Morgan Duchesney is a Canadian writer and Karate teacher whose work has appeared in Humanist Perspectives, Adbusters, Briarpatch, Canadian Dimension, Shintani Harmonizer, Victoria Standard, the Hampton Institute and the Ottawa Citizen. In addition to political writing, Morgan has published martial arts work and short fiction.

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