(Originally Published on Indymedia.ie in January 2011)
This time two years ago, Gaza was being bombarded ceaselessly, from land, sea and air, by the forces of an illegal occupying force. Civilians were deliberately targeted along with schools, power stations, and other non-military targets. Overall, the occupying forces managed to kill 1,416 Palestinians, of which 926 were civilians and 255 were police officers. The occupying force which I am speaking of is of course the Israeli Defence Forces. The supposed reasoning behind this illegal, three week long incursion into Gaza, was in order to stop rocket attacks when in matter of fact it was simply an exercise in military domination. As testimony from Israeli soldiers who took part in the offensive, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, shows, Israel “used insane amounts of firepower”; firepower used indiscriminately against a civilian population. This is the kind of existential but also very real threat that the Palestinian people have to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Now two years later, the war drums are once again beating in Israel. Over the last week, there have been daily bombardments of the Gaza strip, which one can assume is simply a prelude to another incursion similar in scope and operation as the last incursion two years ago. In recent months, the so called “peace talks” have stalled all the while illegal Israeli settlements were continually being built and the Palestinians were being forced off their land, as is the norm in Israeli policy regarding the Occupied Territories. Added to this, there was the massacre onboard the MV Mavi Marmara in June of this year when I.D.F commandos illegally boarded the aid ship in international waters which resulted in the deaths of 9 innocent people on board. The ship, which was part of a larger aid flotilla headed for Gaza, was described by the Israeli government as being a part of an “armada of hate”. This accusation is par for the course when it comes to the issue of Palestine where critics of Israel and Israeli policy, are demonised as anti-semites and supporters of terrorism. All in all, it seems that the future for Palestine and the people of Palestine is bleak.
Looking into 2011 however, all may not be lost. Firstly, Operation Cast Lead and the illegal boarding of the MV Mavi Marmara, along with the murder of the 9 activists on board, has been an unmitigated public relations disaster for Israel and their supporters. The actions of Israel in these two events has clearly and succinctly burned Israeli policy towards the Palestinians into the hearts and minds of the average person. Simply put, Israel is losing the battle in the court of public arena, especially in Europe. This will and has in turn lead to more pressure being put on our respective governments, their dealings with Israel and the stances that they take regarding the Occupied Territories. Elected officials have to worry about the court of public opinion, at least during election time, and Palestine is something that must be on the agenda. Platitudinous comments and actions are no longer needed. What is needed are real and meaningful actions being carried out by those in elected office and by activists worldwide.
Secondly, the Solidarity Movement worldwide is gathering more and more support as time goes by. This, along with Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S), is having a very real effect, not only on popular opinion but also in Israel itself. Evidence of this can be seen particularly in reaction to the B.D.S movement, where an anti-boycott resolution has been proposed in the Knesset which “would see any funds for the Palestinian National Authority redirected to compensate Israelis hurt by Palestinian boycotts of Israeli settlement products”. This is simply an act of desperation as the Israeli government reacts to this very real and effective tactic of B.D.S which was also used during the regime of apartheid-era South Africa. Along with this, and despite an overall Israeli biased mainstream media, it is becoming easier to get the points of view of Palestinians and the Solidarity Movement into the public arena which can then be backed up by hard, documented evidence. Education is the key to winning any battle no matter how unconquerable the enemy may seem.
As we face into the new year, the issue of Palestine, at least to this writer, does seem to be racing towards a climax. Even over the previous few weeks various governments in South America have recognised Palestine “as a free and independent state”. Whilst it may seem to be a small step, it is an important one nonetheless; one which none of us must underestimate. It means that the Palestinians have another voice, another outlet from which to broadcast their message to the world. It shows to them that their strength and perseverance since the dark days of the Nakba are being rewarded and that at some stage, in the foreseeable future, they will have the justice which they have been callously denied since 1948. As I sit here writing this, in the early hours of January 1st 2011, I can see another year of almost unendurable hardships for the people of Palestine but I also see light at the end of a very long and indeed dark tunnel.