The situation in Palestine did not start on 7 October. It dates way back to the 1800s, with the start of the Zionist movement. [Picture: AFP]
Glancing at most maps in 2023, one finds an imposing outline of a certain ‘State of Israel’. To the east, the West Bank is demarcated; to the southwest, the Gaza Strip. One day, not too long ago, this swathe of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea was called Palestine.
This is a land steeped in history. A vibrant culture once spread the expanse of this territory. Today, it is confined to two main enclaves. One is occupied, the other is besieged. Both might be wiped off completely.
The story of the violence in this land – once the sacred home of giant figures like Ibrahim (AS), Sulayman (AS), Dawood (AS), Isa (AS) and Maryam (RA) – is one of resistance, not terror.
“The way Israel is trying to present this, everything began on October 7 with the Hamas attack,” said Professor Jeff Halper from Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He was speaking in a panel discussion on Salaamedia.
But looking at the events as if they started that deadly day in October denies everything that happened before, during and after ‘Israel’ was created on a sovereign territory. “There’s no colonialism, there’s no displacement, there’s no occupation, there’s no violations of Palestinian rights at all.”
People who know and understand history are well aware that this extends far beyond the most recent development. They know that Operation Al Aqsa Flood was an act of retaliation against decades of oppression, colonialism and utter brutality, maybe even arrogance.
“What we know is that it didn’t begin on October 7. We’re talking about 130 years of Zionist colonisation of Palestine. We’re talking about 76 years of displacement. We’re talking about 56 years of occupation,” he said.
That is what we are actually talking about when we speak of the so-called ‘Israel-Palestine conflict’.
This has been a long, brutal and coordinated attack on a sovereign state (not unlike Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). It is the desecration of a Holy land. Ethnic cleansing. Genocide.
If the Nakba of 1948, in which more than 700 000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Zionists, was the start of a colonial project, the occupation of the West Bank and invasion of Gaza are the final acts.
“It means taking over Palestine from the river to the sea. We have today Israeli rule over the entire area from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, with the Palestinians confined to small enclaves on about 15% of historic Palestine,” said Halper on the status quo.
He cut straight to the chase: “The drama here is in Gaza, obviously. But the real political drama, the more important story, is in the West Bank where ethnic cleansing is happening, settlers and soldiers are driving Palestinians out of their villages.”
Israel may have gotten this far in taking over the homes, schools and livelihoods of Palestinian people. Those of us living elsewhere must then ask how is it that we have allowed robbery in broad daylight?
Amidst a brutal campaign “that is against human life, against religion, against the sanctity of anything,” as Professor Nidal Sakr put it, “Gaza is basically paying the price for the entire humanity and people of faith from all over the world, regardless of what that faith is”.
Sakr, an activist at March For Justice, agrees with Halper in that 7 October was not the starting point of this.
“Hamas did what they had to do to bring the world’s attention to focus on the main issue of humanity which is Palestine and what it represents. Everything from October 7 has been nothing but reaction, reaction beyond reason.”
The disproportionate response by Israel has razed much of Gaza to the ground and displaced its population. Blood has been spilled. Lives have been lost. A ‘humanitarian pause’ may have been in place for nearly a week, but this does not mean the end.