As we write these lines, Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, with a brutality and on a scale unprecedented since 1948. The full-throated military and diplomatic support of Western governments is enabling this ethnic cleansing. The genocidal rhetoric and threats that Western politicians and media have directed at Palestinians this past week are playing out on the ground, as we speak.
The Hamas operation of 7 October 2023 killed more than 1300 Israeli soldiers and civilians, wounded many more, and resulted in over 100 military captives and civilian hostages. There is no justification for targeting civilians in any context. The laws of war apply to all without distinction or else they are meaningless.
On 8 October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced war. Since 7 October, the Israeli army has continuously bombarded the Gaza Strip from the air, land, and sea. That day the Israeli military announced that it had already dropped 4,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip, one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in recent history.
As of this writing, the Israeli bombing campaign has killed more than 2,400 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, and leveled entire neighborhoods of one of the most densely populated territories on earth. At least 45 entire families have been erased from the civilian registry. Israel has suffocated the Gaza Strip, cutting off its water, electricity, and fuel supply and preventing any entry of food or medical supplies. We have long known Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison. Today, we witness that prison as it becomes the site of intensified ethnic cleansing.
On the evening of 12 October, Israel informed the United Nations of an ultimatum. Over one million Palestinians who live in the northern Gaza Strip, including Gaza City and the Jabalya Refugee Camp, must evacuate to the south of the Strip within twenty-four hours. This mass displacement is forced population transfer, tantamount to ethnic cleansing. For the survivors of the wars of 1948 and 1967, these scenes are not simply familiar; they take on an entirely new meaning.
Israel has made clear that these are but the initial stages of its war on Gaza, the Palestinians, and Palestine. As we witness the scale of the catastrophe unfolding before us, we must chart the continuities and ruptures of 75 years of settler colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid.
Israeli settler colonialism, occupation, and apartheid have been enabled, aided, and abetted by the United States, Britain, and the European Union. Their unconditional military, political, and moral support has fortified an impunity that makes the ethnic cleansing we are presently witnessing possible.
Palestinians today are subject to denigration, dehumanization, and criminalization for simply existing.
Gaza is not an island. History did not begin on 7 October. The media framing of the “elimination of Hamas” and the “Israeli war on Gaza” erases Palestine and the Palestinians. As it is on the ground, and as it has been since 1917, the Palestinian people are under the repetitive force of erasure and denial. This struggle in all its complexities is about the denial of Palestinian liberation and the denial of Palestinian peoplehood.
There is no military solution to either this crisis or the broader questions that produced it. Nothing will extinguish the Palestinian will to achieve freedom.