Bombs on Gaza, Repression in the West Bank
‘Children of Light’, ‘Children of Darkness’
Almost a month after the brazen assault on Israeli communities by Gaza militants, smashing through and flying over the militarized, seemingly unbreachable perimeter of their besieged ghetto, Israeli retaliatory super-violence is now shifting into high gear.
Fourteen hundred Israelis perished in the assault by armed fighters of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance movements. Overwhelmingly civilians, their deaths were reportedly merciless and bloody — a massacre, by any definition.
As is its wont, Israel has responded disproportionately.
Israeli airstrikes have killed 8525 Gazan deaths, two-thirds of them children (3500), women and the elderly, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on October 31, based on Gaza Health Ministry figures. Over 21,000 Gazans have been injured.
Earlier this week, Israeli airstrikes on Jabaliya refugee camp, in northern Gaza City, reduced a pair of residential buildings to rubble, killing hundreds, including many children. Many more rot beneath the rubble. Israel wasn’t targeting innocent civilians, its military leaders say. They were targeting two or three Hamas operatives living in the buildings, among their fellow Gazans.
Jabiliya, a square kilometer in size, is the most populated community in the most populated enclave in the world.
Lending substance to the argument that Israel’s Gaza campaign is ‘genocidal’ (here and here), entire families have been annihilated. Over six thousand Gazan deaths were from 825 families, OCHA reports. Two hundred families suffered over ten deaths — some as many as nineteen.
Damage to Gaza’s infrastructure has been immense. According to OCHA, 45% of Gaza’s housing units have been reportedly destroyed or damaged, along with 232 education facilities, eleven bakeries, 21 hospitals, 28 ambulances, at least seven churches and 47 mosques.
Emboldened by the unconditional support of its American and European allies, the Israeli military now appears poised to attack two of Gaza’s largest hospitals — Al-Shifa and Al-Quds — and is demanding that they be evacuated.
Hamas command centres lie beneath them, Israel says.
Like most of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, armed militants are the descendents of Palestinians driven from their homes by Zionist militias in the course of Israel’s founding by European settler-colonists — facilitated by a handful of antisemitic British imperialists — between late 1947 and 1949. They are not alien to Gaza or its people. They are its most militant children.
The Israelis are open about their aims, even quoting ancient battles in Biblical scripture, pitting the “Children of Light” against the “Children of Darkness.”
In conversations reported by the New York Times, Israeli officials cited US firebombing of Germany and Japan during World War II and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as justification for their approach to rooting out Hamas.
Targeting civilian populations and infrastructure — after cutting off food, water, electricity and fuel, as Israel did at the outset of its campaign — is illegal under international law. Indeed, according to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union, these are “acts of pure terror.”
But, Von der Leyen was referring to Russian attacks on Ukraine when she said this, back in October 2022. Her position on Israel-Palestine is quite different.
“Hamas alone is responsible for what is happening,” Von der Leyen said last week, in response to an open letter signed by 842 former and current EU staff.
“The Commission supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorists, in full respect of international humanitarian law,” say Von der Leyen.
Israel’s assault on Gaza has violated international humanitarian law at every turn, legal scholars say.
Among Israel’s grave breaches, some amounting to crimes against humanity: collective punishment; denial of food, water fuel and electricity to a ‘protected people’ in the course of armed conflict; forced transfer; the targeting of hospitals and medical facilities, and ‘perfidy’ — attacking civilians after telling them to flee.
The GPM spoke about all this with Fathi Nimer, policy fellow at the Al-Shabaka Palestinian Policy Network. We talked about Israel’s assault on Gaza and the joint Hamas/Islamic Jihad assault that precipitated it, about Palestinian leadership in the West Bank — within the Palestinian Authority and wider civil society — and about prospects for the future in Palestine. Listen to our conversation here:
As media and political attention focuses on Israel’s war on Gaza, in the Israeli-occupied, effectively annexed West Bank, acts of violence and property destruction against Palestinians escalates.
Since the war on Gaza began, 130 Palestinians have been killed up and down the West Bank, from the south Hebron Hills to Jenin, and almost 2000 injured. Israeli border police and military forces have launched raids on major West Bank cities, arresting 1590. Most or all Palestinian detainees are being held inside Israel ‘proper’, in flagrant breach of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Imprisoned Palestinians, now approaching 7000, have reportedly been subject to beatings and other forms of abuse.
Meanwhile, over a half dozen Palestinians have been killed by armed Jewish settlers, some of them off-duty soldiers. Among these, an olive farmer named Bilal Saleh, from the village of Al-Sawiya, near Nablus, reportedly shot in the chest and killed last week while picking olives.
Jewish settlers attack and kill Palestinians with impunity, often with the support of Israeli soldiers. Their state-facilitated settlement of the occupied West Bank violates article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention — a ‘grave breach’ under the 1977 Protocol Additional and a war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din reports 1600 acts of settler violence against Palestinians and destruction of their property between 2005 and 2022. Three percent of these alleged crimes lead to convictions.
In an October 26 operation, on the edge of Jenin, IDF forces bulldozed a memorial to Shireen Abu-Akleh, the Palestinian-American journalist for Al-Jazeera, apparently gunned down by a sniper of its Duvdevan Division in May 2022. This allegation appears in Para. 45 of the most recent report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Pillay Commission).
The GPM spoke about soldier/settler violence against Bedouin communities in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack, and attacks on dissenting speech among Jewish Israelis, with Dror Sadot, spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Listen to our conversation here: