Uprooting the Causes of Violence in Gaza & Israel

In 2012 the U.N. determined that without “herculean action” by the international community, by 2020 Gaza “will not be livable,” writes Phyllis Bennis. The year 2020 has come and gone.

A Palestinian rocket fired at Israel’s occupied territories over the weekend during the outbreak of the Gaza-Israel War. (Fars Media Corporation, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

By Phyllis Bennis
Common Dreams

The most recent eruption of violence in Gaza and Israel is a tragic reminder of the human consequences of decades of oppression. The human toll — hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis killed so far – tells that appalling story. Many of the targets, and many of those killed, on both sides, were civilians.

And, as the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory noted about attacks on civilians, “whoever launches them (Palestinian armed groups or Israeli occupation forces) commits crimes that must be accounted for.”

But while it’s necessary, condemning attacks on civilians isn’t enough. If we are serious about ending this spiraling violence, we need to look at root causes. And that means – hard as it may be for some to acknowledge it – we must look at the context.

While this attack against Israel may have been a surprise to Israel’s political and military officials, it should not have been unexpected. Eruptions of violence have well-known causes; they are no secret.

Human rights organizations (Israeli, Palestinian, American and international) and U.N. officials, parliamentarians and governments around the world have long warned that Israel’s longstanding denial of freedom and equality for Palestinians would continue sparking cycles of violence.

Our understanding of reality is shaped by when we start the clock.

Saturday’s attack from Gaza did not happen out of thin air. It took place in the context of decades of Israel’s domination and control over Palestinians. 

As the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem describes it,

“in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. … [I]n 2007, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip that is still in place. Throughout all of these years, Israel has continued to control nearly every aspect of life in Gaza from outside.”

Generations of Palestinians, 80 percent of them refugees, have grown up in the teeming, impoverished Gaza Strip, one of the most crowded pieces of land on Earth. Since Israel besieged Gaza in 2007, most of them have never been allowed to leave the walled-in, military-guarded Strip, have never glimpsed the West Bank or Jerusalem, let alone 1948 Israel, and certainly not the wider world.

In 2012 the U.N. determined that without “herculean action” by the international community, by 2020 Gaza “will not be livable” – largely, though not only, because of the profound lack of access to clean water. 

In 2015 the U.N. again reported that conditions had worsened, particularly because of the Israeli military assault in 2014 and its destruction of water and electrical infrastructure. And once again they urgently warned that Gaza would be “unlivable” by 2020.

Open-Air Prison

Yet more than 2 million Palestinians remain in Gaza, locked into an open-air prison. The year 2020 has come and gone.

The international community did not take “herculean action” to stop Israel’s blockade or to stop the current extremist government’s annexation of Palestinian land.

They did nothing (then-President Donald Trump even praised it) when Israel passed a law stating that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — so even Palestinians who are Israeli citizens are officially denied equal rights. And Gaza remains unlivable.

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In 2018, a series of overwhelmingly non-violent marches, organized by Ahmed Abu Artema, a young Gaza poet, and taking place inside the besieged Strip, called for an end to the blockade and freedom of movement for the Gaza population. They were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and Israeli sharpshooters taking aim at the mostly young protesters.

After two years, the result was 214 Palestinians killed, including 46 children, and more than 36,000 injured, including 8,800 children. More than 8,000 of those injured were hit by live ammunition. By the time the protests waned, in 2019, the United Nations reported that 1,700 of the protesters faced amputation of legs or arms because Gaza hospitals had insufficient health care funding to provide advanced care for those shot by Israeli snipers.

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs map of 2018 Gaza border protests showing numbers of casualties as of May 31 of that year. (OCHAoPT, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

None of this makes attacks on civilians legal or acceptable. But without addressing the root causes, violence will continue to erupt. Israel remains the occupying power. Before today, Israeli soldiers had already killed more than 214 Palestinians, 47 of them children, in the occupied West Bank, and settler violence had escalated, with nearly 600 attacks in just the first six months of this year. 

Too many Palestinians and too many Israelis have been killed. If Israel was in fact surprised by the attack, it was an intelligence failure — something that won’t be solved by sending it more weapons. 

[Related: SCOTT RITTER: Israel’s Massive Intelligence Failure]

The United States provides $3.8 billion — 20 percent of Israel’s military budget — every year, and that clearly isn’t helping deal with the root causes of violence.

Right now, we need U.S. support for the U.N. as it calls for an immediate ceasefire. And then we need a serious U.S. commitment to ending the violence — all the violence. 

That means ending Washington’s enabling of Israeli violations, and instead demanding real accountability for violations of human rights and international law, real moves to end the occupation and apartheid system and real moves to demand equality for all living under Israeli control.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is the seventh updated edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer (2018). Her other books include: Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer (2008) and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power (2005).

This article is from Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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16 comments for “Uprooting the Causes of Violence in Gaza & Israel

  1. vinnieoh
    October 11, 2023 at 11:20

    So long as the US continues to bankroll Israel no matter what they do, then Israel has no incentive to try to get along with its neighbors. Scolding them for continuing to bulldoze Palestinian homes, villages, orchards, etc., without withholding money does absolutely nothing, as the last several decades have proved.

    Absolutely agree with Cara below that Gaza is a CONCENTRATION CAMP and not a prison. It is a massive failure of millions of humans, stretching back over hundreds of years, this situation between the Jews and the rest of humanity. But it was not the Palestinians that prompted the rise of Zionism, nor was it they that exterminated millions of Jews in Europe in the 30’s & 40’s.

    Continuing to play the victim wore out with me a very long time ago. Doing unto others what some altogether others have done unto you is not justice or justified by any sense or definition.

  2. CaseyG
    October 10, 2023 at 23:42

    When I look at Netanyahu’s face, I see arrogance, but mostly I see cruelty. When I look at Joe Biden’s face, I see a man who wants to pretend that he can rule the world. Together, those 2 are making a mockery in the leading of their separate nations. Rage is the emotion that comes to mind for me; 2 men without souls who with their very need for power are burning up the world.

  3. Lois Gagnon
    October 10, 2023 at 20:07

    The US has co-opted the UN so I wouldn’t hold my breath that that institution will do much of anything to bring justice to the occupied territories. I think our greatest hope lies with the world outside the control of the US and its vassals. That constitutes a majority of the world’s population. The message they are sending on various fronts is get the F*ck out! They are not playing games. They really mean it.

  4. Pete
    October 10, 2023 at 15:35

    Here’s part of the story:

    Mearsheimer and Walt, 2007: The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.
    (763 ratings….check ‘em out!)

    The USS Liberty (1967): hxxps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tx72tAWVcoM
    (The Israelis attacked and took Syria’s Golan Heights the next day…. )

  5. John Manning
    October 10, 2023 at 15:03

    This problem would not exist without the constant support for Israel by the USA and Europe. In the European world we need to stop skirting around the real problem and describe it honestly and directly.
    This is not an issue between Jews and Palestinians, it an issue between Israelis and Palestinians. (For those who always resort to name calling, ashkenazi jews are not semitic but palestinians are semitic.) It is not an issue of equal responsibilities, it is the Israelis who are at fault.

  6. Cara
    October 10, 2023 at 14:46

    Gaza is not an “open-air prison.” It is a concentration camp. The people inhabiting Gaza were not arrested, they are not legal prisoners. They did not commit crimes for which they were charged, found guilty in a courtroom, and sentenced to imprisonment.

    The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia defines “concentration camp” thusly: “The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

    Gaza is a concentration camp. Perhaps if people quit referring to Gaza as an open-air prison and instead called it what it actually is, a concentration camp, that would make it much clearer what Israel is doing and why. Israel doesn’t deserve the respect of referring to Gaza as a prison. All it does is white wash what is really happening. It is kind of cover up.

    • Valerie
      October 10, 2023 at 19:13

      You’re right Cara. It is exactly like a concentration camp. They are given rations; water at times; limited movement within the camp. But if they try to escape, they will be shot. You reminded me of that lovely/awful book “the boy in the striped pyjamas” by John Boyne.

  7. J Anthony
    October 10, 2023 at 13:17

    And what are the chances that Washington will demand a cease-fire?

  8. Drew Hunkins
    October 10, 2023 at 12:35

    Those millions of Gazan civilians (many of whom were BORN in a concentration camp) had no other choice but to revolt. The Palestinians are directly facing the brunt of Jewish supremacism as spelled out in great detail in Israel Shahak’s absolute must-read “Jewish History, Jewish Religion”.

    Israel’s gone berserk in its arrogance, sadism and thievery. That Washington is totally subservient to this creepy disgusting artificial state — while alienating the world’s 2 billion Muslim in the process — is beyond belief!

    The Israeli Defense [sic] Forces are currently cutting off the supply of water to certain districts in Gaza. The Zionist oppressors, for about the past 20 years have limited electricity in Gaza to about 4 hours per day, they’re about to reduce even that.

    • Valerie
      October 10, 2023 at 19:23

      The bloody brits aren’t any better Drew. They, who collaborated with the US to give this land to the Jews in 1948 are now saying it “may be” a criminal offence to display/wave a Palestinian/Hamas flag. It might not have been so bad if the initial land given had kept its boundaries. But it’s been extended far beyond that.

      • Drew Hunkins
        October 11, 2023 at 10:44

        I saw that. Clearly the Zionists in the U.K. do not believe in free-speech. Scary.

  9. Frank Lambert
    October 10, 2023 at 12:22

    Phyllis Bennis has a sharp analytical mind, and when she speaks or writes about a specific subject the audience and/or reader has a greater understanding of the topic afterwards. I’ve heard Ms Bennis on various http://www.kpfa.org programs over many years and a hero of mine.

    There is something very strange about the missile attack, as every part of Gaza (the open-air prison) is surveilled and supposedly, it took Israel by surprise, and the Zionist psychopaths were willing to sacrifice some of the citizens in a false flag operation to exterminate more Palestinians and using their political power in the U.S , for a possible attack on Iran, whom the Israelis want to destroy.

    Think about the “Project For A New American Century,” and hoping for a “New Pearl Harbor” to rally the people to go to war.
    Look at the names of the people in that group. A lot of war-mongering Zionists. “Truth tis stranger than fiction.”

  10. Sam
    October 10, 2023 at 11:57

    Don’t be gullible. The incident could not have happened without being allowed, probably orchestrated by the Issraeli government as its 9/11 to get the world to approve it’s final genoicde of the Palestinians.

  11. evelync
    October 10, 2023 at 11:40

    Thank you CN for publishing this article by Phyllis Bennis. I have appreciated her honest analysis for a very long time.
    Her statement:

    “Our understanding of reality is shaped by when we start the clock.”

    is key to understanding all the conflicts we have as Scott Ritter and others have said.

    Scott Ritter’s piece is also much appreciated.

    We have delusional maniacs running things in the WEST.
    Hubris will destroy us all if the adults in the room don’t put a stop to this.
    Hopefully economic power of the emerging countries who push for cooperation sovereignty respect for all can do something to stop this violence against innocents. And recognize Palestinians as a people deserving sovereignty and opportunity whether that be as equal citizens of Israel or a sustainable land with access to the necessities of life. The criminality of cutting down 1000 year old olive trees is beyond comprehension, as is all the horrific violence.
    The UN has been useless.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    October 10, 2023 at 10:16

    Absolutely none of this disgusting lawlessness and brutality emanating from the weird and sadistic artificial state of Israel could happen if it weren’t for the American taxpayer handing these arrogant yet cowardly bandits at least $5 billion each year for several decades now.

    Every single spoiled Israeli citizen has “Medicare-for-All” or national single-payer universal healthcare coverage. The American taxpayer foots the entire bill. Meanwhile here in the U.S. we have people committing suicide or filing for bankruptcy due to out-of-control medical bills; we have American citizens dying bc they can’t afford certain health treatments or medications.


    • Frank Lambert
      October 11, 2023 at 19:03

      I agree Drew! Well said!

      Hey, when the Hitler wanna be, Netanyahu, goes before Congress and gives his war-mongering speeches, the Repulsive and DemoRAT politicians do everything but genuflect in front of the media cameras, as they all like buttered bread. Money talks!

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