Hamas fighter, Gaza 2014 (left, from Chris Hughes, Daily Mirror) and Jewish Resistance fighter, France 1944 (right, WW2 website)
The Palestinians of Gaza considers themselves to be living within “occupied territory” a fact recognized by United Nations Human Rights Council and Human Rights Watch due to the fact that Israel maintains control of Gaza’s airspace, waters and borders. As Jon Snow, anchor for Channel 4 News tweeted, “if you strangle a people, deny them supply, for years, extreme reaction is inevitable, the one begets the other”
So do Gazans have the right to resist?
General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3246 (XXIX) of 29 November 1974:
3) Reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.
7) Strongly condemns all Governments which do not recognize the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign dominations and alien subjugation, notably the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people; (4)
Israel would do well to take a lesson from history and consider the role of some Jews under Nazi occupation. Many of us are aware of the French resistance in World War 11 however as Dr Tsilla Hershco informs us in “The Jewish Resistance in France during World War 11: The Gap between History and Memory”, the Jews under the Vichy regime “had to fight for survival in separate, autonomous Jewish units.” The Organization Juive de Combat had 9 autonomous groups and their activities are described as follows:-
“the members of the various OJC groups cooperated in a wide range of activities. They rescued thousands of adults and children by providing them with hiding places or forged papers, and organized convoys to Switzerland and Spain. They formed guerrilla organizations in the main cities of France (Corps Franc) and in the mountains (Maquis). They maintained a network of secret agents who transferred money from Switzerland to France and supplied it for the various underground activities and needs. Finally, following the Allied invasion in June 1944, they participated with the general French Resistance in fighting to liberate France.”
A group of Jewish partisans, members of a unit of the Armee Juive (Jewish Army) France, wartime.
Compare this to the Palestinians now living in what is often described as “the world largest open air prison” the Gaza Strip. They are fighting to liberate Gaza where their everyday lives are controlled by an oppressive state and lacking the freedoms that many enjoy elsewhere. In recent days, those targeted by Israeli forces have included children, the elderly, people with disabilities and pregnant women through bombardment, no one has been spared. Hospitals, schools, mosques, food delivery vans, ambulances, private homes have all been hit with 771 dead and over 4,750 injured (24th July, 2014).
The maze of tunnels from Gaza to Egypt recently bombed by Israel have long proven a lifeline to locals bringing in much needed medicines, food, even building materials not available within Gaza and have provided a welcome boost to the economy. The tunnels are also used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and for operational purposes to launch attacks against Israel on the borders.
During the Second World War, Jews such as Boruch Spiegal used the sewage system running from the Warsaw ghetto to “Aryan Poland” in much the same way when under German occupation. The difference being, he was regarded as a hero of the Resistance not as a US designated “terrorist”. The Daily Mail reminds us that “their struggle exists as a symbol of resistance against the odds and maintain human dignity in the worst of possible conditions” very much like Gazans today.
Boruch Spiegal (left) a Jew, used Warsaw sewers as a resistance fighter and Tadeus Borowski (right) used sewers to smuggle weapons to the Jewish Underground
Tadeusz Borowski, code name “Irek” a Second Lieutenant in the Polish Home Army and a Resistance fighter also used the sewers to smuggle weapons, ammunition and forged documents inside the ghetto to the Jewish Underground. In an article by Terese Pencak Schwartz, she writes, “through the wet stinking sewers they moved like rats in sewage that was sometimes chest high. ‘We would have to dismantle our weapons, says Borowski, ‘and carry them along with our ammunition over our heads so they would not get wet.'”
Residents of Gaza have formed defence and resistance groups through necessity. We hear condemnation of militant group Hamas firing rockets into Israel which has resulted in some flights to Tel Aviv being cancelled this week but what are people having to fight against? Abu Yazan of Gaza Youth Breaks Out had this to say, the people are facing,
“40,000 Israeli soldiers with the best tanks in the world, F16s, Helicopters, most destructive rockets worldwide, F15s, F22s, Radars, drones, warships, Sensitive devices, best military communication systems and the most sophisticated weapons against 20,000 Palestinian resistance fighters with light weapons such as Ak47, RPGs, BKCs and some land mines” but he states “they’re not able to win” such is the determination of the Palestinian people.
Israel it seems is now losing the media war as more and more people express horror and outrage as they see uncensored images on Twitter and Facebook of appalling injuries inflicted on civilians, many of them children. The public response has been to hold pro-Palestinian protests around the world and a growth in support for initiatives such as the Boyott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement persuading people not to buy Israeli goods. There are also petitions to governments demanding the practice of allowing foreign nationals to travel to train with the Israeli army be stopped. Two US-Israeli fighters Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg, recently killed, were identified as fighting in Gaza. (There are double standards at present with those going to fight in Syria likely to be criminalized on return whilst those fighting with Israeli forces appear to go unchecked).
It seems perfectly natural that Gazans are wanting to defend themselves while many foreign governments simply look on as the Gaza strip is attacked daily and their very existence is threatened in what human rights groups are alleging are “war crimes” and some are calling “genocide”. One of the latest horrors is a statement by Israeli academic Mordechai Kedar claiming that raping wives and mothers of Palestinian Hamas militants is the only thing that could deter further terrorist attacks.
Gianluce Mezzofiorre writes in International Business Times that,
“Kedar’s words triggered an angered reaction among feminist activists in Israel, who sent a letter to the University president Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz in which they condemn Kedar’s “words of incitement that grant legitimacy to Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Israeli civilians to commit rape, and endanger both Israeli and Palestinian women.”
Reservists are now refusing to fight (photograph, Getty)
The world can see that while Israel rains plaudits on Resistance fighters of the past, it condemns Palestinians that carry out the very same activities. Interesting resistance within Israel itself is growing with the Jewish Daily Forward claiming that 50 Israeli reservists are refusing to serve in the Gaza War. They state in an online petition that,
“we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service”.
There are other reports of soldiers allegedly “injuring” themselves to avoid having to fight in Gaza and a strong presence of Jews in many of the recent pro-Gaza demonstrations.
In an article in Red Pepper, entitled “The Israeli Resistance” Dr Hannah Safran, a feminist peace activist and a co-founder of Women in Black, Haifa, highlights the importance of initiatives such as “Breaking the Silence” (a group of ex servicemen who are exposing what is happening in the occupied territories). She says that now more people are speaking out and ready to be considered “traitors” to Israel but in contrast they are applauded by Palestinians and their supporters. There are also Jewish peace activists that accompany Palestinian protesters on a weekly basis at Bilin and other gatherings. Dr Safran writes of resisters stating,
“the refusal to recognise our existence has served the propaganda machine of Israel well, especially in times of war. The Israeli media works in unison with the government to present a unified voice of the Jewish population, supporting military action small and large. This seemingly unified voice is presented in opposition to the Palestinians in Israel who are naturally opposing the war and the occupation.”
This claim seems to be borne out by an article in the Guardian (23rd July 2014) alleging that Israel Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights group listing the names of children killed in Gaza. It claims the content is “politically controversial”. An appeal has been launched by B’Tselem who will now petition the Supreme Court. Clearly Israel is not happy for those slaughtered to be highlighted!
It is time now for UN human rights body to investigate claims of Israeli violations on Gaza allegedly committed during the recent military offensive. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state and according to the Guardian, Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri is warning Israel “we advise to take their soldiers and leave before we kidnap more soldiers in addition to the scores we have already killed and wounded.”
Resistance from Gaza is not going to go away and its time the international community held Israel to account for its gross double standards given the history of Jewish resistance!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.