The Middle East is on fire. The current escalation began with the Hamas attack on Israel on October 6, where many civilians were killed in the commando raid and over 200 were taken hostage. The raid and the subsequent reaction of the Israeli government mark a turning point in the situation.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army is carrying out a collective punishment of the population in response to the Hamas attacks. Every day, hundreds of men, women, and children die from bombs, the collapse of the health system brought about by the violence, and the lack of electricity and food supplies. “We are fighting human animals and will treat them accordingly,” commented Israeli Defense Minister Joaw Galant on the complete blockade of water, food, electricity, and fuel to the more than two million people in the besieged area.
The displacement of over a million people from northern Gaza, in addition to the ongoing attacks on the West Bank, threatens the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
The German coalition government has issued a carte blanche to the Israeli government for its retaliatory actions, supplying it with weapons in support of these actions.
How could this have happened and how can the killing be stopped?
On October 6, the armed wing of Hamas and various other armed Palestinian organizations launched a combat operation, breaching the six-meter high and ten-meter deep barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip, known as the world’s largest “open-air prison,” entering Israel with hundreds of fighters. For the first time in decades, Israel’s army and intelligence services were caught off guard. It was not until days later that the Israeli army was able to recapture its military bases.
For Palestinians around the world – in the occupied territories, refugee camps and in exile – the breakout was a sign of resistance against the occupation after more than 16 years of imprisonment and siege in Gaza.
The people of Gaza knew that this event would result in a massive counterattack. However, the enormous support that ensued from Palestinians must be contextualized against the backdrop of the intolerable daily living conditions that they have been subject to under the occupation for almost two decades. 97% of drinking water is unfit for consumption. Electricity is available for only a few hours a day. Medical supplies and food are rationed. Unemployment is consistently above 50%. All of this is accompanied by daily attacks and arial bombardments by the Israeli army, leading to the ongoing destruction of Gaza’s vital infrastructure. Since 2020, the UN has deemed Gaza an unviable living environment due to years of Israeli blockade and isolation. Under these deadly conditions, there can be no hope for improvement.
As the Israeli military attempts to distract domestic attention from the fallibility of its “security services,” the U.S. has responded by immediately stationing two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israel’s positioning in U.S. foreign policy arises from the fact that the region’s vast oil resources can be controlled by U.S. policy only as long as the states in question are ruled by regimes dependent on the United States. History has repeatedly shown that these regimes are threatened by revolutions, as seen as recently as 2011 in the “Arab Spring.”
Israel, on the other hand, has always remained a stable ally, due to the special circumstances surrounding the state’s origins. Israel was founded by European settlers who had only recently escaped antisemitic persecution in Europe, driven by the conviction that as Jews, a Jewish state was the only possible means for them to live safely and securely in the future. This is the basic maxim of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, summarized by the slogan: “A land without a people for a people without a land.”
In order for the state to be “Jewish,” the Zionist movement dictated that it had to consist exclusively, or at least primarily, of Jews. Long before the founding of the Israeli state, the movement thus attempted to remove the non-Jewish population from every piece of land they settled. With the establishment of the State of Israel, this policy escalated into the expulsion of much of the Palestinian population from the area, referred to by Palestinians as “the Nakba” (“catastrophe”).
From its founding until today and irrespective of the ruling government in power, the state of Israel has stood in irreconcilable opposition to the Palestinians, whom they expelled from their land and continue to displace on a daily basis. Through this positioning, Israel stands, by default, in opposition to every anti-colonial or national liberation movement in the region, and represents the perfect ally for maintaining and strengthening imperialist rule in the Middle East.
German foreign policy is also guided by the motivation to maintain the region’s dominant imperialist structure, rather than by so-called “moral values.” This was the driver of Germany’s close security cooperation with the Egyptian dictatorship until its fall in 2011, and with the new dictatorship after its coup two years later. It is why German arms manufacturers are allowed to supply entire factories to Saudi Arabia. And it is why solidarity with Israel is at the heart of German national policy (“Staatsraison” or “raison d’état”).
Widespread protests against the bombing and expulsion of the Palestinians are indiscriminately treated in the media as antisemitism.
Many people in Germany remember the crimes of the Nazis with disgust, particularly with regards to the Holocaust. In this spirit, we stand firmly against attacks on Jewish institutions and antisemitism.
However, this revulsion has been used for decades to discredit anyone who speaks out against the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state by labeling them as “antisemitic.” This, in turn, allows the federal government and its allies in the media to perpetuate the discrimination against Palestinians. Displaying Palestinian symbols is banned. Demonstrations, vigils and in some cases, the wearing of Palestinian scarves, are prohibited. Freedom of speech is restricted. The most marginalized and oppressed people in Germany – refugees primarily from regions where experiences with colonialism have engendered a solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement – are thus further disenfranchised.
As a by-product of these dynamics and policies, the political right often accuse left wing activists of antisemitism and “forgetting the past,” as exemplified by the personal attacks on federal press spokesperson of Fridays for Future, Elisa Baş, by BILD and other Springer media. Activists must contend with the very real fear that speaking on the Middle East conflict will provoke a defamation campaign against them.
The only means of contesting and refuting this framework is by stating clearly and unequivocally that the state of Israel does not speak for or represent all Jewish people. This is exhibited by widespread protests by Jewish activists around the world. In Germany, Jewish activists from the organization “Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East” have been arrested on numerous occasions at demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians.
The equation of the State of Israel with the Jewish people, a narrative pushed by both the Israeli and German governments, deliberately and purposefully blurs the true conflict.
Colonialism, racism, anti-Semitism, displacement and war are all elements of a system of exploitation and oppression that exists everywhere.
Every additional death in the region is one death too many. And every fatality is a direct and indirect result of the dynamics of the occupation and settlement policies of the Israeli state, and violent reactions to this oppression. Liberation from occupation and oppression can only be achieved through grassroots resistance from the ground up, alongside the people of the Middle East and against their respective rulers.
- End the occupation and the war on Gaza!
- Free Palestine!
- Stop the criminalization of Palestine solidarity!
EVENT: How can we build solidarity with Palestinians?
with Ramsis Kilani and Elisa Baş
7 November, 7 pm
Am Flutgraben 3, 12435 Berlin (behind Festsaal Kreuzberg)
Meeting in German with translation into English. Zoom details to follow
This article first appeared in German. Translation: Rachael Shapiro. Reproduced with permission