In Focus on the "Problem": Occupation, Apartheid, and Genocide

November 12, 2023

1. What's the root cause of the "problem"?

Essentially, it is the denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Since 1917, Western/British colonialism prepared the conditions for denying the people of Palestine their inalienable rights, culminating in Palestine's Nakba in 1948: a catastrophe marked by armed Zionist militias' ethnic cleansing campaigns. The ongoing Nakba of the Palestinian people for 75 years means the denial of their inalienable rights and national and human rights.

International law and UN resolutions provide the basis for just and lasting peace. The international community has failed to hold the occupying Power, Israel, accountable despite the principles being well-enshrined in international law and UN resolutions. Because of this, Israel is allowed to continue violating its obligations and perpetuating its illegal colonial-settler occupation of Palestine and the exile of the Palestinian people, maintaining a culture of impunity unprecedented in history.

The evidence of this today is seen in the millions of Palestinian refugees in exile and diaspora unable to return back to our ancestral homeland, a Jewish supremacist system that institutionalizes racism against 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, 56 years of belligerent prolonged occupation that promotes the forcible transfer of Palestinians to consolidate Israeli colonial settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, and a system of occupation by siege on the Gaza Strip, isolating more than 2.3 million Palestinians from the rest of the Palestinian land and people and turning it into the largest open-air prison in the world.


2. What was the situation in Gaza before 7 October 2023?

What is known today as Gaza is a small land strip of 356 square kilometers. It provides Palestine with access to the Mediterranean Sea and borders Egypt. It is an integral part of Palestine State's lands. More than 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees from what is now Israel proper, where their original villages, towns, and cities were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Gaza's population today is estimated at about 2.3 million people, living in one of the world's densely populated areas (some 6.5 thousand people per KM2).

For the past 16 years (since 2007)[1], Gaza has been subjected to a draconian siege by the Israeli occupation that has significantly reduced the transit of people and goods as well as the ability to access natural resources including agricultural lands and the sea. In spite of being less than 100 kilometers away, the West Bank and Gaza are separated by the Israeli occupation, which prevents Gazans from freely accessing services in the West Bank, such as educational institutions and hospitals, as well as their holy sites. In 2012, the United Nations declared that Gaza would not be a “liveable place” by 2020. And excluding Israel’s current genocide war against the Palestinian people in Gaza, Israel has waged four major assaults on Gaza since 2007. These assaults destroyed infrastructure, killed thousands of civilians, and exacerbated people's living conditions.


3. To what extent did the international community act in response to Israel’s systematic violations and occupation of Palestine’s land and people until 7 October 2023?

Despite the international endorsement of the two-state formula on the 1967 lines as the solution to end Israel's occupation of Palestine, and thus achieve a just and lasting peace, no meaningful steps have been taken towards implementing it. Instead of implementing international law for the fulfillment of a political solution, the humanitarian approach resulted in strengthening the siege over Gaza, consolidating Israel’s colonial project in the occupied West Bank, tolerating the most extremist Israeli government since 1948, and treating Israel as a state above the law with impunity, thus encouraging it to continue violating international law and hundreds of UN resolutions.


4. What is the "problem" today?

The “problem” remains the systematic denial of Palestinian inalienable rights. In trying to prevent the implementation of the Palestinians' right to self-determination, Israel continues to wage systematic criminal campaigns, from collective punishment to ethnic cleansing to colonial settlement expansion to the genocide in Gaza that the world is watching broadcast live on TV at this moment in history. All of this aims to threaten Palestinian existence on their land, as a people with political and national rights, and to erase the two-state solution, which has been opposed by successive Israeli governments over the past decades, from the international political and legal lexicon. Rather than working towards peace and the materializing of a two-state solution, Israel has been endorsing policies that involve war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of a Jewish supremacist system over all of historic Palestine, affecting all Palestinians wherever they are. Apartheid is the Israeli alternative to a political solution based on international law.


5. What has been happening in occupied Palestine since 7 October 2023?[2]

The Palestinian population in Gaza is denied basic rights and services, including access to electricity, water, gas, medicines, and food. With every passing hour, more Palestinian souls are lost. Everyone and everything in Gaza has become a target for Israel today; people, homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, and churches. The relentless bombing of residential areas in the Gaza Strip has so far killed 11,025 Palestinians, including 4,506 children, 3,027 women, and 678 elderly citizens, as well as injuring over 27,000 others[3]. Until, 8 November, Israel has committed at least 1070 massacres against Gaza families, most of whom are still buried under rubble. There has been repeated warning from the Ministry of Health that Gaza's hospitals are in a complete state of collapse. According to the latest report issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Health on 10 November, as a result of bombardment or lack of fuel, 21 out of 35 hospitals and 51 out of 72 healthcare clinics have shut down. Furthermore, 198 health workers were killed, more than 130 others were injured, and more than 60 ambulances were attacked rendering 53 of them out of service. More than one million 1.6 million Palestinians were displaced. Around 50 percent of the strip's buildings were destroyed completely or partially, including at least 57 UNRWA installations (over 100 UNRWA workers have been killed so far), 7 Church-related institutions, and 66 mosques. Until the end of October 2023, Israel bombed approximately 40% of Gaza's schools, causing partial damage to (221) schools and total destruction to 38 schools.[4] As a result of Israel's bombing and siege of Al-Shifa Medical Complex, as well as shutting down services and communications at hospitals in northern Gaza, detailed reports about Palestinian casualties have not been released since Friday, 10 November.

In the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, and under the command of radical Israeli settlers, the current Israeli government has rendered 2023 one of the bloodiest years in nearly two decades. Since 7 October 2023, a disturbing surge in Israeli crimes and violations has killed 183 Palestinians, wounded more than 2,500 others[5], detained over 2,400[6], forcibly transferred at least six Palestinian villages, and demolished 110 structures, displacing 276 people, including 129 children[7]. The Israeli government has reportedly distributed thousands of weapons among Israeli settlers, leading to a disturbing escalation in attacks on the defenseless Palestinian population: Israeli settlers have carried out 454 terror attacks, resulting in the murder or contributing to the murder of at least six Palestinians[8]. Palestinian cities, towns, and villages remain under blockade, while Jerusalem is completely cut off and turned into military barracks. There have also been severe restrictions on movement to and from Jordan via the Al-Karamah King Hussein Bridge, the only connection to the outside world from the occupied West Bank.


6. How have Western countries been contributing to the current escalation?

While this may not be new to Palestinians or the broader Arab world, Western responses seem to communicate that Palestinian lives don't matter or matter less than Israeli lives. Several Western governments rushed to endorse “Israel’s right to defend itself" without paying attention first and foremost to the international consideration of Israel as the occupying Power and the context of the long history of the Israeli war machine against the Palestinian people. 

A few of those governments only began mentioning “international humanitarian law” after more than 3,000 Palestinians were killed in less than two weeks. Some countries, such as the U.S., Germany, and the UK, refused to condemn the war crime of cutting water, electricity, and other supplies to over 2.3 million people. With the exception of Belgium, Ireland, and Norway, the majority of initial responses from Western governments gave Israel the green light to commit war crimes, including killing and wiping out entire Palestinian families, targeting hospitals, and forcibly transferring Palestinians out of Gaza. In sum, those countries have enabled Israel, the occupying Power, to target and kill Palestinians not because of anything they have done but because of who they are.


7. What role does the Western media play?

Despite the carnage and horrific destruction in Gaza, the Western media still fails to provide any context for the daily crimes committed against the Palestinian people. A prominent example of bias is the requirement that Palestinian spokespeople condemn attacks against Israelis while Israeli officials are not required to do so. And in addition to endorsing Israeli talking points such as this being a “war against Hamas,” rather than an act of aggression against the entire people of Palestine, there has been a refusal to address the root causes of the current crisis as if the clock started ticking on the question of Palestine on 7 October 2023.

Core elements such as the fact that Israel is the occupying Power that has violated every UN resolution since 1948 are absent from most Western media coverage. And to justify their reporting, many journalists are trying to draw a symmetry between those oppressed and those who control them; i.e. the occupying Power and the occupied population. There were also many others who took it a step further by fabricating fake news to further ignite and rally support for Israel to defend itself from the occupied population that it has controlled for decades with an iron fist and fire. One prominent example of fake news that has never been proven was the claim that Palestinians "decapitated children and rapped women." Nevertheless, media outlets, reporters, interviewers, and interviewees who comply with this narrative continue to refer to such lies.


8. What should "international action" mean in the context of occupied Palestine?

The international community and its institutions are equipped with tools to take action when a party systematically refuses to adhere to its obligations under the UN Charter and UN resolutions, actively engages in war crimes and crimes against humanity, and affects world peace and security in the way that Israel has been doing against Palestine and the Palestinians for the past 75 years. There has never been any concept of accountability in the Western approach to Israel. Instead, there is an emphasis on providing incentives for the state involved in such grave crimes, from high-level meetings to free trade agreements.

In addition to the work that the International Criminal Court is supposed to be doing, the least that the international community should include in such a blatant situation is to: impose an arms embargo, set a list of people involved in crimes and acts of terrorism, review all agreements with Israel to make clear that they don’t support the commitment of violations of international law, ban all Israeli settlement products and services, and prevent any kind of funding used for the commitment of crimes, including with regards to Israel's colonial-settlements.

To date, neither the United States nor the European Union has published a document listing concrete accountability measures that could be taken in the future. On the contrary, whether from the European Commission or individual countries such as Austria, Sweden, and Germany, discussions and action have been taken to punish people under occupation.


9. What urgent action must be taken to stop Israel's genocide of Palestinians in Gaza?

The international community must take decisive action. There are fundamental principles that form the basis of this: to achieve an immediate ceasefire, to provide all civilians with access to electricity, water, gas, medicine, medical supplies, and food, and to make it clear that there will be no impunity for the war crimes committed and that all civilians will be respected in accordance with the rights they have under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.


10. What is the political way forward?

Providing incentives, leading to the current situation, by accommodating, and sometimes acting in denial of, the well-established Israeli policies of colonial settlement expansion, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid, is only a way forward to oppressive and lasting violence in Palestine, Israel, and the entire Middle East.

There can be no political solution without an end to the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 and the implementation of the long overdue inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Any attempt at deviating from this path, including by focusing on “interim solutions,” will not contribute to a meaningful political solution. Most importantly: the international community must be clear about its willingness to take action to implement international law and UN resolutions.

[1] Israel’s restrictions on access and movement into and out of Gaza date back to 1991.

[2] Among various other violations, in the first nine months of 2023, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) conducted 2,916 shooting incidents in various Palestinian governorates, of which 2,098 occurred in the occupied West Bank and 818 in the Gaza Strip (PLO-NAD). These incidents resulted in the killing of 248 Palestinians including 48 children (Palestinian Ministry of Health). During the reporting period, settlers were involved in 1,262 attack incidents (multiple attacks may occur in the same incident/ PLO-NAD) focused in the governorates of Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron respectively. Per UNOCHA data, the occupation authorities also demolished 630 structures, including 132 homes, throughout the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. The demolitions included 75 donor-funded structures, displacing 132 families comprising 673 individuals, including 338 children (4,485 families with a total of 25,254 people including 11,791 children were otherwise affected). In Jerusalem alone, 160 structures including 68 homes were demolished, displacing 76 families comprising 364 people including 182 children (130 families with a total of 729 people and 306 children were otherwise affected).

[3] Palestinian Ministry of Health – updated until 10 November at 10:30 AM (Over 70 percent of the victims are children, women, and elderly citizens)

[4] Palestinian Ministry of Health

[5] Palestinian Ministry of Health – updated until 10 November at 10:30 AM

[6] Palestinian Prisoners Club – updated until 12 November. To date, the number of prisoners in Israeli jails has exceeded 7,500, excluding the number of West Bank and Gaza workers the occupation withholds. As previously announced by the occupation authorities, 4,000 Gaza workers were arrested.

[7] UNOCHA – updated until 10 November.

[8] PLO-NAD – updated until 12 November.

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