In his op-ed of July 20, George Rooks avoids the most important piece of the puzzle of conflict in Palestine/Israel: the brutal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force — along with the right under international law for Palestinians to resist that occupation. Without understanding this, none of it makes sense.
In the West Bank, Palestinians face checkpoints, refusal of building permits, home demolition, land seizure, killing by IDF snipers, live fire at nonviolent demonstrations, administrative detention without trial that can be extended indefinitely, arrest and detention of children, torture in military prisons, continuous construction of settlements, destruction of olive trees and crops and more. Israelis control all their borders, water, trade, who enters and leaves.
In Gaza, the situation is even more dire. Israel has Gazans under siege within the confines of a small strip of land. It controls everything coming in and limits or disallows everything from food, to repair parts for bombed infrastructure to building materials, to spices. Almost no export is allowed. With all restrictions, unemployment is rampant.
The response by the Gazan people should not be surprising. “If you strangle a people, deny them supply, for years, extreme reaction is inevitable. The one begets the other.” — tweet by Jon Snow, a British TV announcer.
Targeting of civilians by anyone is wrong. Since the Israeli offensive started on July 7, more than 1,400 Gazans have been killed. This offensive, as well as that in 2008-09, which also killed more than 1,400 Gazans, goes far beyond attempts to strike the militant forces of Hamas, and is illegal collective punishment with the hope that the resulting misery will demoralize them enough to flee the country.
The plan to force out the Palestinians began long before Israel proclaimed itself a state in 1948. David Ben-Gurion, who became the first prime minister of Israel, wrote in 1937: “With compulsory transfer (forced expulsion of Palestinians) we have a vast area (for settlement). …. I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it.” (quoted in Benny Morris, “Righteous Victims,” p. 144)