CW: Genocide, war, death

NOTE: This article appeared in Edition 1 of Lot’s Wife, 2024, and, unfortunately, due to some technical issues with our software, this article was printed with several errors. The 2024 Editors apologise for this profusely; the full, correct article is on this page. 

Luka Kiernan is a member of Socialist Alternative Monash and Students For Palestine

“There’s an acronym that’s unique to the Gaza Strip, it’s WCNSF – wounded child, no surviving family – and it’s not used infrequently.” These are the words of Dr Tanya Haj-Hassan from Doctors Without Borders. WCNSFs have been proliferating throughout the Gaza Strip. A conservative estimate on December 11th last year put the number of orphaned children at 25,000. Now the number is so high as to be impossible to estimate. 

At the time of writing (January 2024), the child death toll has just surpassed ten thousand confirmed deaths, with tens of thousands more missing, presumed buried under rubble. The total death toll has reached 25,000, and 1.8 million have been displaced. The obliteration of hospitals, religious centres, and other public services; – war crimes by any definition – has become so commonplace as to barely register in global news. Among the surviving population, the situation now borders on starvation, only a tiny fraction of the required aid getting through the border crossing into Gaza.

Gideon Levy, a self-described “Israeli Patriot”, who is a journalist for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, described the situation this way: “Destruction, killing, starvation and siege in such monstrous dimensions can no longer be explained or justified.”

Israeli politicians have been upfront about their intentions from the beginning. Ariel Kallner, member of the Knesset in Netanyahu’s Likud party pushed for “Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of ’48.” He is referring to the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe in Arabic) in 1948, which saw the displacement of millions of Palestinians. 

Another Likud politician, Tally Gotliv described what this would mean: “It’s time to kiss doomsday. Shooting powerful missiles without limit. Not flattening a neighbourhood. Crushing and flattening Gaza … with penetrating bombs. Without mercy! Without mercy!”

A former general said “We must create an unprecedented humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The ultimate tool – damage to the water system”.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s war minister commented “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly”.

One might think that a country carrying out such a project, especially this openly, would be diplomatically isolated. They might face intense sanctions from the rest of the human-rights-loving world; would be universally condemned by global leaders. When Russia launched its horrific, imperialist invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there was, justly, condemnation coming from every quarter. 

Against that invasion, President of the United States Joe Biden was unequivocal: “The entire world has a stake in making sure that no nation, no aggressor is allowed to take a neighbour’s territory by force.” Interesting.

President of the European Commission – the executive of the European Union – Ursula von der Leyen put it this way “Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity… are war crimes. Cutting off men, women, children of [sic.] water, electricity and heating with winter coming – these are acts of pure terror. And we have to call it as such”. Sounds pretty familiar.

Biden and von der Leyen are right. These things are war crimes. It is terrible that countries invade each other. But if cutting off essential supplies are acts of ‘pure terror’ in Ukraine, then they have to be acts of terror in Palestine too.

In fact, the attacks on civilians are orders of magnitude more severe in Gaza than in Ukraine. In two years of war, 510 children have been killed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the time of writing roughly one hundred children per day have been killed in Gaza for more than one hundred days.

The noble principles of Biden and von der Leyen, or for that matter, any politician in a major party in the West, have not prevented them for one moment from fully backing the offensive in Gaza. 

Rather than condemning atrocities committed against Gazans, Biden pushed something amounting to a conspiracy theory, saying he had “no confidence in the number [of dead] that the Palestinians are using”. Von der Leyen on her US trip said she was proud to be cooperating with the US on “Supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom [and] Standing by Israel”. Penny Wong, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, declared after the destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital, and the resulting deaths of more than five hundred people, that it was “very difficult from over here to make judgments”.

The reality is that these people could not care less about so-called international law or any principles behind them. They support Ukraine against Russia, because Russia is an enemy to the West. They support Israel against Palestine because Israel is a key plank of US strategy to dominate the Middle East. 

There is no hypocrisy too shameful, or for that matter, too risible, for these leaders to back away from their imperialist project. There is no amount of violence Biden is not willing to turn a blind eye to maintain US hegemony over the Middle East.

But while our leaders have been covering themselves in shame, lining up on the wrong side of history, all around the world people have been taking a stand. Hundreds of thousands of people around the Middle East participated in mass rallies, often outside the embassies of Western Governments. As many as half a million marched in London in support of Palestine, and against the Tory Government’s unabashed support of Israel. On top of mass rallies in many cities, US campuses have seen a whole generation of people politicised behind opposition to apartheid and genocide. On many campuses and in many cities, the protests have been led by anti-zionist Jewish activists.

Australia has been no different. The largest High School Strike for Palestine in the world occurred in November, in Melbourne. Our weekly demonstrations continue to attract tens of thousands every week,  from a whole variety of backgrounds, and have for more than four months straight. These have put our mealy-mouthed government under pressure, and we need to keep it up.

At Monash, Students for Palestine here will be organising campaigns to oppose the genocide in Gaza, and university student contingents to rallies around Melbourne. If you want to be a pro-Palestine activist, and stand on the right side of history, join us by coming along to our weekly organising meetings!

Luka Kiernan

The author Luka Kiernan

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