Farrukh Dhondy | As Hamas goes to war with Israel, civilians in Gaza paying the price

The Asian Age.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

Perhaps the civilian citizens of Gaza who are even now being bombed and starved of food and water in Israel’s retaliation do not agree.

As Israel escalates its war on Hamas, it will confront many of the same dilemmas it has grappled with over decades of conflict with the Palestinians. (AP/PTI)

“They come in all shapes, the jellyfish and dinosaur

A trillion variant species? -- maybe more

And believers say, O Bachchoo, that God made them all

But only made us humans to suffer Adam’s fall?”

From Kahe Ko Kiskey Waastey, by Bachchoo

Thousands die in an earthquake in north-west Afghanistan. The Taliban government are a nasty piece of work, but when they call for humanitarian aid, we hope that the world responds.

Earthquakes are “an act of God”, as the insurance companies put it. My humble opinion is that it’s hot lava and not God’s retaliation for human sins.

After the Turkey earthquake, it was alleged that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, through corrupt deals, allowed cronies to build houses without earthquake-protecting structures which caused hundreds of deaths. So, “act of corruption and not God?” I mean the deaths, not the quakes…

The deaths in Israel and Gaza are so, so, insanely contemporary human. Yes, the divisions that gave historical rise to them have a religious or religio-interpretive origin. The Zionist State of Israel was formed by the forcible eviction of Palestinians from their land. Today 45 per cent of the world’s Jews live in the State of Israel. The UN estimates that 4.4 million Palestinians live in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza, most of them displaced by forcible eviction from their land to give way to Zionist settlements.

Though none can dispute those facts, a few might resort to insisting that God promised the “chosen people” that land and it is their right to drive the Philistines (“Filasteen”?) who lived there out of it and hand it over to the Russian, German, Polish and other Jewish “settlers”.

The resentment against the settlements and against the continuing policy of the governments of Bejamin Netanyahu goes deep and is indeed international, despite the governments of the United States, Britain and other countries in Europe saying they support Israel unquestioningly.

Their present statements of unquestioning support for Israel -- and Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz were quick off the mark -- come in the wake of Hamas’ unprecedented, surprise rocket attacks on Israel and its invasion on the ground which took the supposedly invincible Israeli defence forces by surprise.

Hamas launched its rocket attacks on Israel on Saturday, October 7. At the same time their ground fighters and, Israel claims, sea-borne guerillas, crossed into Israeli territory and began slaughtering soldiers and civilians. Across the border from the Gaza Strip a music festival was being held and the Hamas troops attacked it and killed hundreds of, mostly young, festival-goers and took perhaps a hundred or more of them hostage into the Gaza Strip. In the same assault, they attacked a kibbutz near the Gaza border and slaughtered its inhabitants. The Israeli soldiers who came after the event to the kibbutz claim that the Hamas invasion left headless bodies of infants next to their cots and dozens of corpses in the houses of the settlement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose intelligence and defence forces had failed to prevent the attack, now declared that he considered this an act of war by terrorists and launched air attacks to bomb anything and everything in the Gaza Strip.

Gentle reader, I am writing this on the fifth day of the “war” between Hamas and Israel. Reports of casualties say that more than 1,200 people have died on each side and undoubtedly more will follow, with the greater number being slaughtered by bombing and a mass invasion by Israeli ground and sea forces in Gaza.

Worse still for the Strip, Israel has cordoned it off and no food, water or medical supplies can reach it, and they have bombed the electricity and water supplies already there.

All over the world demonstrations have been held on the streets of cities, supporting Israel on the one hand and Palestine (in most cases, rather than Hamas) on the other. In Britain, Cruella, the home secretary, has declared that under the existing law Hamas has been declared a terrorist organisation and any support for it will be a crime. She has ordered the

police forces of the UK to clamp down on support for Hamas and threatened protesters with fines of £5,000 and jail sentences of six months.

Nevertheless, in defiance of Cruella’s sabre-rattling, several students’ organisations in the universities of Britain launched demonstrations and their leaders have made speeches in support of Palestine -- and some openly in support of the Hamas offensive.

The students of the London University School of Oriental and African Studies took a more historical view, and attributed the Hamas attacks to retaliation against 75 years of Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people.

Warwick, Durham, Cambridge, University College London and others all expressed dismay and solidarity with the Palestinians and regret at the deaths on both sides. At Sussex University, one student leader, Hanin Barghouti, gave a speech in Brighton saying that the Hamas actions were “beautiful… a success and a victory”.

I don’t know if Ms Barghouti reads Roman history and whether she’s heard of King Pyrrhus.

Perhaps the civilian citizens of Gaza who are even now being bombed and starved of food and water in Israel’s retaliation do not agree.

Hamas obviously knows what it was doing and has done. Their action of indiscriminate killing against Israeli civilians may justifiably be seen as the pent-up violence and frustration bursting out in a strategically suicidal act. Hell to pay? Gaza’s civilians are paying today, and will continue to do so!