November 20, 2023
DHAKA – “Israel has the right to defend itself”—after Hamas’ horrendous killing of 1,200 Israelis—is the overriding justification under which 11,320 Palestinians have been killed, as of Wednesday, according to the health ministry in Gaza. This includes at least 4,650 children, who have been killed at the rate of one every 10 minutes. Women are being forced to give birth amid debris and dust, pregnant women in advanced stages are out in the streets with nothing over their heads—not even water for a sip—to say nothing of the relentless carpet bombing of the open-air prison called Gaza, now turned into a death camp because people have no option but wait to be killed.
But, of course, Israel has a “right to defend itself.”
Of the 2.1 million inhabitants of Gaza, more than a million from the north have been shoved to the south because Israel decided to invade that area to eliminate Hamas. These people are now homeless, penniless, without shelter and, of course, without food. From a life of humiliation and being controlled, they are suddenly refugees of the worst kind—sitting around the streets, parks, and open spaces in southern Gaza to be shot at because Israel has a “right to defend itself.”
The north of Gaza has been subjected to relentless bombing. Most of the houses have been razed to the ground, which forced thousands to take shelter on the grounds of al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital. But even that has been raided, with 2,300 stuck inside, according to the UN.
The sick and infirm are being left to die. Babies in incubators are being suffocated to death as oxygen runs out due to no electricity. Why did these children have to be born to Gazans? Shouldn’t they have known better? Meanwhile, the critically wounded are all dying because hospitals don’t have any medical supplies.
On October 9, Israel announced a total blockade of the besieged enclave, including a ban on water and food supply. Two days later, it cut off power. November 10 marked a month of this deprivation. A human being can live only for three to five days without water. Do those who have cut off the water supply want all 2.1 million Gazans to die? We really want to believe in a different possibility, but what? Digging tube wells could be one option for Gazans. But in such a geological location—with proximity to the ocean—well yielding portable water is unlikely. So resorting to drinking sea water is one of the few options.
According to experiments by the French Navy, reported in Natural History magazine, a human being can survive for six days only drinking sea water. But obviously the Israelis are not bothered that many may have died of dehydration and those still alive could eventually pass away from severely damaged kidneys and the failure of other organs. And what about babies, children, and the aged? But never mind all that, because how can Gazans be allowed to drink water when the “right” of Israelis to defend themselves has not yet been assured, right?
Since Israel started carpet bombing that small strip of land (equal in area to Dhaka city, at about 650 sq-km), the world has become used to seeing footage of totally demolished buildings. Everyday, it also sees survivors searching among the rubble to save those who are still alive and trapped underneath. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, who were alive and could have been saved with the slightest bit of assistance. Imagine the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and even children who witnessed their loved ones die in front of their eyes because no assistance could be provided to save them. (To put things in perspective, a total of 2,438 people were pulled out alive from beneath the rubble after the Rana Plaza building collapse.) Maybe just some shovels, a contraption to pull the stone up, some rudimentary machinery—a crane or a bulldozer—could have saved thousands. But with no electricity or fuel, nothing of the sort could operate. Perhaps a glass of water could have smoothened the dying hours of a child.
In the occupied West Bank, where Hamas does not exist, Palestinians are killed on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers and settlers, with the latter having been fully armed to kill those whose land has been expropriated, because every one of the natives is supposedly either a terrorist or a terror instigator.
The hatred, the injustice, the cruelty, the barbarity, and animal-like treatment meted out could only have come from a long-term dehumanisation of the Palestinians. Over the years, it must have been ingrained in the minds of Israeli soldiers and settlers that the Palestinians are of a lower species than them and, as such, are not entitled to the rights that a regular human being is guaranteed by international law. Even babies born to Palestinian mothers must not have been considered human babies. Otherwise, how could the electricity to incubators have been switched off?
Today or tomorrow—we would rather it be today—the fighting will end and the butchery will cease. But then, the world will stand with its conscience severely compromised. There will be widespread hatred, suspicion and scepticism. Idealism will have been further eroded, and in more and more countries idealists will be replaced by hatemongers. Belief in values will be replaced by dependence on brutal power. More and more elections will be determined by populism and ultra-nationalism, which in turn will breed militarism. We will see more and more resources being spent on equipping national armies. In the name of security, citizens will be put under surveillance and the space for dissent will be further squeezed. The final result will be the shrinking of democracy.
The West—which regularly claims the moral high ground—must understand clearly that, with every Palestinian killed, its credibility erodes. All its talks about rights and freedom ring hollow when its application of these is so discriminatory. Its global standing is being corroded by Israel’s flagrant violation of each and every international law. And the way Israel is being treated only proves that there is no international law, no universal principles, and no human values that are applicable to all.
Are we entering an era where actions will only be guided by the barrel of the gun, and not be based on the values and principles which are the hallmark of our civilisation? Israel’s worship of power over principles is what it is reiterating each day.
But then, we must stop this blabbering, because Israel must have the “right to defend itself.”