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The Israel-Palestine “War” Is Not Really a War

For over a week now, the world has watched one of the most brutal modern cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing live on TV and social media. Before understanding the specifics and politics behind what is happening in Palestine, it is essential to establish the formal and generally established definitions of ethnic cleansing and genocide. 

The UN defines ethnic cleansing as "a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas." Furthermore, the UN defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Both of these are war crimes. 

With those definitions in mind, recent developments in Palestine point to a deeply troubling and alarming situation that fits the criteria outlined by the UN for ethnic cleansing and genocide. There is evidence of forced displacement, violence against civilians, and destruction of homes and communities in Palestine. It vividly illustrates a deliberate and systematic attempt to further remove a particular ethnic and religious group from their land. So far, 2,200 civilians were killed and over 10,000 injured due to nighttime air raids, according to Reuters.

Israel has committed multiple war crimes against Palestine in the past week alone, including using white phosphorus, the starvation of civilians, and intentionally directing attacks on hospitals. The situation in Palestine is often compared to apartheid, drawing parallels to the historical segregation and discrimination in South Africa. The term "apartheid" describes the systemic discrimination and segregation policies imposed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

Palestinians face restrictions on their movement, limited access to resources, and disparities in legal rights and opportunities compared to Israeli settlers. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are subjected to different legal systems than Israelis living in nearby settlements, creating a segregated reality. 

To understand the deeply complicated nature of the situation, it is imperative to reflect on history. In the aftermath of World War I, the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire led to the division of its territories among European powers. Palestine, in particular, fell under British mandate in 1922, with the Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a Jewish national home in the region. However, British interests in the area were the driving force behind their endorsement of the Zionist movement. 

Empowered by this support, the Zionist movement intensified its colonization efforts, establishing a proto-state called the Yishuv in Palestine. British sponsorship enabled their expansion while suppressing Palestinian movements. These events led to the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, a pivotal year, as conflict escalated. Resulting in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the destruction of their communities. This period, known as the Nakba, marked a defining moment in the establishment of Israel.

In the tumultuous years leading to the establishment of Israel, a strategy emerged within the Zionist movement: the "Logic of Elimination." This ideology aimed to forge an exclusive Jewish state amidst the native Palestinian population, driving a series of ethnic cleansing campaigns that began before the 1948 war. 

The UN proposed a Partition Plan in 1947, which was rejected by Palestinians who opposed its land allocation. The Zionist leadership, however, tactically accepted partition publicly while harboring plans for expansion once the Jewish state was established. 

These expansionist aspirations found their expression in Plan Dalet, a ruthless initiative developed by the Haganah high command. It led to the expulsion of approximately 800,000 Palestinians from their villages. The aftermath of the conflict saw the delineation of the Green Line, marking de facto borders for Israel. At the same time, the West Bank and Gaza Strip fell under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, respectively. 

This period, characterized by ethnic cleansing, strategic maneuvers, and the drawing of new territorial lines. Laying the groundwork for the discriminatory laws and policies that continue to shape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since 1948, Palestine has lost over 4,224,776 acres to Israeli expropriation. By the end of 1948, Israel controlled 78 percent of historical Palestine, with Egypt and Jordan holding the other 22 percent.

In 1993, the Oslo Accords were signed, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created. The AP was meant to act as an interim government and have limited self-rule in specific areas of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords had initially envisioned the PA as a precursor to the first democratically elected Palestinian government, but that never happened.

The first time Palestinians could participate in elections was in 2005, when Hamas was elected. Two years later, Israel deemed Hamas a terrorist group and placed blockades on the Gaza Strip. Even though Palestine lacks an army, navy and air force, multiple military attacks were launched upon Gaza by Israel in 2005, 2012, 2014, and 2021.

Roughly 2.3 million people are in the Gaza Strip, which is only 365 square kilometres. For comparison, Houston in the United States has the same number of inhabitants and spans over 1,659 square kilometres. It is a densely populated area with minimal resource access due to the blockades placed over 15 years ago. 

Today, Gazans are still facing the threat of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Israeli Defence Minister Yoaf Gallant publicly announced that they "are imposing a complete siege on Gaza: no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly."

Politicians from the West, such as American President Joe Biden, promptly supported Israel and described Hamas' beheading of forty Israeli infants as "an act of sheer evil." Fact-checkers have since proved the reports of the beheaded babies to be unproven, and the White House was forced to rectify their statement. However, the damage is done as propaganda dominates Western news.

Social media influencer Huda Beauty reported that her image was used alongside an Israeli flag in a pro-Isreal advertisement without her permission. Huda said, "I just want you to know the extent to which the media manipulation is happening." in a video posted to her TikTok account.   

The rampant propaganda is only one aspect of the dehumanization of Palestinians today. Reflecting on the historical events, from the endorsement of the Zionist movement to the Nakba and the subsequent struggles for self-determination, it is clear that the Israeli-Palestinian "conflict" is not a war, but a profound and ongoing tragedy of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Israeli army is ranked 18th in the world's most powerful armies, and its allies include the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively the 1st and 5th in the rank. This is not a war. It is the world's most powerful, fighting against civilians who have endured violence for decades. Most of all, according to the UN's definition, this is genocide.

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