Mazin Qumsiyeh: FAQs on Gaza

Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Palestinian scientist, author, and founder and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University, where he teaches. He has been active in Palestinian rights since the early 2000s.

Frequently asked questions, answers, and documentation on Gaza
An evolving document compiled by young Palestinian media activists
October 2023

1. What is the background on Israel/Palestine?

Israel was built on top of Palestine through the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians, a long-standing Zionist policy that resulted in 8 million Palestinians becoming refugees or displaced people and the rest enclosed in ghettos/bantustans (1) based on a set of myths and distortions of reality to justify colonization.(2)

2. What is the Gaza strip and what is its background?

More

Gaza is a sliver of land along the Mediterranean Coast. Per the 1947 UN Resolution 181 Gaza’s area was many times more than what it is now, but during 1948 Israel removed 247 villages and towns, including Asqalan (now Israeli Ashkelon) and Najd (now Sderot). Refugees (including by boats from Jaffa) were squeezed into the open-air prison called the Gaza ‘Strip’. Thus 2/3rd of the current Gaza population (2.3 million, 60% of which are below 18) are refugees, a concentration area of “surplus people”. After Israel’s occupation of the Strip in 1967, Israel conducted numerous attacks on the area including in 1974, 1981, 1987-1991, 1997, 2000, 2008, 2014, 2018/2019, and 2021. In 2012 the United Nations reported that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020, and that was before two more wars on the people of Gaza. The nonviolent 2018-2019 March of Return by unarmed civilians was met by Israeli forces’ systematic targeting, massacring these civilians. The violence against people living in crowded Gaza has been ongoing for decades — see other questions and answers below. The events of 7 October 2023 that took Israel by surprise and caused pain and suffering is precisely what Palestinians faced manyfold in the past 75 years (33 massacres in 1948 alone and hundreds more since then, including the latetst series of massacres committed in Gaza in October 2023).(3)

3. What is happening now in the West Bank and 1948 areas of Palestine and how is this related to Gaza?

The West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza have been under a brutal Israeli military occupation since 1967. This occupation is illegal per international law (illegality of acquisition of territory by war, see below). Israeli settlers built, and continue to build colonial residential and industrial setlements in these occupied areas. Since the PLO signed an agreement which recognized Israel in 1993, it was hoped that after an interim period of 5 years of negotiations, a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank would be formed with currently Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as its capital (the Oslo accords). Instead, the last 30 years saw an increase in the number of illegal Israeli colonial settlers squatting on Palestinian lands in the West Bank (now 970,000 settlers). Palestinians were removed from their lands and homes and squeezed into Bantustans/ghettos in the West Bank and this process is ongoing (in just the past two years, 22 communities in the WB were removed). Before this latest escalation on 7 October, Israel has killeds 300 Palestinians in the West Bank including 38 children and two American citizens. Ben Gvir was unleashed by Netanyahu to arm settlers and gave the green light to them and to the apartheid terrorist army to shoot to kill and commit now well documented pogroms such as at Huwwara and Turmusayya. This only intensified when on 7 October Israeli forces sealed off all our ghettos so that people are trapped (for example Bethlehem people cannot get to Ramallah or Jericho). 106 Palestinians were thus killed in the West Bank since 7 October alone (18 days). Since the occupation in 1967, the Palestinian economy has been devastated, natural resources are stolen and given to colonial settlers, and there are almost daily incursions into Palestinian cities and holy sites like Al-Aqsa mosque but all of this intensified under the extremely right wing government led by Netanyahu (4). Now there is discussion and revolt in Israeli society charging that the colossal failure of the Israeli government on 7 October 2023 and collapse of the Gaza front was directly related to diverting the army for land grabs and settler protection in the West Bank. The latest attack on Nur Alshams refugee camp left 13 young Palestinians killed and Israel even bombed a mosque in Jenin on 21 October 2023. Further, Palestinian political prisoners (nearly 10,000) in Israeli jails are now denied water and food by order of Ben Gvir (paralleling the denial of water and food of the larger Gaza prison). But even remaining Palestinians within the state of Israel did not escape continuing ethnic cleansing and are subject to APARTHEID laws with intensified racism and racist attacks increasing during the conflict in Gaza (5).

4. Does Israel have the right to defend itself?

First the premise that a colonizer is acting in self-defense is itself a linguistic error. Colonizers use violence to achieve ethnic cleansing. This happened in all other colonial situations in over 170 countries. As an occupier/colonizer that engaged in ethnic cleansing of the local people, beginning in 1948 and continuing today, the Israeli regime is an illegitimate colonization project (itself based on violence). The claim that Hamas’s presence as a guerrilla force among the Palestinians in Gaza is also not an excuse for violating the basic laws of warfare and targeting civilians. After all, Israeli military facilities are also inside Israeli cities but this does not justify targeting civilians. Further, Israeli authorities themselves openly declared that they are punishing the population of Gaza (not fighters from Gaza) by bombing them without warning and starving them. See Questions 6. and 7. below.(6)

5. Do Palestinians have a right to resist?

Do millions of Palestinians, disenfranchized, impoversihed, and brutalized for 75 years have a right to defend themselves? Yes, international law does stipulate that local people have a right and obligation to resist oppression of course consistent with International law.(7) Israel’s 75 years of oppression and subjugation of millions of people cannot be ignored to demand quiescent victims.(8) The struggle for freedom in South Africa and Algeria or other colonial situations was not delegetimized when (a minority) of natives as individuals or groups targeted colonial settlers. Ending colonization is always the only way to end both the resistance and the much larger violence of the colonizers. But we also recognize that most resistance in the past 100 years by Palestinians has been popular (non-violent) resistance. Certainly less violent than most other colnial-anti-colonial struggles.(9)

6. Does Israel target civilians and commit breaches of international law and human rights conventions?

From its inception, Israel ethnically cleansed Palestinians (a breach of international law, including the Geneva Conventions). Israel was admitted to the UN only when it agreed to implement UN resolutions, including UNGA 181 and 194, but Israel refused to implement them. Subsequently Israel has violated over 70 UN Security Council Resolutions and hundreds of UNGA resolutions. In the most recent October 2023 conflict in Gaza and as a matter of policy even when there is no conflict, Israel engaged in collective punishment, many cases of which are verifiable war crimes and crimes against humanity. All human rights organizations (AI, HRW, PHR, B’Tselem) and global organizations (UN, WHO, etc) denounced collective punishment, including carpet bombing of residential buildings, denial of basics of life (water, food, medicines, fuel), and use of white phosphorous on civilian areas.(10) If we take just the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which ironically Israel and the US signed, we find Israel breaching just about every article. Israel intentionally targets Palestinian civilians and commits human righst abuses on large scale amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes including including via collective punishment and outright genocide now well documented.(11)

7. Is Israel ruled by rational people?

The criminality of Israeli leaders are reflected in their racist statements about indigenous people.(12) Israeli leaders have always chosen to use their military might to achieve their objectives of colonization. Yitzhaq Rabin, who came the closest to recognizing some need to compromise and allow some margin of freedom for some Palestinians, was assassinated by a right wing Zionist. Since then, Israeli leadership has shifted to become even more racist and fascist (e.g. having settlers like Smotrich and Ben Gvir in the cabinet).

    (12)
    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160213-the-wild-beast-of-israeli-racism/
    https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/israel-defense-minister-human-animals-gaza-palestine_n_6524220ae4b09f4b8d412e0a
    • Israeli President says there are no innocent civilains in Gaza and that they are responsible
    • “The only solution is the complete destruction of Gaza” Moshe Feiglin https://youtu.be/rjLW847tvig?feature=shared
    • “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” Amnon Sofer, Israeli demographer in 2004
    • “There will be no food, no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting animal people, and we are acting accordingly” Yoav Galant, Israeli Defense Minister on 9 October 2023
    • “We will turn Gaza into an island of ruins” Benjamin Netanyahu 8 October 2023
    • ”We are dropping hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza. The focus is on destruction, not accuracy” Daniel Hagari, Israeli army spokesperson 10 October in Haaretz
    • Animal Humans will be treated accordingly, you wanted he’ll and you’ll get hell” Ghassan Major General of the Israeli army October 9 Social media post
    • “There is an entire nation who are responsible. This rhetoric about civilians supposedly not being involved is absolutely untrue (…) We will fight until we break their backs” Yitzhak Herzon, Israeli President Press conference
    • “Jericho missile! Doomsday weapon! That is my opinion. Powerful rockets to be fired without limits/borders. Gaza to be smashed and razed to the ground. Without mercy” Tally Gotliv :okud Partly, 9 October on X/Twitter
    • “Wipe out their families, their mothers and their children. These animals must not be allowed to live any longer” Ezra Yachin, Israeli Veteran who participated in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (Nakba)
    • “Now there is only one goal: Nakba. A Nakba in Gaza that will dwarf the Nakba of 1948” Ariel Kellet, :Likud Party Politician 7 October on X/Twitter • “The only thing that needs to enter Gaza are hundreds of tons of explosives, not one ounce of humanitarian relief” Itamar Ben Gvir (Israeli minister in Charge of Police and arming setters)
    • “They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes in. Otherwise more little snakes will be raised there” Ayelet Shakid • “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children ” Golda Meir (old but shows the racist ideology)
    • “I am here today not only as the US Secretary of State but also as a Jew … as long as the US exists, you will never have to do this [alone] because we will always be with you” US Secretary of State Blinken 12 October already hundreds of special US Delta force boots are on the ground).
    • Michael Ben-Ari, ex-member of the Knesset: “There are no innocents in Gaza. Mow them down … Kill the Gazans without thought or mercy.”
    • Israel Katz, Minister of Transportation: “Gaza should be bombed so hard the population has to flee into Egypt.”
    • Avi Dichter, Current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Former Shin Bet director and Minister of Internal Security: “Gaza should be wiped clean with bombs.”
    • “The Gaza Strip must be smaller at the end of the war. Anyone who starts a war against Israel must lose territory“ Gideon Sa’ar Israeli Interior Minister

8. What about children?

No other country violates the rights of children or kills them in such large numbers as Israel. Defense of Children International documented countless cases of child abductions, detentions, severe interrogation amounting to torture, and outright killing. Just in the period of 7 October – 15 October 2023 Israel killed 720 children and injured about 2500.(13)

9. Does the Zionist movement/government and their media arms in the west lie to advance their cause of colonization?

Yes, daily. This is more blatant in Gaza but has been going for 75 years. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz (7/15/01) reported that: “… giving his audience (Likud leaders) a bit of advice on how to deal with foreign interviewers (Benjamin Netanyahu said): ‘Always, irrespective of whether you’re right or not, you must always present your side as right’”. Indeed from its inception, the Israeli government and its agents abroad have lied. There were false flag operations like the Lavon Affair, or the bombing of Jewish community centers in Iraq to blame it on locals and scare Iraqi Jews to leave their country.(14) Hasbara (propaganda) is a very common Zionist tactic to advance their project of colonization. During the October 2023 incidents Israeli leaders lied about Hamas killing and beheading babies, about Israeli soldiers killing Israeli citizens, or even about wanting peace and set the stage for ongoing genocide.(15)

10. Did the Palestinians have a fair chance to tell their stories in the Western world?

As the late professor Edward Said articulated clearly, Palestinian voices are methodically suppressed. This only intensified as the Zionist movement increased its grip on Western media, which then silenced Palestinian voices. In the US for example, distorted, misleading and outright false coverage as a result of the strong Zionist lobbies.(16) Free speech must be protected in all countries: in Palestine Israeli forces shoot you for demonstrating, meanwhile Germany, France and Belgium are trying to outlaw free speech or demonstrations addressing human rights/international law/Palestine and even balanced reporters harassed or fired.(17)

11. Does Israel destroy infrastructure and livelihoods of innocent people for revenge?

Yes, and the deliberate destruction of infrastructure is illegal per International law.(18)

12. Is Israel a democracy?

Israel is a Jewish state built on the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the setting up of an apartheid state that ruled over the remaining Palestinians in 1948. At least 65 Israeli laws exist that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens within the Greenline (1948 Palestine). After Israel illegally expanded to occupy the rest of the area (the West Bank and Gaza) in 19687, the belligerant occupiers set up hundreds of laws/military orders that made life under occupation horrific for the indigineous people while facilitating foreign Jewish settlers to live on stolen Palestinian lands. In this “greater Israel” there is thyus the privilaged 7.1 million Israeli Jews (most immigrants) and 7.3 million disenfranchized Palestinians. Human rights organizations (AI, HRW, PHR, etc.), including local ones like B’Tselem, have called the dual legal system apartheid.(19)

13. Is this a religious war?

Absolutely not. While the Zionists have used Judaism as an excuse and weaponized it in their attacks on the native people, the colonial and apartheid system does not discriminate in its victimization of native Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bahai, or Atheists. All non-Jews were targeted for ethnic cleansing, with the exception of the self-proclaimed Christian Zionists.(21) Palestinian and non-Palestinian Christians have been outspoken for human rights. Jews have also been the most outspoken (21). But Israel’s use of religion to try to justify its colonization does lead to targeting and harming the religious sites and sensibilities of other religions. This is part of the reason why the state facilitates settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque (3rd holiest site in Islam), which has influenced uprisings like the last one.(22)

14. Who is profiting from colonialism and war?

All wars historically have been initiated based on geoplotics related to greed (money and theft of natural resources and land). Religion and ethnicity are used to rally people around a cause that ultimately is profitable to some small segment of the population. The Zionists decided to take a country from its ownewrs and ended up stealing all its natural resources (even a fully developed airport renamed from Lydda Airport to BenGurion airport), posrts, farms, water resources etc. Regarding Gaza, Netanyahu regime had eyes to dissolve the Palestine question and create an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative that connects East to West via “Israel” (including Gaza) and Israeli dominated gulf states ncluding Saudi Arabia. This is what he called the new Middle East. Netanyahu showed this plan in maps at his speech to the UN General Assembly months ago. Thre are even plans for an alternative canal from Eilat to Gaza to rival the Suez canal. It is not a coincidence that the discovery of huge Gas fields off the Gaza coast preceded blockade on Gaza in 2006. Israel covets those fields and wants them to be the main source of Gazz to Europe to replace Russian gas (conveniently pipelines connecting Russia to Europe were bombed). Dozens of companies profit tremendously from war. Stocks of Raytheon and General Dynamics went up 15-20% in the first three weeks of genocide in Gaza. Also, Gaza has been a testing laboratory for Israeli arms manufacturers and is critical for flowing funds to the military and industrial complex in Israel. Israeli weapons and security related sales bring in billions to Israeli elites and even compete with traditional exporters of such destruction like the USA. Israeli importers and the government (via tax) profited handsomely even from the humanitarian aid to Gaza and the WB that comes through Israel.(23)

15. Why do some Western countries and some Arab governments (most dictators) support and normalize Israel?

Israel gets nearly $4 billion in military aid annually from the US and gets protection from prosecution under international law by use of the US veto power at the UN. This collusion with apartheid is carried out even against US law.(24) Part of it has to do with the history of those countries themselves being colonial and imperial powers who have killed millions of natives and “understand” what it takes for colonization.(25) Furthermore, the US military industrial complex benefits from this funding to Israel, as a large portion of the funding can only be spent purchasing weapons directly from US arm dealers.(26) Another part of it is the strong Zionist lobbies in Western countries.(27) For some Arab dictatorships, it is because they are dependent on the US and some other Western countries to stay in power against the wishes of the people, or because they believe the US hegemony will last forever. This complicity and normalization are what has encouraged Israel to violate human rights and increased chances of the kind of resistance we have seen in October 2023.(28) But among people of the world, there is great sympathy and support for Palestine.(29)

16. What should be done about the situation?

Let us be very clear: Palestinains will keep fights for freedom and justice (supported by decent people around teh world including Jews) despite over 200 massacres, 8 million refugees, bantustans/concentration camps in which remaining Palestinians live, and an ongoing genocide in Gaza. Amnesty International has said, “The root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This requires upholding international law and ending Israel’s 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, and all other aspects of Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians.”(30) Implementing International law, human rights, and justice are essential to stopping these cycles of violence. Justice means the return of Palestinian refugees, the abolition of apartheid laws, and full equality regardless of religion. Palestinians have put together two proposals: in 1968 they proposed a democratic secular state for all its people and in 1988 a twpo state solution with the rights of refugees to return to their homes and lands. Zionism rejected both solutions. If some in the western world still believes in a “two state solution” as a step towards peace, then they must insist on full withdrawal (i.e. all illegal settlements evacuated) from the 1967 occupied territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem; Gaza; and the Golan Heights) and allow Palestine to be a state with full sovereignty (including natural resources, borders, etc). In either case, apartheid laws should be ended and refugees should be allowed to return or compensated per UNGA resolution 194.(31) The global community is with Palestine (the people are) while many western governments and corporate media eroded their own democracies to support the genocidal apargrtheid Israeli regime because of the lobbies and suppress voices of reason and human rights. In Belgium, france, and Germany governments forcefully limited free speech. In other countries such as the UK/USA, governments go against the wishes of their people.(32)

17. Where can I get more information?

Here are some relevant links:

18. How can I help financially?

19. What more can I do? (Campaigns)

Educate yourself (resources above plus books, videos like Occupation 101, Born in Gaza)

Use the right language (colonialism, apartheid, collective punishment) not “conflict” etc if you have to use war it is war on the people of Gaza not Hamas-Israel war

Write to media (letters to editor or op-eds)

Join groups like the International Solidarity Movement

Create or join local groups of joint struggle (like PSM)

Join political parties and lobby all politicians

Use social media with hashtags for Palestine (facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, TikTock, Youtube)

Join or organize protests (5 people or 50,000 people)

Join the Boycott, Divestiment, Sanctions campaigns http://bdsmovement.net and https://boycott.thewitness.news/browse/1

Join http://righttoenter.ps

Organize street theatres, flash mobs, tabling, or flyering

Engage in civil dsiobedience

Contact local faith centers (Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples)

Digital toolkit

Media work

Volunteer in Palestine

Sign a petition such as: – https://www.change.org/p/to-stop-the-killing-we-must-right-the-wrongs-that-feed-ithttps://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/israel_palestine_save_the_kids_loc/

West Bank situation: We must spotlight that oppression in the West Bank continues. We hsould set-up or expand civilian defense groups to face the Zionist settlers who have been armed and given a green light to commit pogroms, like happened recently in Turmusayya, Beita and Huwwara. As we are in the Oliver harvest season, settlers and soldiers have shot at farmers trying to get totheir fields.

Arab governments should be challenged on their complicity and hypocrisy. The show concern for Gaza civilains but aid and abet the governments that perpetuate crime against humanity in places like Gaza. تعرب عن قلقها أو استيائها ألخ

Western governments should be challenged and we must demand they stop funding, arming, and protecting Israel from international law.

Israeli political and military leaders should be brought to trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including violating the conventions on crimes of genocide and apartheid/racial discrimination.

Western media must be challenged for their lies and distortions, and for bias in use of language which results in their complicity in crimes. Their support of genocide is also eroding the public’s trust in them. As one person wrote “The UK media’s coverage is shameful and our leaders are self-serving liars.”

Social media issues: Activists and all people of conscience must use Facebook, Instagram, Tik-tok, X (Twitter), Telegram and other websites for sharing photos and videos.

20. Statements and reports

Statement signed by over 800 international legal scholars

Letter to Gaza

Center for Constitutional Rights on Israel’s unfolding Crime of Genocide in Gaza

Jewish Currents: A text book case of genocide by Raz Segal

Let them eat cement: Israel is not only decimating Gaza with airstrikes but employing the oldest and cruelest weapon of war — starvation. Israel’s message, on the eve of a ground invasion, is clear. Leave Gaza or Die.

Palestinian Christians plea to world churches

The mask is off: Gaza has exposed the hypocrisy of international law

Very important Amnesty International Report: Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza

An Open Letter from Palestinian Christians to Western Church Leaders and Theologians

Artists & Academics in Canada: Statement of Support for Palestine

Health care statement on Gaza

Ramzy Baroud on why US egemony in the Middle East is ending

Gabor Mater

John Mearsheimer on why the US is failing

Scott Ritter

Two Jews make an eloquent statement

An Israeli soldier (one of many) breaking the silence

Humanitarian Coordinator’s Opening Remarks to Geneva-based correspondents

Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel, Flash Update #20, 26 October 2023

Childhood researchers and students statement

Russia and China must prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine

21. Demonstrations globally

Jews close Grand Central Station

India stands with Palestine

Support For Palestine in the US Has Never Been Higher
Congressional Staffers Turn Against Israel

Tens of Thousands Stand With Palestine in Ireland

Jewish peace activists hold sit-in protest at Grand Central

UC Berkeley students walk out to support Palestinians but fear repercussions
https://portside.org/2023-10-25/students-100-campuses-walkout-ceasefire

Thousands in San Francisco

Hundreds of thousands in London
https://youtu.be/DR5OLUvk3Ms
https://youtu.be/0bfIBhWquTU
https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/thousands-join-pro-palestinian-protest-london-demand-gaza-ceasefire-2023-10-28/
https://socialistworker.co.uk/palestine-2023/palestine-march-london-3/

Summary video
 


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