OP/ED - It is sadly relevant that during these days surrounding Indigenous Peoples Day, the World has witnessed yet another horrific scene of violence in the struggles inherent in settler colonialism. Israel and Hamas have been at war for over 16 years, with varying degrees of violence. During this time Palestinians have suffered over 6,400 deaths through Israeli violence, without including deaths caused by demonstrations, access prevention, and deaths during ad-hoc Israeli detentions and arrests. A significant majority of those Israel has killed were civilian and over 22% have been children. During these 16 years, Gazans suffered the daily, non-stop Israeli attack of blockade, a long-recognized act of war. This history erupted into the unspeakable violence committed by Hamas over the weekend.
Gazans are comprised largely of the people, and descendants of people, displaced from their historical lands through Israeli settlement, commencing with the 1948 Nakba. This type of settler colonialism has a long and dishonorable history of human suffering. It has been estimated that settler colonialism of North American resulted in the death of over 60 million indigenous people. Settler colonialism has been similarly brutal to indigenous people in Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world. For this reason, we mourn the human suffering associated with settler colonialism during Indigenous Peoples Day.
Israeli settler colonialism has been no less brutal. Israel has created nearly 7 million refugees. Despite international law requiring the legal right of refugees to return, Israel has applied a religious test to recognizing this right. Only Jews are allowed this right of return. Many of these refugees have fled to other countries, many more reside in refugee camps in surrounding countries, three million refugees live in the West Bank under Israeli apartheid, and nearly 2 million more are incarcerated by Israel in Gaza.
The violence committed by Hamas cannot be justified. The indiscriminate killing of people must always be condemned in the strongest terms. But equally important, we must be willing to examine the causes of such violence and the means to deter further violence. If one chains a dog, deprives it of food and water and beats it violently every day, one should not be surprised when that dog bites. If that bite is then used as an excuse for even more severe, more cruel, more inhumane beatings, the problem worsens.
Today, an Israeli official referred to the civilians of Gaza as “animals” and the Israeli Prime Ministers promised waves of Israeli violence against Gazans that would “reverberate for generations.” Hamas has promised to kill innocent Israelis that have been abducted to serve as shield against the anticipated Israeli reprisals. Both sides have shown ruthless cruelty. Hamas has abducted children as shields, and Israel routinely imprisons children, including 170 children held currently as Israeli prisoners. The two sides have locked themselves in a merciless race to the bottom, with innocents on both sides paying a bloody and cruel price for their mutual hatred.
The path out of this unconscionable vortex of violence can be found in history. After victory in WWI, the allies imposed upon Germany the Treaty of Versailles that promised and acted to cripple Germany economically and politically. The allies created much human suffering and humiliation for the German people as retribution for the war. From the ashes of this thoroughly defeated and enfeebled nation arose the Third Reich and the horrors of WWII. George Marshall stands as the unsung hero of WWII. Rather than using the allies WWII military victory over Japan, Germany, and Italy as a means by which to humiliate and persecute the conquered populations, Marshal championed a plan to give money, assistance and political support to these nations. The result has been the creation of strong allies that have endured decades, coupled with the cessation of violence among these countries.
Israel’s military superiority has been used as a mean to enable the dehumanization of the majority of those they have colonized. UN officials have described Gaza as an open-air prison. Israel has been castigated internationally for creating a system of apartheid in the West Bank. In each case, the actions of Israel have served to deprive indigenous people of opportunity, hope and human dignity. As history has shown, such policies not only rob the soul of the nation committing such dehumanization, these policies ensure a further spiral of violence. In fact, Israel has itself proven this point within its 1948 boundaries. Israel allowed 2 million indigenous people to remain within the 1948 boundaries and has given these people substantially equal rights and an opportunity to participate meaningfully in Israeli society. The result bears witness to the power of equality: these 2 million indigenous people live peacefully and productively in Israeli society. Israel has long asserted that allowing more indigenous people the right of return would destroy the ethnic and religious purity sought by Israel as a nation. Yet the World has long rejected the desire for such ethnic and religious purity to constitute a legitimate basis for political repression of indigenous people.
Palestinians have been mired in over a 100-year struggle for their very existence. With a history dating to the Bronze Age, Palestinians survived control by Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires. Palestinians persevered despite invasions by Islamists, Crusaders, Mamluks and Ottomans. The current hundred-year war on Palestinians commenced with the efforts of Zionists to claim their historical area of residence as a Jewish state. Despite a UN partition that gave Israelis and Palestinians certain areas, Israel has managed through warfare to expand these boundaries to its current locations, and to thwart the creation of a modern Palestinian state. No one can seriously question that Israel represents an existential threat to Palestinians.
After more than 70 years of Israeli statehood, the Israeli settlers and the indigenous people have been unable to find meaningful peace. Peace will require the strength for Israel to bring home all of her people, including the refugees, and adopting political processes that dispense rights without regard to religion and which provide all stakeholders within that society the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the political system. The Palestinians must value peace, freedom and opportunity over nationalistic desires. Until both sides are willing to accept this reality, the horror of attacks such as the Hamas attack, will continue.
(J. George Mansour was born and raised in Missouri and has long been a student of political science and international relations. Mr. Mansour is now based in Austin Texas, where he remains an active investor in a variety of businesses.)