[Column] Specter of second Nakba hangs over Gaza

Posted on : 2023-10-17 16:50 KST Modified on : 2023-10-17 16:50 KST
Palestinians are concerned that the far-right Israeli government is attempting an ethnic cleansing to take over the Gaza Strip by killing and driving out its residents under the guise of “punishing” Hamas
Illustration by Jaewoogy@chol.com
Illustration by Jaewoogy@chol.com

Israel was created by the UK. Beginning in the late 19th century, the UK attempted to take the land and resources of the Middle East for itself by breaking up the Ottoman Empire. Having seized Palestine following World War I, the UK supported the founding of a pro-British Jewish nation-state in order to protect its rights and interests in the Suez Canal in Egypt and build oil pipelines.

The British government and Jewish Zionists advertised Palestine, where Arabs and Jews had long coexisted, as a land without a nation, sending a large number of European Jews there to migrate. In May 1948, at the time of Israel’s founding, Israeli forces destroyed 500 Palestinian villages, murdered thousands, and expelled over 750,000 Palestinians. Those who became refugees on this day, known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” among Palestinians, have never been able to return home.

Among the 12.1 million Palestinians around the world, 7.9 million — or 65% — are refugees. Roughly 3 million and 2.3 million of these refugees have been living through difficult circumstances in refugee camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation, respectively, while others have endured the same in nearby Arab nations such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

Almost half of Palestinian refugees are stateless. Out of the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by 6-meter-high separation barriers from all directions and constitutes the largest refugee camp-slash-prison in the world, 70% are refugees that have been driven out of their land and homes were taken from them by Israel. The eight refugee camps inside the Gaza Strip have the highest population density in the world. In Beach Camp located in Gaza City, 84,077 people live on a strip of land with a total area of 0.52 square kilometers.

As retaliation against the brutal attacks by Hamas, Israel is getting ready for a full-scale offensive on land, at sea and in the air against the Gaza Strip. Water, food and electricity have been cut off for 10 days already, and bombs are being aimed at evacuees. Palestinians are concerned that the far-right Israeli government is attempting an ethnic cleansing to take over the Gaza Strip by killing and driving out its residents under the guise of “punishing” Hamas. This is why residents of Gaza deem Israel’s imminent deployment of ground forces a “second Nakba.” Even if they evacuate, there is no promise that they will be able to return to their homeland alive.

For the last 75 years, Israel has not kept its promise of founding a Palestinian state, a pledge it made with the international community and a matter decided upon through UN resolutions. Considering this, it should at least give residents of Gaza and the West Bank Israeli citizenship, but this too it has rejected, worried that taking them in would destabilize “Israel the Jewish nation,” as Arabs would outnumber Jews.

Leaving the Gaza Strip to Hamas, the far-right Israeli government has concentrated its efforts on taking over more land and property in East Jerusalem, the holy land of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the adjacent West Bank. On Oct. 9, immediately following Hamas’ attack, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz, “Behind all this lies Israeli arrogance; the idea that we can do whatever we like, that we’ll never pay the price and be punished for it,” urging Israel to self-reflect.

The same standard that inspires anger regarding Hamas’ mass killing and taking hostage of civilians should be used to confront the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Even if Israel sacrifices civilians in the Gaza Strip in order to exterminate Hamas “Hamas-style,” what would happen next? If Israel doesn’t acknowledge that humans live on Palestinian land, more desperation, anger, hate and violence will spread.

By Park Min-hee, editorial writer

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