Israel’s March of Genocide

Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, is the last refuge for nearly 1.5 million Palestinians displaced by the ongoing Israeli war. Pinned up against the Egyptian border, Palestinians in Rafah are a captive population. Speaking about the Israeli government’s plans to invade Rafah, the UN Special Rapporteur in Palestine stated starkly: “The risk of a massacre of unprecedented scale looms on the horizon”.

First, Israel destroyed the north of Gaza, concentrating people in Rafah. Then, it engineered a humanitarian crisis, destroying medical infrastructure, food supplies, refusing to allow aid to enter, and pushing the U S and some European countries to cut funding to UNRWA. Now, the Israeli military plans to invade and decimate the huge refugee camp of its own creation. This is nothing short of a policy of extermination or ethnic cleansing.

After indiscriminately flattening Gaza and pushing Palestinians towards famine, now the Israeli military is seeking to remove the Palestinians from the entire Gaza strip permanently, whether by displacement, disease, hunger or execution. This is the second stage of genocide.

The Palestinian population in Rafah is essentially defenceless. “The unprecedented density of Rafah’s population makes it nearly impossible to protect civilians in the event of ground attacks.” In truth Israel is already carrying out aerial bombing as well, somewhat selectively, to cover its troops on the ground. Rafah is already a living hell and Israel now wants to burn Palestinians alive in this biggest open air prison in the world.

Fleeing to Egypt is not an option, either. The Egyptian government absolutely refuses to allow the Palestinians in Rafah to enter—knowing that it is almost certain that Israel would never allow them to return to Gaza. This would be a displacement even greater in population than the Nakba of 1948, in which 75% of the Palestinian population was expelled from their homes. Then due to American pressure the Egyptian authorities are reportedly making some make-shift shelters at the border to cope with an emergency situation, albeit Egypt lately dismissed the report as baseless.

Trapping Palestinians between a militarised border and its genocidal army, what the Israeli government is calling an “invasion” would look more like a mass displacement—or a mass execution. The miserable fact is that these scores of deaths are preventable: those from famine and disease, by allowing in aid; those from the ongoing Israeli military assault, by an immediate ceasefire. But the Israeli regime has every intention of hastening this cataclysm, and the so-called international community is still, unconscionably, horrifyingly, refusing to stop supporting this accelerating genocide. What is more America is now sending more military hardware to boost the sagging morale of the Israeli soldiers while paying lip service to ‘humanitarian pause’, not permanent ceasefire and advocating two-state formula somewhat vaguely. Israel’s repeated allegations that hospitals were used by terrorists proved false. More than a third of a year into this unspeakable brutality, this may be the most direst hour of all.

Facing the possibility of an even more devastating stage of genocide, grief, fear, and helplessness are all too real. And at the same time, it is as crucial now as ever that peace marchers around the world continue to mobilise with a diversity of tactics.

No one thing, no one action, can end this genocide. While this moment is devastating, there are all kinds of ways people can act to save the Palestinians. It’s good news that progressive Jews across the world are opposing the Israeli government’s barbarism and supporting the Palestinian cause.

 Israel is at war with: people who are sick, cold, hungry, displaced from their homes, and grieving murdered family members. Forced into camps at the border, people in Rafah must spend most of their days searching for food, fuel, and basic supplies. The stoppage of aid to UNRWA has only exacerbated these horrors.

Eighteen of Hamas 24 battalions are no longer functional, but the remaining fighting units are largely in Rafah and this is the main reason why Israel is determined to carry out operations in Rafah despite opposition by some of Israel’s staunch allies including America.


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Vol 56, No. 36, Mar 3 - 9, 2024