‘Nothing is Left’

Since the Oct 7 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s the ensuing military onslaught on Gaza, discussion and debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been shut down like never before. With the war playing out on social media (also like never before), the discourse has polarised and flattened. Mutually exclusive narratives breed distrust and denials. And in incident after incident, those who speak out about the brutalities of the war, about starvation in Gaza, about the horrors of Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, about Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories–face backlash, censure or worse from those who disagree with them.

The heavy-handed responses to campus protests in the U S are only the latest example. On April 17, students at Columbia University in the City of New York set up an encampment outside Butler Library to demonstrate against Israel’s operation in Gaza. The following day Minouche Shafik, the university’s president–fresh from testifying at a congressional hearing on antisemitism–sent in the police. Shafik said that the protest had created a “harassing and intimidating environment” for other students and accused the protesters of trespassing and refusing to leave.

The way the university administrators and police reacted is a manifestation of the vanishing space for discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mirrored online.

In Israel, academia has become a fraught terrain. 95 students at more than 33 Israeli academic institutions have been subjected to disciplinary procedures over social media posts (including simply quoting verses from the Quran and prayers for peace). They are also representing some of the 150 Palestinian citizens facing criminal indictments, in cases brought by the state under Israel’s 2016 Counterterrorism Law, over social media posts.

University lecturers, Jewish and Palestinian alike, in Israel, have also been in the firing line.

If debate dies, what is left but the spreading of denials? What is left but unchallenged justifications for extreme violence?

Meanwhile, on May 15, Palestinians across the world observed the anniversary of the Nakba, a “catastrophe” in Arabic, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people were expelled or fled during the creation of the state of Israel during the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Seventy-six years later Palestinians are again being displaced en masse as the Israeli offensive continues in Rafah with renewed fighting in the north against Hamas militants in areas where the fundamentalist militias had been declared by IDF “dismantled” only a few weeks ago. It’s not that easy to defeat an insurgency when it gets support from the masses. They have failed to destroy the Hamas network. The mighty America tasted the bitter fruit in Vietnam. Israelis despite their superior firepower are now facing the same dilemma. Some 800,000 Gazans have reportedly evacuated Rafah, the last refuge for the majority of the Strip’s population, many having been previously displaced from other areas earlier in the war. Even the 1948 Nakba survivors have no language to describe the scale of devastation that is going on at the moment.

“Our homes have gone, our children have gone, our property has gone, our gold has gone, our incomes have gone–nothing is left. What is left for us to cry over?” That is how Palestinians are narrating their predicament today.

The Israeli-Palestine war has once again exposed the hypocrisy of America as they exhibit it continually in the Russia-Ukraine war. Trucks carrying badly needed aid for the Gaza strip rolled across a newly built U S pier for the first time and the media projected it as a great humanitarian face of America but at the same time, they sidetracked the contentious issue of how the Pentagon was delivering new weapons to energize the Israeli war machine.


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Vol 56, No. 49, Jun 2 - 8, 2024