IQBAL JASSAT stresses that the context of the October 7 operation by Hamas is crucial to understand in light of the impending prisoner exchange.
Resistance or armed struggle by guerrilla movements engaged in asymmetrical combat against rogue regimes, have historically been known to capture enemy soldiers as bargaining chips to leverage military advantage.
The context of the operation launched by Hamas on Oct 7, which Israel’s ultra-right-wing have used as a pretext to launch a relentless bombardment by land, sea and air of Gaza’s besieged civilian population, is crucial to understand.
- Gaza is not an independent state.
- It is an open-air concentration camp for Palestinian refugees under Israeli military occupation.
- It is under a cruel military blockade sealed off from the outside world.
- It does not possess an army, neither any military jet fighters nor helicopters and tanks.
- It does not even have an airport nor a naval harbour.
So, to glibly proclaim Israel’s slaughter of thousands as a ‘War on Gaza’ as some media outlets and commentators do, is a misnomer.
It falsely implies that the war is between two equal states, whereas the reality is that Gaza is a ‘bantustan’ enclave forming part of occupied Palestinian territory.
In addition, an important component of the occupying power’s responsibility towards Gaza’s 2.3million population under international law, is shockingly absent in public discourse.
The occupying power must ensure humane treatment of the population and provide for their basic needs, including food and medical care.
Sadly, as pointed out by Professor Abdelwahab El-Affendi in a recent column published on the Al Jazeera website, yesterday’s proponents of the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine are today’s biggest supporters of Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza.
The bottom line is Israel has been occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, which collectively constitute the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), since 1967. Contrary to what the Israeli regime claims, Israel’s withdrawal of its ground forces did not end its occupation of Gaza.
Yet another element of confusion deliberately generated by Israel is with regard to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The impression that Cairo has full sovereignty over it is misplaced. The reality is that Israel monitors all activities at the crossing from its military base, Kerem Shalom. It decides when Egypt is able to open it, for how long and who and what is allowed to enter or exit Gaza.
It makes a mockery of Egypt’s ability to exercise its will if Israeli security forces supervise the passenger lists – deciding who can cross – and monitor the operations and can withhold the ‘consent and cooperation’ required to keep the crossing open.
Against this background it makes perfect sense for Hamas, as an indigenous liberation movement to not only undertake creative means to break the crippling siege, but also to resist the occupiers incremental genocide.
Palestine’s #Resistance is thus able to ensure that it holds the moral high ground by having offered release of civilians held as ‘guests’ – a few weeks back – but was rejected by an intransigent Israeli war cabinet backed by the US.
Now that a ‘deal’ has been struck, much against Netanyahu’s goals of eliminating Hamas, it is important to note that many in the world, especially among media, are now compelled to focus on the fact that Palestinian prisoners due for release have names and identities worthy of mention – not the anonymous profiles preferred by the jailer to profile them as terrorists.
Children and females that form part of the 150 to be released have been incarcerated without trial, in disregard of due process, and held in torturous conditions for decades on end.
Thanks to the #Resistance they will finally be free and, indeed, many more thousands who are imprisoned in Israel for simply asserting their rights, deserve freedom.
In many ways, the exchange symbolises for Palestinians a breakthrough to finally attaining freedom from the clutches of an unyielding oppressive occupation who fail to learn lessons from the South African experience: apartheid, racism, military occupation, denial of human rights are unsustainable and doomed to fail – with or without Western backing.
- Iqbal Jassat is an executive member of the Johannesburg-based Media Review Network.