Gaza, or the future of the Global South

Threats of annihilation, collective punishment, and carpet bombing: this has long been Gaza’s lot. It was the reality in 2008, 2012, 2014, and again every year since the turn of this decade. In between, an illegal and inhumane siege suffocated its inhabitants with the sole aim of making life unbearable, and mass death inevitable.

Colonial brutality has never been contingent on the course of action taken by its victims. Rather, it is a simple fact of the Israeli occupation. It just so happens that this time around, Gazans have engaged in armed resistance which was coordinated and organised in a manner hitherto unseen.

For decades, the international community’s message to Palestinians has been loud and clear: die in silence. In the diaspora, the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions has been either actively demonised or outright criminalised. In the Occupied Territories, funeral processions are met with brutality and peaceful protests are quelled with live ammunition, home demolitions, and mass arrests. In Gaza itself, mere survival is an affront to Israeli sensibilities.

Unarmed resistance — or existence, for that matter — has been made increasingly and systemically impractical, and righteous calls for ‘non-violence’ on the part of Palestinians are increasingly transparent as little more than a shamefaced demand for their acquiescence in the face of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

In refusal of this demand, Gazans staged a daring and strategically unprecedented breakout from the open-air prison to which they have been consigned. Rather than acknowledge this for what it is – the only viable course of action under the circumstances – western leaders and media predictably rushed to condemn the revolt and to reaffirm Israel’s exclusive right to act with genocidal impunity.

And act with genocidal impunity it did. In contrast to the targeting of Israeli settlements and military bases by Palestinian fighters, Israel’s military seems currently set on wiping out what’s left of Gaza. Netanyahu’s government in the meantime, and in typically fascist form, has promised further carnage and reprisals without the slightest attempt at prevarication. The latter, as it turns out, could be outsourced to its allies, all of whom have enthusiastically accepted the role of Israel’s propagandists.

In New Zealand, where I live, the response from politicians and media has been about as depressing as the recent election. Not a single mainstream voice has dared to explicitly address Israel’s military occupation and the urgent need for it to end. Instead, every notable figure on the political and media spectrum has lined up to equivocate on the prospect of genocide, which the Israeli state announced without ambiguity and which it is now carrying out in earnest.

To be fair, this is consistent with New Zealand’s – and Australia’s – track record as a bootlicking imperial flunkey. This is not just because of its unwavering support for Israel’s barbarism over the years, or because of its own settler colonial history (and present). It’s also because it has been invariably complicit in, if not outright supportive of, colonial regimes, from Apartheid South Africa to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberals appealing to a proud history are as delusional and complacent as reactionaries parroting lies about beheaded babies. When it comes to imperial subjugation in the Global South, New Zealand has only slavishness and servility going for it.

The sad fact is that any self-respecting politician or journalist with any moral integrity, as well as any genuine concern for civilian lives, need do little more than simply reiterate what Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and almost every Israeli human rights organisation has been saying for years: the occupation must end, and it must end now. The only reason that so few political and public figures are willing to go there is because this isn’t actually about peace, civilian life, or human rights and dignity. This is about an imperial status quo in the face of which cowardice and complicity have made the only defensible political and moral stance unattractive.

As the obliteration of Gaza unfolds with little resistance (and quite a bit of support) from the world’s hegemons, one is hard pressed not to feel as though a new standard is being normalised for the most vulnerable populations on the planet — or, perhaps and at the very least, that an old one is being reaffirmed. Of course, the wider Middle East is no stranger to western callousness and opportunism, but it’s difficult to recall any time in recent years when a western power has so explicitly and unashamedly announced genocide, in both words and deeds, while garnering unanimous support from its allies.

What does this Northern complacency portend for other places and peoples all over the Global South? After all, it’s worth recalling that, alongside the many proxy wars, countries in the South have also been conditioned and prepared for mass and extensive immiseration amidst the current and coming climate apocalypse. For all the complexity and moving parts of energy transition and decarbonisation, the dominant tendency in climate mitigation so far has been increased militarisation and anticipated ‘divestment’ and abandonment of ‘at-risk’ areas.

One need hardly be a genocide scholar or historian to observe that the deaths and devastation in Gaza will be forever baked into our collective consciousness. But given the historical tipping point we are living through, the outcome of Israel’s project of extermination will shape the trajectory of our politics and our capacity as historical actors. Every action not taken and every word unspoken will leave its mark on us in the years to come, and will set a precedent for how we confront a world that is unravelling and sliding ever further into fascism and global class Apartheid. So far, it seems that only the Palestinians have fully come to terms with this reality.

While the verdict is in on where Western governments stand, it is still somewhat unclear, though hardly promising, as far as the rest of us are concerned. Rallies and vigils, laudable as they may be, are simply not enough. Humanitarianism, if it ever held any sway, has never seemed so starkly and laughably ineffectual as Israel collaborates with its neighbours to refuse every paltry morsel of aid to the people of Gaza. If the Left is to have any hope of steering this turning point, it must no longer treat internationalism and anti-imperialism as an option but as a necessity. The need for this shift has never been greater, even as it has never felt more remote.

Faisal Al-Asaad

Faisal Al-Asaad is an Iraq-born writer, researcher, and educator based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa. He is primarily interested in critical theories of race, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism.

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  1. I like the term Gaza Ghetto Uprising. It’s reminiscent of Warsaw in 1943 and unsurprisingly, the Zionists hate it. So naturally, I use it all the time.

  2. Israel is a US client state, politically, economically and militarily, and it would be a failed state without this extensive US sponsorship. Israel consistently violates international law (extra territorial assassinations etc) and does so with impunity due its sponsor US being one of five permanent members on UN Security Council – the exclusive club of the original Cold War nuclear armed powers. The US continues to veto all UN criticism and formal declarations against Israel, and, as it only takes one permanent member’s veto to stop UN security council actions, Israel has been protected for decades. To the point, that Israel’s domestic politics just keep drifting further out to the far right, and Israeli politicians regularly invoke genocidal language in reference to those they interchangeably call Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims. This is entirely self evident in Israel’s own media – Haretz etc – but rarely is it reported in western MSM, as again, the US MSM actively buries such stories. To have Anthony Blinken, the US Sectary of State, and head of State Department that shapes US foreign policy, arrive and stand at a media rostrum with Netanyahu, and declare his visit represents unconditional support for all Israeli actions against Gaza, both as the leading US official AND also personally as a Jew, tells the intentional community that Palestinians are deemed entirely expendable by current US political and bureaucratic ruling class.

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