The war in Gaza has deep roots

I join in condemning Hamas and all terrorist organizations. The horrific actions of Hamas terrorists on October 7 cannot be justified or excused. However, it must be possible to find an explanation for them.

I am neither Israeli, nor Arab, nor American. I am neither Jewish nor Muslim. I am a Catholic with deep roots in Africa. As I read the news in the mainstream media I try to keep sentiment at bay and simply to look at facts.

How did the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis begin? With a 1947 decision by the United Nations to divide Palestine into two states. This meant that Arabs owning land in the new Jewish state had two choices: to leave their ancestral land and resettle in an Arab state or to live as a minority in a Jewish state.

Try to put yourself in Palestinian shoes at that time. The choice would have been intolerable. Ask the citizens of Arizona if they would accept a UN decision to give their land back to the Pueblo native Americans who had lived there for thousands of years before they were dispersed by American immigrants.

The Palestinians were unable to see why they should be made to pay for the crime of the Holocaust. Their point of view is logical. Germany was responsible for the extermination of six million European Jews. So wasn’t it the responsibility of Germany to provide a safe haven where Jews could govern themselves and be safe? Why not expel Germans from Bavaria and settle Jews there?

It is said that Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, had a concise explanation of why the Jews had a right to Palestine. In 1936 he was asked by Lord Peel, a British diplomat, “Do you have a deed or contract of sale that gives you the right to take the place of the native Arabs who have lived here for generations?” Ben-Gurion picked up the Bible on the witness stand and said “This is our Kushan, our title deed!”

But why should Palestine become a homeland for Jewish refugees simply because it had been Jewish land many centuries ago? After all, that same land had belonged to Canaanites and other peoples long before the Jews conquered it. If we are allowed to go far back in history to determine ownership of land, couldn’t it be claimed that Abraham’s descendants were invaders with no legitimate right to that land?

My first point is that the United Nations should have foreseen the catastrophic result of its decision to endorse the creation of a Jewish state in 1947. As for Jewish settlers who arrived after the victory of the Zionist army, they were told that the Arabs had simply run away to leave the place for them; they were so eager for safety in a state of their own after the horrors of the Holocaust that they could not think critically about the fate of the Arabs.

My second point is this. While Hamas committed atrocities on October 7 and deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms, Zionist paramilitary groups committed atrocities when they expelled Arabs from Palestine. These are well documented. The controversial Israeli historian Benny Morris estimates that the Israelis perpetrated 24 acts of massacre in 1948. In a 2004 interview with Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, he said: “In some cases four or five people were executed, in others the numbers were 70, 80, 100. There was also a great deal of arbitrary killing. Two old men are spotted walking in a field -- they are shot. A woman is found in an abandoned village -- she is shot. There are cases such as the village of Dawayima, in which a column entered the village with all guns blazing and killed anything that moved.”

The most notorious example is the Arab village of Deir Yassin. In his book Palestine and the Great Powers, Michael J. Cohen describes the atrocity:

“The village had made a nonaggression pact with the Haganah and had abided by it strictly. (…) But on April 9, an IZL-Lehi [Irgun-Stern Gang] force attacked the village and reduced all resistance, ruthlessly and indiscriminately. The result was the massacre of some 245 villagers, men, women and children, many of whom were first paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, then taken back to the village and shot.”

The British officer who investigated the Deir Yassin massacre, Assistant Inspector General Richard Catling, stated:

“There is . . . no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young schoolgirls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested. Many infants were also butchered and killed . . . Women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers, and parts of some of the women’s ears were severed in order to remove earrings.”

In 1948 the Arabs and Jews were fighting a bitter, savage war. One side would commit an atrocity, which was followed by reprisals, which were followed by counter-reprisals. Jewish soldiers were not always honourable and innocent. Harsh treatment of Arab civilians was part of the Zionist strategy to take over Palestine.  


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Israeli historian Uri Milstein, in his multivolume History of Israel’s War of Independence, writes that an objective of Plan Dalet of the Zionist army “was control over Jewish settlement blocs beyond the borders. This constituted one stage in the execution of the secret plan, the final phase of which would be all of Eretz-Yisra’el [including at least all of historic Palestine] as a Jewish state {Vol. IV, p. 185}.

Part of Plan Dalet stated: “These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in the debris) … In case of resistance, the armed force must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.’

You will tell me that this happened long ago and the victims of October 7 are not guilty of any crime. This is true and I weep for them.

But, unlike the West, the Palestinians have not forgotten these crimes. Hamas is exploiting these bitter memories.

I see no solution to the tragedy. Even if Hamas is eliminated after the invasion of Gaza, the young men who survive the present catastrophe will be incited to take revenge and join another terrorist organisation. To calm the fury of Hamas and the resentment in the hearts of peaceful but downtrodden Palestinians, Israel has to make restitution for its own crimes. This is almost inconceivable.

Prime Minister Netanyahu says Hamas must be destroyed so that the Israeli people may have peace. But even with Hamas defeated Israel will still face the active hatred of Hezbollah and other groups. Netanyahu is only passing the problem to the next generation. There is no true peace in view – only intermittent periods of truce.

Twenty years ago this is what Benny Morris had to say. He wasn’t wrong:

“There is not going to be peace in the present generation. There will not be a solution. We are doomed to live by the sword. I'm already fairly old, but for my children that is especially bleak. I don't know if they will want to go on living in a place where there is no hope. Even if Israel is not destroyed, we won't see a good, normal life here in the decades ahead."

My third point is that there is a certain disconnect between the political statements made by American high government officials and the actual steps taken by the United States regarding the Israel-Gaza war. Al Jazeera Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara recently stated that the US keep supporting Israel in spite of everything because they need an ally in the midst of Muslim countries in the Middle East. This is indeed the only explanation I can find for America’s warnings to Israel with regard to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza while there is apparently no plan to suspend the yearly US$3.8 billion military assistance given to Israel and the US House of Representatives is pushing for more aid. I leave readers to wonder why the American government should keep sending military aid while lamenting the use to which it is put.

A final point. The actions of Israeli soldiers, past and present, provide no justification whatsoever for antisemitism. Those who engage in antisemitic violence are no better than the Nazis and Hamas. All hatred is to be condemned. It can never solve problems – only exacerbate them. If people must be angry, let them be angry with the Israeli government or with Hamas – not with innocent Jewish or Palestinian civilians.

Chantal Epié is a Professor of Human Resource Management at Pan-Atlantic University, Nigeria. She was born in Mali, raised in Senegal, and has lived in Nigeria for the past 51 years. She holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Business School Lausanne, an MSc in Organizational Behaviour from Birkbeck College (University of London) and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Paris. 

Image credits: Sky News screenshot of Gazans looking for survivors in the rubble after bombing. 


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  • mrscracker
    I’m just more & more ashamed of the world’s take on the holocaust perpetrated on Oct. 7th & the propaganda that’s ensued. The Israelis have to be the only people on the planet who are instructed to fight with one hand tied behind their backs. No other nation but Israel is condemned because they defend themselves & don’t assume a posture of subservient docility, simply allowing their citizens to die in pogroms.
    It’s really victim blaming of the worst sort. Israelis refuse to remain victims & they refute scapegoating & blood libeling. If we didn’t understand the critical need of a Jewish state before Oct. 7th, I hope we do now.
  • Daniel O'connell
    followed this page 2023-11-14 22:36:39 +1100
  • Chantal Epie
    published this page in The Latest 2023-11-14 10:44:36 +1100