Today, the world marches to stop Israel’s genocidal assault on Rafah

Israel is threatening to carry out a full-scale invasion of Rafah, a tiny section of Gaza where 1.5 million Palestinians are now packed, on 10 March. Ahead of the deadline, a global day of protest is scheduled for 2 March

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By Layan Fuleihan 

For the past five months, in every part of the globe, millions of people have participated in protest actions.

They have been part of one of the largest social movements in living memory, in support of the Palestinian people and against the US-Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Now, Israel is threatening to carry out the worst massacre yet: a full-scale invasion of Rafah starting 10 March. In response, this solidarity movement is preparing to mobilise in huge numbers in a global day of action on 2 March.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause have long argued that Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its 17-year land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, have turned the enclave into an open-air prison. Over two million Gazans are packed into a tiny area closed off to the outside world.

As the Israeli military rampaged through the four other governorates of Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians were driven into Rafah, making the open-air prison even tinier. This is an area half the size of San Francisco. It is now twice as densely populated as New York City.

There is nowhere to hide and nowhere left to flee as the US-supplied Israeli air force bombards Rafah in preparation for a catastrophic ground offensive.

With 70% of all residential housing in Gaza destroyed and 576,000 Gazans facing outright famine, Israel’s mandatory evacuation orders are nothing more than an empty gesture. Israeli officials know well that the over one million displaced Gazans are not in a physical condition to flee once again.

For the past five months, Israel has massacred Palestinians with bullets, missiles and bombs and now are escalating the use of another weapon: hunger. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the 500,000 Palestinians remaining in northern Gaza now face starvation.

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The UN agency also reported that there have been no aid deliveries to the north of Gaza since 23 January. Along the border between Rafah and Egypt, Israel routinely halts all but a few token aid shipments. Meanwhile, its soldiers have facilitated ‘protests’ by far-right activists against aid delivery along the border, giving the authorities cover to deny entry to trucks carrying vital supplies.

A new study by scholars at Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gives us a horrific preview of what the consequences of an invasion of Rafah under these dire circumstances would look like. Researchers found that up to 86,000 Palestinians would die in the onslaught over the course of six months. Many of these would be so-called excess deaths – people dying of starvation, preventable disease and other causes present only because of the war.

Fearing the unprecedented global outrage that would come with an all-out Rafah invasion, some politicians like EU foreign affairs head Josep Borrell have felt compelled to state their opposition. This is an important crack in the alliance between Western powers and Israel.

If Israel instead becomes mainly a liability that damages US standing in the world by virtue of its extreme abuses, then it could be abandoned by its sponsors, just like the South African apartheid regime was at the end of the 1980s.

However, the true will of these politicians to protect Palestinians in Rafah should also be questioned. Joe Biden, for example, says he would only support an invasion if there were “a credible plan” to protect civilians. One must ask how civilian life could ever be protected when bombing an area with 60,000 people per square mile, hundreds of thousands of whom have only the cloth of a tent to shield them.

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The only way to protect Palestinian civilians would be to demand Israel end its assault on Gaza and cut off military aid. This financial support totals $3.8bn a year from the US and has only increased during these months of escalated genocide.

Instead, Biden and the politicians in Congress are trying to send an additional $14bn more to Israel. Far from dissuading Israel, the US wants to send money so that Israel can take its war even further.

Negotiations without negotiating

Even though the Israeli forces have been unable to defeat the Palestinian resistance after over four months of full-scale assault, the Benjamin Netanyahu government is already hatching schemes to impose a permanent military dictatorship on the occupied Gaza territory.

On 23 February, Netanyahu presented a plan that envisions total Israeli control over Gaza indefinitely, with the help of unnamed “local officials”. The Israeli military would have total freedom of movement throughout Gaza to terrorise Palestinians at will.

The Biden administration’s counter-proposal to install a version of the deeply unpopular Palestinian Authority in Gaza is still a total negation of Palestine’s right to self-determination.

Israeli officials, including members of far-right parties serving in Netanyahu’s cabinet, have openly articulated their dream of the mass expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and their replacement by Jewish-only settlements. A conference held in December attended by 11 members of the Israeli cabinet and 15 MPs even went so far as to propose a map of where 21 of these settlements would be located.

Meanwhile, in the latest round of negotiations, Israel has still refused to meet any of the demands of the Palestinian resistance groups. The latest proposal sent to Hamas outlines a plan for a temporary and partial pause that provides no framework for permanent ceasefire and maintains Israeli control over large parts of the territory – non-starters in any serious talks.

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In this context, Biden’s promise of a ceasefire by next Monday appears to be an attempt to increase pressure on Hamas to accept the obviously unacceptable proposal and evade condemnation from his own constituents.

The US-Israeli position has never experienced a defeat in the arena of public opinion as it is experiencing now, and the pressure of mass mobilisations has been a major factor in this defeat.

As the threat of a full-scale invasion of Rafah grows closer, it is clear to activists that this is a moment when mobilisation can have an even more critical impact, and pressure on the defenders of genocide can prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality.

The Palestinian people have displayed the most courageous resistance and determination in the face of the brutal US-Israeli genocidal assault. Generation after generation, Palestinians have kept up the fight to return to their homeland.

Now, the people of the world stand with them like never before. The global demonstrations today will be a powerful expression of this sentiment. – Globetrotter 

Layan Fuleihan is a popular educator and organiser. She is the education director of The People’s Forum and an editor of 1804 Books in New York City

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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