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[Blog] "The events of 7 October did not happen in a vacuum..."

These are the words of Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General. What he meant is that there are deep-rooted causes that led to the explosion of violence on 7 October.


Firstly, the Oslo Accords, which were supposed to chart a path for Palestinian statehood, have become a dead letter for a long time. The Palestinian territories have remained under brutal Israeli occupation with daily raids taking place in the homes of Palestinians, with minors being abducted and sent to jails where they undergo a regime of torture and deprivation, with the movement of people being restricted more and more severely with the setting of dehumanizing checkpoints,  with houses being demolished regularly, with lands

Being confiscated, with the regular killing of Palestinian youth, the elderly, children and women, including journalists (for example Shireen Abu Akleh). On top of that, the Palestinian Authority has been systematically delegitimised and reduced to a mere subcontractor of the Israeli security forces.

This dire situation has been exacerbated by the re-election of  Netanyahu, who never believed in the Oslo Accords and for whom the notion of Palestinian statehood is anathema.  During his campaigns, he made it clear that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch. This was also confirmed by Trump, who admitted that Netanyahu always evaded the issue of Palestinian statehood whenever he raised this question with him.

Thirdly, for the first time in the history of Israel, far-right extremist elements form 

part of the Israeli government and occupy key portfolios. Their ideology is the realization of the dream of a "Greater Israel" as theorised by Theodore Herzl. In their scheme of things, only Jews should inhabit the so-called biblical lands and Palestinians have to be removed thereof. To achieve their goal of ethnic cleansing, more and more illegal settlements are created, more and more terror tactics are being used to instigate Palestinians to flee, more and more violence is being used against the natives, more and more livelihoods are being destroyed and Palestinian villages being set on fire. All this is being done with the encouragement of extremist Kahanist Ministers like Ben Givir.

Furthermore, the Gaza Strip, known as the biggest open-air prison in the world, remains under an inhuman blockade for more than 15 years. At any time Israel could close the Eretz border to prevent people from going for treatment abroad, at any time its coastguards could prevent Gaza fishermen from fishing by shooting at them, at any time it could decide to bombard the strip with the resulting deaths of civilians and children. The result of all this is that Gaza has an unemployment rate of 70 %, absolute poverty is rampant, and the mental health of the people is constantly on edge with the continuous drooling of drones over their heads and the regular bombardments from the sky. All this kills all glimmer of hope in people.

Add to that the Abraham Accords initiated by Trump and pursued by Biden.  The next leg of the Accords was going to be the impending peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia . Palestinians felt that this was going to be done at their expense, which would have given Israel greater leverage to ignore, marginalize and continue to oppress them. In fact, at the last UNGA meeting, Netanyahu showed a map of the Middle East where there is no mention of Palestine.

According to William M. Silber, when all doors are closed and all hope is lost, the only option left is that of "nothing to lose" (Project Syndicate). Acts of desperation are committed, and huge risks are taken. This is what happened on 7 October.  Hamas indeed committed atrocities, though these have been exaggerated by the Israeli propaganda machine (for example, the beheading of babies which was subsequently put in doubt by CNN and Los Angeles Times). US soldiers too have killed scores of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. They call it collateral damage.

But the atrocities that Israel is committing presently in Gaza are beyond imagination (indiscriminate bombing of houses, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, killing of a child every ten minutes, etc.).

Finally, it should be recognized that the events of 7 October have brought the Palestinian question to the centre stage and more and more leaders are acknowledging that there cannot be sustainable peace in the Mideast without resolving the Palestinian problem in one way or the other.

Azize Bankur


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