As the violence between Israel and Hamas rages on, groups and experts familiar with the Israeli government’s decadeslong apartheid against Palestinians stress that it is inaccurate for officials and media to call the attacks unprovoked.
The Israeli military battled Palestinian fighters for a third day on Monday after Hamas broke through Israel’s security barrier ― with the help of thousands of rockets ― and attacked nearby settlements. At least 700 people have reportedly been killed in Israel, and dozens of Israelis are being held hostage in Gaza.
Israeli soldiers have now launched powerful retaliatory strikes in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas militant movement governs over 2 million Palestinian civilians. The U.S. and European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization due to its armed resistance against Israel’s occupation, and the White House said Monday that at least nine Americans are among the dead.
Currently, about 500 Palestinians have been killed and over 2,200 injured from Israeli airstrikes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. More than 120,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza as a result of Israel’s bombardment.
The attack has resulted in strongly worded support for Israel from many Western nations, including the U.S., which along with the media are describing the violence as unprovoked and unprecedented. But experts on the region’s history, as well as groups supporting Palestinian liberation, say that description is false.
IfNotNow, a progressive American Jewish group that opposes Israeli apartheid, said that while “we watch the unfolding horrors with heartbreak and dread for our loved ones ― Israelis and Palestinians alike” ― the attack by Palestinian fighters was a result of decades of oppression.
“We cannot and will not say today’s actions by Palestinian militants are unprovoked,” the group said in a statement on Saturday. “Every day under Israel’s system of apartheid is a provocation. The strangling siege on Gaza is a provocation. Settlers terrorizing entire Palestinian villages, soldiers raiding and demolishing Palestinian homes, murdering Palestinians in the streets, Israeli ministers calling for genocide and expulsion.”
“These are the provocations of the most extreme right wing government in Israel’s history and an emboldened fascist movement escalating this crisis across the land.”
Israel has swiftly responded to the attacks by Hamas, launching airstrikes and destroying civilian infrastructure, according to an Al Jazeera reporter on the ground in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to turn the Palestinian enclave into a “deserted island,” escalating fears of a ground invasion of Gaza. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich reportedly said in a cabinet meeting that “it’s time to be cruel,” even if it means also killing the Israeli hostages in Gaza.
Palestinians are no stranger to Israeli violence. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 resulted in what is known as the Nakba, which refers to the mass murder of Palestinians and permanent displacement from their land. Since then, multiple human rights groups have released reports on why Israel’s efforts to remove Palestinian families from their land, jail Palestinian dissidents and kill civilians ― including children ― amount to apartheid.
“This war did not start this morning. It has been going on for decades,” Nathan Thrall, a writer and expert on Israel-Palestine, posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Today’s bloodshed is the tip of an iceberg: an iceberg of state violence and ethnic subjugation. Blood will continue to be spilled so long as we ignore the root causes.”
Israel has long had the financial and weapons support of the U.S. to create a military system that far exceeds its Palestinian neighbors. IfNotNow and the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations have called on the U.S. to reflect on its role in funding yearslong violence against Palestinians despite publicly supporting a two-state solution.
“We absolutely condemn the killing of innocent civilians and mourn the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life, with numbers rising by the minute. Their blood is on the hands of the Israeli government, the US government which funds and excuses their recklessness, and every international leader who continues to turn a blind eye to decades of Palestinian oppression, endangering both Palestinians and Israelis,” IfNotNow said.
“Anyone who minimizes or ignores this context will only continue to be surprised as more blood is shed,” the group continued. “We call on our communities to reconsider the knee-jerk militarism that has led us into this unfolding catastrophe. There is no path to a future of safety and freedom for all Israelis and Palestinians without accountability for this fascist government and an end to the ongoing, untenable status quo of Israel’s apartheid system.”