Israel has long preferred force to peace, segregation to equality. Its brutal air strikes on Gaza are a continuation of that policy — and will do nothing to bring peace and dignity to civilians on both sides.

A funeral ceremony of Palestinians who were killed in Israeli airstrikes, in Khan Yunis, Gaza, on October 10, 2023. (Abed Zagout / Anadolu via Getty Images)

The images out of Gaza are a hellscape on Earth. Wanton Israeli destruction is decimating the small besieged Strip. This is what Israel does best with the Palestinians. Not peace. Not reconciliation. Not conflict resolution. But war — on those it has victimized for seventy-five years. Shooting and crying. The West now applauds.

Make no mistake: Israel continues to foment permanent war.

Every day Israel breeds hate and rage in Palestinians. It punishes them for resisting its occupation — not only with tragic, catastrophic violence (like on October 7) but with nonviolent struggle as well.

This explosion was inevitable. A state cannot humiliate and subjugate millions for decades and remain unaffected. A state also cannot expect peace and quiet when all it does is make war.

Since 2000, Israel has increasingly preferred force to peace, settler colonialism to reconciliation, segregation to equality. For over two decades, Israeli wars of politicide have primarily been conducted to cut down Palestinian aspirations for statehood and independence. Indiscriminately killing thousands of Palestinian civilians, permanently maiming many more, and turning Gaza into the world’s largest besieged ghetto.

Every day Palestinians live in fear and despair — feeling more and more hopeless about their future. What can the Palestinians do with such a relentlessly uncompromising, brutal enemy? Holding steadfast seems far too costly, but resistance seems costlier still.

At every point, Western states failed to enforce international law. What’s worse, they enabled and supported Israel to violate it and have fortified its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli racism in the Knesset has become more blatant. First Benjamin Netanyahu, then Avigdor Lieberman, and now the rabidly racist Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. As Israel moved to the extreme right, the United States supported, the European Union collaborated, and Arab governments normalized.

What does all this tell the Palestinians?

Only Israeli lives matter.

Palestinian lives don’t matter, and Palestinian national aspirations for independence are a mere irritant.

This is exactly what the Israeli flags on government buildings in London and Berlin say: Palestinians are an “un-people,” outside of our circle of sympathy and care. Such racism is overt, and the double standards (with Ukraine, for example) are blinding.

Allowing Israel to unleash such vengeance on Gaza only increases Palestinian rage. Letting Israel act with impunity intensifies the conflict and ensures its longevity and terror.

Restoring Israeli deterrence on the backs of occupied Palestinians is immoral and illegal. Hamas’s horrifying attacks on civilians in Israel are being exploited to produce more hatred and violence. War is never the solution in Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians and Israelis will have to live together in peace one day.

What should progressives call for now?

Insist that there is another way. That all life should be held in equal regard. That all people should live in security in Israel and Palestine. That civilians on both sides should be protected. That the conditions that produce occupation should end.

The first, immediate demand should be to stop this heinous Israeli war on Gaza now. Collective punishment is illegal under international law — regardless of how many Western diplomats defend it.

Palestinians should be protected from Israel and their right to life safeguarded immediately. Not one more civilian should be lost in the name of Israeli security. Israel cannot invoke self-defense against a population it’s occupying, nor accrue benefits from its violation of their fundamental human rights.

The second demand should be upholding international law as the most important mechanism for achieving peace. Palestinians have an internationally recognized right of self-determination, which Israel violates with every act. It, too, is a fundamental right and the only route to peace and stability.

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