For Those Directing Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinian Dead are Incidental

Operation Protective Edge is about land.

The Gaza buffer zone comprises over 40% of the Gaza Strip. (image via
The Gaza buffer zone comprises over 40% of the Gaza Strip.
(image via

It is about water.


It is about energy resources.

Gaza Marine is the larger of two gas fields located in Gaza's territorial waters.
Gaza Marine is the larger of two gas fields located in Gaza’s territorial waters. (image via

In these aspects, it is the same as every other incursion Israel has ever made into Palestine.

The people suffer here until death, and that’s because the Palestinian people don’t matter.

I don’t say this as a rhetorical device, meant to push for action in solidarity with the Palestinian people (though you should take part in such actions, as many of you already have). I say it because from the point of view of the Israeli state, and the political ideology of Zionism, it is true.

This is the key difference between apartheid in Israel/Palestine and apartheid in South Africa. Whereas oppression of the majority and the maintenance of this majority as a beaten-down labor force was the means by which the white minority maintained its privileges in South Africa, in Israel/Palestine, the Palestinian people are incidental. Comparisons between these two situations are apt, and powerful, but we must emphasize the different economic positions occupied by the respective oppressed populations in order to understand the differences in the strategies taken by the state in each case. The black majority in South Africa was critical to the functioning of the economy. For Palestinians in Israel/Palestine, this is not the case.

Earlier in Israel’s history, Palestinians were discouraged from working for Jewish businesses. Labor Zionism imagined a socialist utopia for Jews only. To achieve those aims, the Palestinians needed to be physically separated from the functioning of the Israeli economy and society, ideally by leaving the land entirely. While the Bantustans in apartheid South Africa remained relatively near to centers of industry, as the exploited majority was needed as a labor force to produce value for the white owners of capital, Palestinians are needed for nothing. A 2010 UNRWA study estimates the unemployment rate of Gazans hovers around 45%.  Many Gazans once worked in the Israeli economy, and now subsist within the proscribed boundaries of Gaza, reinforcing the functioning of Gaza as little more than a massive open-air prison.

To take a step closer toward truth, we must recognize that rather than no value, Palestinian lives actually have negative value to the Israeli state. Widely viewed as a demographic threat to the state’s desired Jewish majority, Israel’s aim has long been to drive Palestinians into neighboring states.  Failing that, Israel bombs and immiserates the Palestinian people in the hopes of destroying their resistance and political leadership.

This is the answer to the cries around the world asking how Israel can bomb so many civilians, as it is doing now, or starve so many thousands, as it has been doing for years as an occupying force. In South Africa, the oppressed black population had to be ill-treated, to maintain white supremacy, but they also had to live and produce economic value. In Israel/Palestine, Palestinians are at best a nuisance to the Israeli state, and at worst, a parasite.

With this in mind, the answer to the how behind Israel’s genocidal policies, we can return to the why.

Why bomb a power plant?

Why destroy sewage treatment centers?

Why massacre neighborhoods until they are razed to the ground?

Why declare a buffer zone which comprises 40% of the Gaza strip?

Why destroy a university?

In short: why target an entire infrastructure?

These questions taken together paint a picture that turns upon one glaring fact: Israel’s Operation Defensive Edge is not about wiping out militants, as in the age of the “war on terror,” it is common knowledge that indiscriminate violence breeds militancy and terrorism.  Instead, it is about wiping out the Palestinian people, erasing evidence of their existence.  Israel has done this with hundreds of villages in the West Bank, and it is now doing the same in the Gaza Strip.  This is the reason for forbidding residents of the buffer zone from returning to their homes.

As morally reprehensible as it may be, this is why Israel engaged in Operation Protective Edge.  When the missile strikes finally subside, many publications will speak of how Israel lost the war.  Popular support for Hamas will not have diminished; a peace process will not have begun; and hundreds of children will be dead.  But these lamentations will miss the point.  This is not a war; there is only one military involved.  This decimation of the Palestinian people and their infrastructure is the purpose, and in this aim, Israel has already won.

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