“We have neighbors who are our bitter enemies … I send them messages all the time … these days, right now … I mislead them, destabilize them, mock them, and then hit them over the head. It’s impossible to reach an agreement with them … Everyone knows this, but we control the height of the flames,” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, states. 

What brought us to the events of Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its attack? Why did they do it? Many have claimed that Hamas’s attack was motivated by rabid antisemitism, hatred of Jews and nothing else. This is false. Both the long term causes that led to this situation and the spark that lit the flame can be identified in the oppression of the Palestinian people. 

The actual offensive launched by Hamas on Oct. 7 was named ‘Al-Aqsa Flood,’ directly responding to raids on Al-Aqsa mosque. The Israeli army targeted this mosque, the third holiest site for all Muslims around the world, in a number of raids. In these raids, Israeli forces employed tear gas, rubber bullets and “indiscriminately beat” peaceful worshippers. This is a flagrant provocation and a defilement of a place deemed sacred to the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

By no means can we confuse the trigger of this crisis with its origins and its causes. The Palestinians would have nothing to retaliate for if not for the oppression Israel has subjected them to for decades. Settlers have evicted Palestinians from their homes, murdered them, taken or destroyed their lands and beaten them. All this they have done with complete impunity — the UN’s Goldstone Report found that “little if any action is taken by the Israeli authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish violence against Palestinians, including killings, by settlers and members of the security forces, resulting in a situation of impunity.” 

Allowing settlers to unleash brutal violence on the Palestinians is part of the Israeli plan of scaring and harassing Palestinians away from their homes.

In addition, the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, tightly restricts movement of goods and persons, and Palestinians are harassed and impeded at military checkpoints all over their own land. Palestinians have fewer legal rights than Israelis, are not full citizens, have no right to family reunification and mostly cannot vote or stand in Israeli elections. They need permits to even pitch a tent to live in, but Israel almost always denies such permits. This systemic discrimination means that Palestinian homes can be legally demolished as “illegal” buildings. The laws of the Israeli state are designed to deprive Palestinians of their rights and facilitate their oppression as much as possible.

This brutal treatment has a name — and is a crime under international law. It is apartheid, as both Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have unequivocally stated. Since long before the recent Israeli retaliation, Palestinians have been living in an open-air prison, in stifling poverty, consciously deprived of water, food and electricity by the Israeli state. At present, 97  percent of Gaza’s water supply is contaminated.

For all these reasons, Hamas launched an attack to try and resist Israel’s oppression. In response, Yoav Gallant, defense minister of Israel, has ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza. No water, food, electricity or medicine may enter, straining hospitals and food supply in the region. The IDF has indiscriminately bombed Gaza, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with over two million people residing in a 25-mile stretch, and has blown residential areas, schools, hospitals and mosques to smithereens. They turned the cultural center of Gaza, the Rimal neighborhood, to rubble

These attacks hit civilians and militants alike, and, as of the 15th of October, more have been killed by Israeli air strikes — 2,670 individuals — than by Hamas militants — 1,400 individuals. Even white phosphorus is being used, which the United Nations banned for use on densely populated areas in 1980. This will only worsen as the modern, well-equipped Israeli military unleashes its full force on Gaza, despite calls to avoid civilian deaths and establish a humanitarian corridor.

To be clear, these are all war crimes. Beyond that, they are inhumane forms of violence that, when the dust settles, will leave the 2.6 million residents of Gaza with broken homes, broken families and broken lives. In the decades leading up to this war, land grabs have taken more and more of the West Bank, with 700,000 Israeli settlers living across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Israeli settlers have unleashed pogroms on the Palestinian people. A Palestinian’s house can be “vacated” without a word of notice. These are violations of international law.

Netanyahu has told the Palestinians to leave, but Egypt has blocked the only crossing out of Gaza — the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border — and, then, the Israeli government bombarded it as it filled up with refugees, such that not even those trying to flee their homes were exempt from the violence. Even if they were able to flee, leaving the country would leave them without the right to reentry; it would mean abandoning their homes and country. With no way to leave, the people of Palestine have one option available to them: death.

As this rages on, Western media and the Israeli state have described a number of atrocities committed by Hamas militants. One of the most horrific of these was the claim that Hamas had beheaded 40 babies, which Israeli generals, the media and even Joe Biden confirmed. However, both the IDF and Joe Biden’s office have since retracted these claims. Even the CNN reporter who made the original statement on air has retracted her reporting with a post on X. It seems unlikely that those who boldly asserted these claims would have simply imagined images of such an atrocity. 

The only conclusion is that these statements are part of a deliberate tactic of atrocity propaganda, where claims of horrific behavior are spread widely in order to justify violent atrocities in response. The media’s overreporting of Israeli victims and underreporting of Palestinian victims, employing real, exaggerated and falsified stories indiscriminately, is a ploy to paint Hamas as savage, unjustified monsters and to justify any form of retaliation conducted by the Israelis, however illegal, brutal or lethal it may be.

Some of the claims made are true: Hamas has taken a number of Israeli soldiers and civilians as prisoners. This is presumably in order to exchange them for some of the Palestinian prisoners, as has happened before, or perhaps they have been taken as aninsurance policy” against bombings. 

Naturally, those at Yale with relatives who have been taken as prisoners or died in this manner have a right to mourn for their loved ones. However, the losses must be compared to the losses, abuses and deaths inflicted upon the Palestinians. Without a clear and full understanding of the situation, its origins and effects, we will not be able to draw a roadmap to resolving the crisis.

When the Palestinians try to mobilize peacefully, they face brutal retaliation. Attempts at peace imposed by the international community — led, as usual, by the Western bloc and the United States — have led to nothing. There have been countless UN declarations and condemnations. The problem is that Israel has no respect for international law.

Attempts at peaceful resolution, such as the Oslo Accords, have failed the Palestinians completely. When Palestinians try to peacefully take matters into their own hands, such as in the peaceful ‘Great March of Return,’ they are shot at, mowed down. Whether they resist or submit, Palestinians can be sure that Israeli bullets will kill, maim and injure them.

There can then be no confusion. This conflict is between a powerful, aggressive imperialist state against a weak, oppressed people, deprived of their every right. To present these sides as equal aggressors and to take a stand middling between the two, or to claim the oppressed to be the instigators of violence is to look at the situation without any sense of history, perspective or understanding of how we got here. 

There is no conscionable stance that can be taken except to stand with the right of the oppressed to live in liberty and dignity, free from oppression. Israel’s “right to defend itself” is an inversion of the whole situation. Palestinians have been unrelentingly oppressed and are the ones trying to defend themselves, throwing whatever they can at a mighty military machine that has crushed their resistance every time.

Israel’s strength is augmented by the fact that it is backed by America, who subsidizes their military with $3.3 billion a year. This is a small price for the American government to pay to maintain an ally and protect their sphere of influence in a region of crucial importance. All the world has abandoned Palestine, and even many Arab states have started to abandon it and normalize relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, leading the way for the rest of the Arab world, has engaged in plans to normalize ties with Israel. In return, they seek American support in developing a nuclear program and seek to establish a defense pact with America.

Thinking about this in contrast to Ukraine reveals a sickening truth about the goals of American propaganda and Western media. While Ukraine’s right to “self-defense” and “self-determination” — which is to say, its right to be subsumed into the Western sphere of influence led by NATO and the United States — was defended by almost all, the right of Palestine to defend itself and to live free of its own imperialist oppressor has been largely ignored. 

When we read the news in this period, we must remember that any capitalist press defends, above all else, the strategic interests of its own nation. America defended Ukraine not because it was the right thing to do but because doing so could weaken a major geopolitical rival, and so America armed Ukraine to the hilt and even pushed it away from a peace deal. On the other hand, Palestine is the enemy of America’s only reliable allies in the Middle East and therefore no amount of war crimes or brutal oppression will make it waver from its defense and continued arming of Israel.

And it is true that Hamas is a reactionary, far-right, religious fundamentalist organization that doesn’t truly represent the masses of Palestine. Our support for Palestinian liberation can’t possibly waver subject to which particular group is leading that struggle. However, it is worth asking why Hamas found support in the Palestinian people and found its way to the head of this movement.

Hamas was, in fact, directly aided and funded by the Israeli state. This has been confirmed even by Israeli officials. Why would Israel fund such a group? For the same reason that America funded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet-aligned government, and, in so doing, paved the way for the Taliban’s ascendancy to power. Hamas has been supported in attaining power so that it could crush the secular, left-wing Palestine Liberation Organization, and “torpedo any agreements put in place,” allowing Israel to continue its policy of aggressive expansion and slaughter. And since Palestine is not allowed to form a military, paramilitary organizations like Hamas fill the gap. In trying to prevent a meaningful resistance, Israel has created an organization that would dedicate itself unrelentingly to overthrowing the state of Israel, and has fed national and religious anger with ever-more egregious oppression.

But don’t take my word for it – listen to Netanyahu, who explicitly said to his Likud party in March 2019, “anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas.”

So, in the final analysis, the violence of Hamas, and of the Palestinian fight for freedom, comes out of the treatment that Palestine suffers at the hands of Israel. They come from what Israeli journalist Gideon Levy calls “Israeli arrogance” — the idea that they can do whatever they like, that they’ll never “pay the price and be punished for it.”

The killing of civilians, the launching of rockets — these atrocities make one think of the Indian Revolt of 1857, whereby the Indian sepoys in the army of the British East India Company rose up after decades of oppression and mistreatment. In Britain, stories spread of the most horrific atrocities committed by the Indians — slaughter of innocents, widespread rape of British women.

Karl Marx offered a clear analysis of this situation: “The outrages committed by the revolted Sepoys in India are indeed appalling, hideous, ineffable — such as one is prepared to meet – only in wars of insurrection, of nationalities, of races, and above all of religion … However infamous the conduct of the Sepoys, it is only the reflex, in a concentrated form, of England’s own conduct in India, not only during the epoch of the foundation of her Eastern Empire, but even during the last ten years of a long-settled rule… And then it should not be forgotten that, while the cruelties of the English are related as acts of martial vigor, told simply, rapidly, without dwelling on disgusting details, the outrages of the natives, shocking as they are, are still deliberately exaggerated.”

In the place of Indian sepoys, let us read Hamas. And in place of the English, let us read the Israeli state. The question of violence and its origins becomes clear.

The question then poses itself: what can be done to actually end this crisis? The situation in Israel-Palestine will unfold in one of three ways. The first, and most preferable, creates peace. Israel could liberate Palestinians from their oppression, withdraw the settlements, return Palestine’s land and grant them full rights in a united, multiethnic state spanning all of Israel-Palestine — as reluctant as it is to do so. 

In the second option, Israel can slaughter the Palestinians to the last, purging them from the world in a series of brutal attacks, bombardments and massacres, until their spirit, communities and families are destroyed, leaving ashes and corpses in the mass-graveyard known as Gaza.

Then there is the third option. Unless either of these things happen — if Palestine remains under the yoke of Israeli oppression — they will continue to rise up, again and again, and be crushed by a militarily superior enemy, backed by the military might of the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Can Palestine be expected to roll over and die? To submit itself to endless provocations and brutalities without complaint? To silently bear its oppression without taking arms to emancipate itself? 

The oppression of Palestine was always going to lead to uprisings, retaliations, war and more war. War is violent, and will continue to lead to atrocities and abuses of human dignity and life, so long as the conditions for war remain in place, and the interests of Palestine lie in the erasure of the Israeli state and vice versa.

People in Israel understand this too. Ofer Cassif, Israeli Member of Parliament for the left-wing Hadash, has stated: “I will continue to tell the truth: turn off the brutal, criminal siege of Gaza and the regime of Jewish supremacy, they are responsible for the bloodshed and only their end will bring us all security, peace and a better future.”

The problem is that genocide and oppression against Palestinians is integral to the Zionist conception of statehood. The goal is no less than that of “turning Gaza into a deserted island.” The idea that has taken hold of Netanyahu’s far right coalition government is that of a new Nakba. 75 years ago, the original Nakba saw Zionist paramilitary organizations — little different from the current Palestinian paramilitary organizations — commit ethnic cleansing throughout Palestine, and take 78 percent of UN-mandated Palestine into Israeli hands. In the original Nakba, Israeli forces killed and displaced some 700,000 Palestinians.

What moral qualms can there be about doing such a thing when dealing with “human animals?” Ezra Yachin, a 95-year-old army reservist who was drafted to “motivate” Israeli troops, makes the goal of this new Nakba clear. He says, “erase the memory of them. Erase them, their families, mothers and children. These animals can no longer live … every Jew with a weapon should go out and kill them. If you have an Arab neighbor, don’t wait, go to his home and shoot him … we want to invade, not like before. We want to enter and destroy what’s in front of us, and destroy houses, then destroy the one after it. With all of our forces, complete destruction, enter and destroy… Let them drop bombs on them and destroy them.”

Those at the furthest-right of the Israeli political spectrum pursue these goals — tantamount to genocide — without reservations: the Netanyahu government has no qualms working with the far-right, with rabid nationalists and even the American military industrial complex to secure allies and meet its aims. All the while, the poor and the working class on both sides continue to die under bombardments, and the two sides grow ever more embittered one towards the other, and the possibility of an Israel-Palestine freed from this nightmare becomes an ever-more distant dream.

What can we do in the face of so many horrors? Solidarity with Palestine cannot be an abstract statement, but all those awake to the horrors being committed in Gaza must act clearly. The Left must put forward a clear program: an end to occupation, a reversal of settlements and an end to oppression based on ethnicity or religion, with equal rights for all peoples. Those who stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must stand by the new Intifada and make it clear that Palestine has every right to defend itself. 

We must do all we can to halt arms and funds being sent to the Israeli army, including workers strikes in munitions factories and pushing America, Yale and other institutions to stop funding Israel by threatening their control over the economy. Only when Arab workers, Jewish workers and American workers unite en masse to defend Palestine can the Intifada be brought to victory, the Palestinian people liberated and a new and promising future can be ushered in.

We must continually expose the real situation, and not allow the truth to be warped. We must decry those who take a neutral stance, present this as a complicated issue between parties of equal culpability or, worse, who paint a scenario whereby Israel has no choice but to slaughter Palestinians to ‘defend themselves.’

In this crisis, as in all others, we have the duty not to bow to the pressure of our imperialist, war-hawk government, but to stand with the poor and the oppressed against the rich and powerful oppressors. For both Arabs and Jews to live freely in a united state, the boot of Zionist oppression must be taken off the neck of Palestine.

ELISA MIAH is a sophomore in Branford College and an active member of Socialist Revolution, a communist group active in New Haven and across the United States. She can be reached at elisa.miah@yale.edu.