Trigger Warning- Mentions of rape and sexual/physical violence
On the 7th of October, Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, broke into Israeli occupied settlements, breaking down colonial barriers. News emerged that fighters had taken control of the Beit Hanoun crossing – the only entry point connecting Palestinians back to their historic land. Information then emerged that the wall ‘Israel’ had erected to permanently imprison over 2.3 million Palestinians had been breached. With that, Palestine broke out of the world’s largest open air prison, doing away with the separation fence that has kept them under siege.
This marks a monumental moment in Palestinian history for it is the first time in the landscape of the Palestinian struggle that they have retaken a town from ‘Israeli’ settlers. Soon enough Western imperialist media and its lackeys proclaimed this anti colonial resistance as a ‘terrorist attack’: think pieces and worldwide journalistic condemnations of Hamas – the militant resistance group at the forefront of armed resistance now – came pouring in. However, what this mischaracterisation fails to report is that there have been over 7 factions of resistance outfits operating in occupied Palestine. ‘While the focus on Hamas is warranted as they really did carry out this operation, the focus remains on how these are cartoonishly evil savage animals who are indiscriminately killing every Israeli they see in the face. If it wasn’t Hamas, it was Saddam Hussein, or a socialist leader in Latin America‘, Tara Alami, a Palestinian student, says, pointing out the glaring vilification meted out by the Imperial West to any resistance group across the globe, not limited to Hamas.
The history of the Nakba and the occupation
It is then impossible to understand Gaza without knowing that 247 villages in Southern Palestine were ethnically cleansed and forcefully evicted in 1948, and the refugees from there were then forced into a concentration camp that is now known as the Gaza strip.
This catastrophic persecution and eviction, known as the Nakba, marked the permanent displacement and colonisation of over 750,000 Palestinians,. The brutal colonisation of the Palestinians in their homeland by Zionist settlers has yielded seven whole decades of killings, brutal murders and rampant persecution. Modern-day Gaza is a narrow 25 mile stretch of land, within which about 2 million Palestinians, half of them children, live everyday under violent siege. When the oppression and persecution of Palestinians has been so severely violent, how can the resistance be peaceful? Is violence the exclusive domain of the coloniser alone?
To view the recent Palestinian attacks as anything short of a resisting force in the pursuit of freedom for even the most crucial necessities –with its Zionist colonisers holding absolute control over water and electricity – would be both dishonest and ahistorical. As of yesterday, on the 11th day of Israel’s bombardments, hours after the BBC insinuated that ‘Hamas builds tunnels under hospitals’, the Israelis have bombed the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital killing 500 of the patients, doctors, children and refugees. This reeks of nazi- genocide.
Over 1000 children have been killed in the past week alone, The death count alarmingly climbs up, with at least 3500 people dead, over 9000 injured, 16 hospitals bombed, and fifty families and their bloodlines wiped from the civil registry. The atrocities in the past week are a manifestation of the despotic ‘Israeli’ fantasy of wiping out Palestine that has prevailed for seventy five long years since the Nakba.
Mohammed El Kurd, a prominent Palestinian writer and activist, posted online, ‘Word of mouth testimonies of our colonisers are awarded front page headlines, breaking news and mass hysteria, meanwhile video footage of our children being slaughtered, being bombarded, being pulled out of the rubble will never receive the same attention.’ This comes in the wake of US media and its lackeys ushering in fictitious skepticism and erring on the side of caution over Israel’s obvious role in bombing the Baptist Hospital. The Israeli spokesperson confirmed earlier that it was an Israeli air strike only to delete the tweet later, they have since released videos claiming it was a Palestinian rocket, the video in question dates back to 2022 yet in the face of overwhelming evidence US media seems hesitant to call a spade a spade and Zionist occupation as terrorism.
While the occupying state continues to be funded in millions by the United States of America, there is the need to recognise the Palestinian armed resistance as nothing short of a revolutionary struggle headed towards the promise of a free and liberated Palestine.
The Hindutva brigade and Israeli settlers – tyranny breeds tyranny
Yet the legitimacy of the struggle has continued to be a major source of rejection by the global north, with the rampant dissemination of disinformation only buttressing their historical, pro-coloniser stances that have inevitably enabled this massacre. Leading this campaign are inordinate scores of Indians, who have taken to the internet to declare their unwavering support to the state of ‘Israel’
An Indian journalist took to twitter claiming that a pregnant woman was found desecrated by Hamas, with her stomach cut open and the fetus taken out: falsely asserting an act of Palestinian ‘savagery.’ However, this atrocity was accounted for during the Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinians by ‘Israel’ in 1982 where scores of pregnant Palestinian women were raped by Israeli soliders. Most of these accounts stem from the Hindu Right Wing declaring their bloodlust for the indiscriminate killings of Palestinians; This newfound support for ‘Israel’ sprouted and grew in the wake of the BJP-led regime. It is pertinent to note that the post independent government of India maintained that Palestine has a right to self determination. Why is it then that there is such a sharp switch and rise in the admiration of a colonial power?
The surge in India’s alignment with ‘Israel’ seemingly stems from the Hindu Right’s ethnic cleansing fantasies back home. With the threat and persecution of Muslims in the country at an all time high, it only makes sense for them to decry the Palestinian cause and piggyback on the Islamophobic oriental framing of Palestinian freedom fighters as ‘terrorists’ and ‘barbaric killers’.
The Hindu Right’s support is aspirational, as it yearns to implement the ‘Israel model’ back home. At the heart of this, lies the racist fantasy of the Hindu right that seeks to idolise and embolden the illegitimate Israeli state.
For the average Indian fascist, “Israel” represents an untethered possibility of large scale genocide and ethnic cleansing – and for a once-fringe-now-mainstream populous that holds the belief of national victimhood at the hands of Muslims, the Israeli violence then becomes a vessel of punitive justice. One ought to view it as solidarity between two settler colonial states – tyranny befriends tyranny but the states of Kashmir and Palestine embody a shared struggle.
This malaise isn’t limited to the Hindu Right; India’s self-avowed ‘progressive’ media outlets have taken upon themselves to be mouthpieces to western propaganda machines. The recent backlash against Palestinian resistance seems to be stemming from the unsubstantiated claims of Palestinians ‘beheading babies’ and ‘raping women’ en masse – subsequently echoed by popular Indian journalists. This counter-trend of producing scores of disinformation is analogous to a conceit of the past where the US media embraced the unsubstantiated fabrications of Iraqi troops killing babies in incubators in Kuwait.
‘This is a recipe they use every single time and it works for them every single time, This one journalist heard from a Zionist soldier about the soldier seeing a picture of Israeli babies being beheaded by Hamas. The journalist tweeted this as it were fact and this aligned with the Western Imperialist media’s narrative so it was picked up and a day later, it was proven that it was a lie‘, Tara alami testifies to how this news headline transpired. The news of Hamas beheading babies spread like wildfire across media platforms, with US president Joe Biden claiming to have personally seen the photographic evidence of the beheaded babies, only for the White House to later rebuke this statement and claim that they aren’t privy to any such images. Later the Israeli army told the Turkish Anadolu agency that they have no information confirming allegations that ‘Hamas beheaded babies.’
The mass hysteria of racist disinformation around Palestinian struggle for liberation
This accurately represents the Chomskian nightmare of manufacturing consent where he writes of this very insidious cookbook – wherein the Imperial media and its lackeys perform the role of turning fiction into fact in order to manufacture consent for bloody killings and genocide. This was seen playing out in real-time: CNN releases the ‘beheaded babies’ story to the masses despite the abject lack of verification, The official account of ‘Israel’ confirms that these claims are unsubstantiated but the damage is done. Bombs rain down, entire families are wiped out, the retractions and the deliberate hitjobs under the guise of objectivity are successful and complicit in the socially sanctioned mass slaughtering of Palestinians now. Journalistic integrity then becomes a farce in the face of vile military state propaganda that openly not only calls for the flattening of Gaza but manufactures fake news that justifies it.
The manufacturing of consent has been a primary tactic of the Zionist state and its allies. Echoes of Palestinians ‘killing children, innocent civilians and raping scores of women’ has been heard across newsboards. Recent ‘news’ has surfaced that both the women who were allegedly raped and killed, are alive. In the case of the German woman whose video was making the rounds on the internet under the accepted speculation of being ‘paraded naked’ – there is now a news report headlining that she is alive and was brought to the hospital by Palestinian fighters, reported by her mother. These ‘concerns’ of sexual assault stem from 1. A video of a woman with blood on her shorts and 2. An image of a woman lying in a truck. While images from the warzone are reprehensible, none of these claims of ‘mass rapes’ seem to be substantiated by any evidence. If anything, they’ve been repeatedly debunked. An Israeli newsource, Tablet Magazine, wrote that ‘many women were raped at the area of the rave next to Gaza’ and yet this quote was attributed to one source who was neither present nor named in the story. This then was picked up by major western outlets who took this ambiguous claim and paraded it as fact.
At the heart of this, lies this deep seated caricaturist image of the middle east and its people. In conversation with Tara Alami, she poignantly dissects this racist phenomena embraced and produced by Western media – ‘This idea that Palestinians are regressive, they’re animals has been voiced by one of the Israeli ministers as well. Just this image of cartoonishly evil people as a collective is accepted, digested, and then regurgitated. All of these anxieties and mass hysteria concerning us starts being propagated by regular people. So they start doing the work of the state apparatus for them.‘
The reason why ‘news’ like this is so widely circulated and easily accepted is because much of the imperial media apparatuses manipulation of truth is reliant on the mass hysteria and white supremacist anxieties that surround colonised people, especially brown men. The west becomes so comfortable in sharing such unsubstantiated claims because it simply validates the notions, and beliefs they hold about a racialised populace – the caricature of a savage regressive man assaulting the white woman forms the basis of Colonial Feminism.
Colonial western feminism and using rape as a weapon against the Palestinian people
‘Feminists’ of the colonial west have taken to sharing these allegations of mass rape in order to decry the Palestinian cause for liberation, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever. Tara Alami recognises this as White Imperial Feminism that justifies state sanctioned violence and war on a colonised people. ‘This is the same rhetoric that was used against Natives in North America, this was the same logic that was used to justify benevolent colonialism, this is exactly what the Radical Feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote about Palestinian men and women to justify Zionist Colonialism‘
Misinformation here is a two fold colonial project – one, it delivers on the promise of making caricatures of an anti-colonial resistance, as it did with Libya and Iraq, and two, it ‘overshadows and turns attention away from real, truthful and primary accounts of Israeli Zionist assault on Palestinian bodies, primary women and children but also Palestinian men who are routinely assaulted in prison, assaulted at checkpoints, assaulted in military searches and interrogations’. In July 2023, the ‘sexual terrorism law‘ passed by 39 Israeli MP’s allowed for a lesser punishment for Jewish Israelis charged of rape and sexual assault. Lawmakers agreed that this law would not prosecute Israelis charged for raping Palestinian women at checkpoints and interrogations.
The Israeli occupying force has a long drawn history of Sexual Violence, even before its inception. David Ben Gurion, former Israeli Prime Minister, openly discussed the rape and sexual torture of Palestinian women in his diary entries during 1948. He went so far as to advocate the killing of Palestinian women and children, construing them as a threat to the Jewish settler polity.
There exist reports from the Deir Yessin Massacre in which pregnant Palestinian women were killed by Israeli Occupying Force, their babies were torn out of their bodies, and then assaulted. These horrors persist as Israeli forces partake in the routine assault and extortion of Palestinian families at borders, searches and checkpoints.
The testimony of Samar Abu Hamda, deserves a mention. She recounts that the border policeman at the wall’s gate through which she and her family pass to work their lands, used his position to keep her away from her husband and proposed a bargain: if she agreed to be with him, he would make her life easier and let her pass alone through the gate. When she refused this offer, he started threatening her: to either come with him “voluntarily” or make him use force and then deal with rumors about her in the village, which he promised to spread.
The story of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian community organiser and political activist, echoes this depravity. Arrested in 1969, ‘she underwent twenty-five days of nonstop night-and-day interrogation, during which she was beaten, raped, and witnessed the torture of other prisoners, including the administration of electric shocks to the genitalia.’
Staff Sgt. Omer Tabib, 21, was killed in an anti-tank missile attack near the Gaza Strip in 2021. News after his death surfaced that earlier – he had taken to social media to brag about raping a Palestinian woman, having posted to twitter a picture with the text ‘I took this puff right after I raped a Palestinian Lady‘
Many such stories have been substantiated by reports spanning across decades, An unnamed mid-teen bedouin Palestinian girl was abducted on Aug. 12, 1949, by Israeli soldiers near the Nirim military outpost in the Negev desert, close to the Gaza Strip.
She was then taken into a hut and gang-raped by three soldiers. Following which, the commander drew up a three-day gang-rape schedule for his three squads to alternate and then executed when she fell unconscious. She was shortly executed. Her tragedy remained hidden in the Israeli army’s archives for 54 years, recorded in military court testimonies and a single entry in former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s diary.
The colonial apparatus of rape isn’t limited to women, Findings in a paper titled ‘Sexual Torture of Palestinian men by Israeli soldiers‘ show that sexual ill-treatment is systemic with the “Israeli” regime. Physical assault in most cases concerned pressing and/or kicking the genitals, while one testimony pertained to simulated rape, and another described an actual rape by means of a blunt object. According to a study based on the Public Committe against torture in Israel, between 2005 and 2012, thousands of Palestinian men were tortured by Israeli Occupying Forces and a significant portion of these included sexual torture.
In 2021, a 15 year old Palestinian boy in custody was repeatedly assaulted by Israeli officers. Upon arrival at Al-Mascobiyya interrogation and detention center, the boy was forced to sit in a hallway bound and blindfolded where he was subject to physical violence by those passing by, according to documentation collected by DCIP. ‘Every two to three minutes, someone would come by and slap, push, punch, or kick me,’ the boy told DCIP.
Another harrowing account reported in ‘Tear Feminism out of the hands of the Coloniser‘ states how a fifteen year old Palestinian boy, in 2010, came forward with how the IOF attached a car started cable to his penis and threatened that he won’t be able to have children when they are done with him.
Given these horrifying accounts of systemic rape, we must refuse to allow the Israeli propaganda machine from weaponising women’s suffering and colonial feminism against the colonised. There is no relief and liberation for the Palestinian women without the restoration of their nationhood. Freedom for Palestinian women is intrinsically tied to Palestine’s freedom from Zionist occupation.
Unequivocal support to the Palestinian resistance
In times like these, where a revolutionary struggle for national liberation is making significant strides, the imperial west and its media will spout funded state propaganda in order to ‘demonise’ the resistance, all while suppressing the records of persecution that have spanned across decades and continue to prevail . Tara Alami speaks to this very demonisation, ‘Yes, armed resistance and revolutionary violence is at the forefront of the Palestinian resistance now but it was never the only form of resistance’. This is a ghastly reminder of 2018, where Palestinians in Gaza mounted the Great March of Return to show the word the ghouls of their occupation and day after day, as they walked unarmed towards Israel’s Military fences around Gaza, Israel shot 8000 with military ammunition, killing 220 palestinians and leaving 36,143 injured.
The imperial media’s attempt at decrying the Palestinian cause by leaning into the hysteria of exclusive Palestinian violence committed against women and other marginalised groups then becomes a very deliberate tactic to siphon off support to the Palestinian cause of national liberation.
In the past thirteen days, the Israeli regime has killed more than 4000 Palestinians, and dropped 6000 bombs in the past six days alone – which is more than what the US dropped on Afghanistan in a whole year. Amidst all this, there is a growing unrest within the Zionist oppressors that the world’s largest open air prison they had built for the colonised is starting to wither away and break down. The Palestinians have taken the colonial enterprise of 75 year long violence and turned it on its face, striking them where it hurts the most – occupied land and the lives of settlers.
The struggle of Palestine for national liberation is a shared responsibility, as global protests erupt across the globe. We have to establish a firm and unwavering stance against the rampant vilification of Palestinian resistance and actively debunk Zionist state propaganda/myths at every step of the way. To paint the freedom struggle as hapless evil violence is both grossly untrue and panders to the deep-seated racism of the west, as Tara Alami, a Palestinian student voice so sensitively and sharply puts it, ‘Freedom fighters are born from conditions that require fighting for freedom.’