As the Israeli elections approach, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking new methods to empty Gaza of Palestinians. The most recent, among talk of intensifying future aggression against the enclave, is assisting Palestinians in Gaza to “emigrate” to host countries.
According to reports in Israeli media, Palestinian emigration would be financially and logistically assisted by Israel. This purported benevolence seeks to divert attention away from the fact that such scheming contradicts the principles of free movement, as evidenced by Israel’s imposition of its illegal blockade on Gaza.
So far, there has been little appetite for the plan from countries in Europe and the Middle East. It is possible that Netanyahu’s plan as disseminated by the media will amount to little more than a propaganda exercise in vote-garnering. Netanyahu has been harshly criticised by his opponents, notably Blue and White leader and former Israeli army chief, Benny Gantz, for failing to deter Palestinian resistance in Gaza.
There is however, no denying that Netanyahu is promoting forms of colonial expansion that normalise the violence inherent in the process.
The international community will not take any coercive action against Israel, regardless of its actions. As public opinion sways towards awareness of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights, Netanyahu is seeking to maintain Palestinian oppression, without explicit manifestations of violence.
And so, Netanyahu is attempting to find ways to normalise Palestinian displacement, departing from the violent foundations it has maintained in Gaza, notably the illegal blockade and widespread aggressions that perpetuate the cycle of an internally displaced and deprived population.
In fact, Netanyahu has long abandoned the Israeli preference for bombardments seen in Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge. Since US President Donald Trump took office, he has instead focused on oppressing Palestinians, and obtaining diplomatic justifications for his actions.
In May, the latest publicised bombing of Gaza brought Netanyahu the explicit endorsement he has been looking for – acceptance of Israel’s security narratives and justification for its violence. How much easier would it be to use the premise of Palestinian emigration – aided by Israel, to garner an endorsement for perfecting methods of forced displacement?
The plans to facilitate Palestinian emigration from Gaza are based upon decades of depriving Palestinians of a normal life. In Gaza, this has been exacerbated by the illegal blockade which restricts movement of people and goods on the pretext of security concerns. Furthermore, the blockade has provided Israel with a weapons-testing ground.
In short, Gaza has been profitable for Israel in many ways, especially when it was overtly pursuing the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the enclave. Lifting the blockade would have deprived Israel of the benefits it reaped through systematic violations of Palestinians’ rights and basic necessities.
The Gaza blockade is perhaps the most widely criticised Israeli violation. International scrutiny and Palestinian protests have highlighted its repercussions.
In negotiated ceasefires, lifting the blockade has been one of the demands made by Palestinians. The closure of Gaza has eroded all aspects of normal life and annihilated its economy. In the aftermath of Israeli aggressions, Gaza’s reconstruction remained hampered by the restrictions on importation – again on the pretext of security concerns.
The Israeli blockade and the attacks on Gaza have prompted the UN to repeatedly declare the enclave to be unlivable by 2020.
The obvious solution would be to lift the blockade on Gaza and decolonise all of Palestine. Israel, of course, will never agree to reverse its colonial project.
For its hypothetical scenario of Palestinian emigration facilitated by colonialism, the consequences of the blockade would need to remain in place, and if possible, be magnified to such an extent that Palestinian’ choices to remain or leave would be even more dire than they are now.
Encouraging Palestinians to emigrate from Gaza would neutralise criticism of the blockade, by purportedly offering a way out of the misery it has inflicted upon Palestinians, while avoiding all blame and accountability.
In addition, Netanyahu would be masking the concept of forced transfer due to deprivation by embarking upon the propaganda of allowing Palestinians free movement, never to return.
The only difference between these tactics and those implemented during the Nakba is that the latter would not be viewed as a diplomatically-acceptable option.
There is nothing voluntary about Netanyahu’s agenda to facilitate mass emigration from Gaza. In the unlikely event that the Israeli government finds countries willing to partake in his scheme, it is important to remember that the dehumanisation of a population would have sank to even more deplorable levels.
This form of normalised ethnic cleansing would also consolidate Israel’s earlier fabricated narratives of the Nakba, which falsely declare that Palestinians voluntarily left their homes to become refugees.
Haaretz has interpreted Netanyahu’s plan as confirming Israel’s forced transfer policy to the rest of the international community.
In light of the forthcoming so-called “Deal of the Century”, details of which are to be announced next month, Israel is insisting it will not allow Palestinian refugees to return to their land.
Since Egypt opened its border crossing, thousands of Palestinians have left Gaza, all citing the possibilities of living a better life. Some Palestinians have also attempted the perilous journey by sea across the Mediterranean. Both possibilities are born of the annihilation of the freedom to choose.
Israel is quashing Palestinian resistance by forcing Palestinians to choose between resistance and survival.
There is no chance of the former, if basic needs are not met. Israel’s perpetual refusal to ensure the provision of basic necessities is prompting Palestinians into drastic decisions.
Netanyahu is exploiting Palestinian needs by preparing the international community to normalise its policy of forced transfer.
If the plan is implemented, an even more brutal chapter will be opened for Palestinians in terms of their recognition and struggle, both of which will be overlooked to accommodate Israel’s façade in international diplomacy.
( Source: Palestine Responds)