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If Gaza is gone, there will be no Palestine

From Jerusalem to Ramallah, to Haifa and beyond, all Palestinians must come together to stop Israel's war on Gaza
A Palestinian woman reacts upon seeing the corpses of relatives killed in Israeli bombardment in Al-Zahra in the central Gaza Strip, on 21 March 2024 (AFP)

Israel's continuing war on Gaza has devastated the territory, exceeding even the 1948 Nakba in terms of the numbers of dead, injured and missing. 

But while the Nakba shaped Palestinian identity, today, people across historic Palestine are not acting accordingly. While Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are clearly outraged by the scenes coming out of Gaza, I believe they have more to contribute to stopping the current conflict. 

Ending this war and rebuilding the Gaza Strip's social and physical infrastructure is not just about Gaza; it is about all Palestinians. If Gaza is gone, there will be no Palestine. 

Before the war, some people rightly argued that the Nakba had never ended. Israel has been gradually ethnically cleansing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank through illegal evictions, home demolitions, arrests, settler violence and army raids. Today, all of these things are happening at an accelerated pace.

Historically, Gaza has been at the epicentre of uprisings and disruptions to the status quo in Palestine. Israeli leaders' desire to see Gaza "sink into the sea" reflects this, as does Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's musing that Gaza is "the most capable among us of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort". 

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Gaza has been more resistant to ethnic cleansing than the occupied West Bank due to its unique location, population density and the absence of a direct Israeli presence, beyond the siege. But on 7 October, Israeli leaders saw an opportunity to get rid of Gaza forever - and they are doing it. 

So far, Israel has displaced the majority of the territory's population of 2.3 million people, and destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure, homes and cultural heritage. While children die of starvation in northern Gaza, Israel continues to bombard the area, obliterating any possibility for Palestinians to rebuild their lives. 

Collective effort

People in Gaza are resorting to eating grass and animal feed, while 1.4 million displaced people in Rafah brace for an imminent invasion. Palestinians in Gaza have been left alone to face all of this. While Israel is to blame for its genocidal actions, many are also frustrated by the inaction of Palestinians across historic Palestine. 

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has failed the people of Gaza. Its inaction speaks as loudly as its failing Oslo Accords. The Palestinian leadership has the power to increase pressure on Israel to stop its war on Gaza, but it has so far failed to do so.

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Since the war began, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank, and thousands more have been arrested by Israeli forces. Israel has been working to contain the situation there because it cannot handle three fronts at the same time: Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank. 

Gaza needs a collective effort by all Palestinians, not just for its own survival, but for the survival of Palestine as a whole. Should the ethnic cleansing succeed in Gaza, then Jerusalem and every part of the occupied West Bank will follow.

Gaza has been called the world's "biggest open-air prison", but I find that label to be slightly misleading. Israel has turned both Gaza and the occupied West Bank into massive concentration camps. Gaza is one enormous one, while the West Bank is divided by military checkpoints and a separation wall. 

People in Gaza are dying of hunger; we cannot stand still. Children are being killed by the thousands; we cannot abandon them

Dealing with scattered, smaller concentration camps is easier than dealing with a single large one. The task of ethnically cleansing the occupied West Bank is also easier because of the intense Israeli military presence. 

At the same time, Israel has been targeting and harassing Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are seen as another potential front. From Jerusalem to Ramallah, to Haifa and beyond, all Palestinians are part of this long struggle for freedom, statehood and the right of return

As Gaza has done many times, it is time for Palestinians across historic Palestine to organise more protests, strikes and gatherings to demand an immediate ceasefire and rapid reconstruction of Gaza. 

People in Gaza are dying of hunger; we cannot stand still. Children are being killed by the thousands; we cannot abandon them. If Gaza is left alone, there will be no Palestine. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Mohammed Mourtaja is a Palestinian from Gaza who spent all of his life in the territory before getting a full scholarship at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. He is pursuing a major in economics and a minor in Middle Eastern and South Asian studies. Mohammed is now interning at the Carter Center in Atlanta and has worked with the Jerusalem Fund in Washington, DC.
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