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Israel-Palestine war: Mass slaughter in Gaza lays bare the depth of western racism

Support for the brutal, indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza finds its roots in the historical context of western settler-colonialism
A Palestinian girl reacts in the aftermath of a strike amid the conflict with Israel in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 12 October, 2023 (Reuters)

In a stunning turn of events, Palestinian fighters on the weekend launched a devastating offensive against their Israeli occupier, moving through around 80 breaches in the fence surrounding Gaza and targeting more than 20 settlements, towns and villages. 

They hit Israeli army bases, killed hundreds of people, and brought dozens of hostages back to Gaza. The developments left western mainstream media and self-proclaimed “Middle East experts” in a state of bewilderment and astonishment. 

For years, many western analysts and politicians have dedicated their careers to the complex “Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, bestowing upon us one Orientalist narrative after another, while failing to accurately frame the realities of settler-colonialism. 

Today, in the face of the latest developments, they find themselves flabbergasted, struggling to discern the trajectory of events and the potential outcomes. This sudden uncertainty underscores the limitations of the western perspective when it comes to understanding the aspirations of a people subjected to oppression. 

The struggle for freedom and liberation appears to be an elusive notion that remains beyond the scope of mainstream western comprehension. And yet, this is a straightforward and simple matter. 

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The Palestinian fighters' attacks over the weekend have shown remarkable advancements in their combat prowess, intelligence capabilities and strategic coordination. All of this culminated in their ability to thwart one of the region’s strongest armies, which is backed by the US, the world’s most powerful military force.

This was accomplished despite decades of Israeli occupation and a 16-year siege on Gaza, highlighting the power of resistance. And in the days that followed, the true face of western fascism has emerged.

Facade shattered

In an instant, the unprecedented assault by Palestinian fighters against Israel shattered the facade of years of western advocacy for human rights, democracy and a moral high ground in the Middle East. Seemingly overnight, western governments coalesced in support of mass violence against Palestinian civilians, with some even enthusiastically endorsing it.

For decades, western governments have remained silent over footage of bodies of Palestinian children killed at the hands of the Israeli army. Today, they appear to have decided that all Palestinians and their children deserve genocide because Palestinians chose to fight back.

One fundamental question lies at the heart of all this: When will the West stop weaponising and unleashing its racism against the Arab world?

Frantz Fanon’s perspective on decolonisation highlights the complex issue of some combatants committing crimes in the course of anti-colonial resistance.

Fanon, a vigorous supporter of Algeria’s war of independence from France, did not justify such actions, but rather contextualised them against the backdrop of colonialism, psychological factors and the inherent power imbalances at play. 

Europeans are well aware of the concept of resistance, having celebrated their own resistance movements in World War II and other historical conflicts. Those who fought such battles are commemorated as heroes in European history books.

There is thus no reason why western politicians, journalists and analysts cannot grasp, let alone empathise with, the Palestinian pursuit of freedom. 

Dehumanising the 'Other'

One fundamental question lies at the heart of all this: when will the West stop weaponising and unleashing its racism against the Arab world? 

The brutal, indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza, supported by western powers, finds its roots in the historical context of western settler-colonialism. It was not until 2020 that the French handed over to Algiers 24 skulls of Algerian resistance fighters, which had been stored in a Paris museum. 

Israel-Palestine war: The blood of Gaza is on the West’s hands as much as Israel’s
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Just a week ago, the Dutch government restored the honour of Curacao’s resistance hero, Tula, more than two centuries after he led a slave revolt and was publicly executed. Earlier this year, the king of the Netherlands apologised for his country’s role in the brutally exploitative slave trade; of course, this is little more than a footnote, as none of the country’s cruel colonial history is reflected in school books.

In 2022, Belgium’s King Philippe reaffirmed his deep regrets over the exploitation, racism and violence that occurred during his country’s colonisation of the Congo, but stopped short of apologising. During Belgian colonial rule, Congolese hands were “systematically amputated” when enslaved Africans failed to meet quotas for extracting rubber; the hands were then preserved so they could be counted and documented. 

And until 1990, Britain, France and the US were the toughest defenders of South Africa’s apartheid regime, successfully watering down any proposals from the international community to end the institutionalised system of racial segregation. These are the same countries that today fully support, diplomatically and militarily, the Israeli apartheid regime. 

As Edward Said told us, the term “Orient” was created by the West, and the concept of the West itself revolves around the notion of the “Other”. Mobilisations of fear, hatred, disgust, pride and arrogance - much pertaining to Islam and Arabs on one side, and “we” westerners on the other - aim to cover up the deeply ingrained racism within the cultural fabric of settler-colonial societies, as exemplified by Israel. 

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Furthermore, Europe’s unequivocal backing of the Israeli apartheid regime serves as a reminder that the continent itself has yet to fully address its own racial biases towards colonised peoples. 

This has been laid bare over the past several days as western journalists, politicians, academics and analysts have openly expressed their racist, settler-colonial mentality by systemically dehumanising Palestinian victims and glorifying colonial violence against innocent civilians in Gaza. 

Israeli flags have been hoisted in western capitals; the US has sent its Ford carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean; and rounds of financial and military assistance have been flying off the counter. Israel is the last settler colony in Asia and Africa, and its survival is crucial to the American and European crusade against the “hordes” of non-European “barbarians” who insist on resisting colonial rule. 

While Israel has shed Palestinian blood since its inception, western audiences and governments have been immune to it. The mass slaughter underway in Gaza reflects the underlying racism prevalent in western societies - hatred from which Palestinians want to break free.

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

Hanine Hassan is a fellow at the Palestine Land Studies Center at the American University of Beirut. She tweets @Hanine09
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