In What Moral Universe are People Living?

Some members of groups who are driven from their homes and off their land into ghettos or onto reservations, denied their freedoms, daily humiliated and periodically massacred, have been known to take violent action against their oppressors. Native Americans sometimes responded to European colonists in violent ways, which the colonists used to justify colonization and genocide. Blacks sometimes violently resisted the policies of the National Party in South Africa. I could provide many other examples. Jewish resistance in Poland is an apt one. It’s a very old pattern. Anti-colonial violence is the consequence of colonialism.

Even when anti-colonial resistance in Palestine dies down (which is remarkable given the conditions Palestinians have been forced to live under for decades), Israel provokes Palestinians to violence. After Israel pulled out its colonists in 2005 (a result of Palestinians’ increasingly successful resistance tactics) and the Palestinians exercised their choice and elected Hamas, Israel blockaded Gaza. Hamas responded to this act of war with rocket and mortar attacks. Israel used these actions to justify bombing and launching several raids into Gaza killing scores of Palestinians.

Palestinians negotiated a ceasefire with Israel June 19, 2008, and rocket and mortar fire dropped to the single digits during these months. In fact, in September and October the number of rockets fired into Israel dropped to one per month. Overall, there was a 98% reduction in rocket and mortar attacks. The rockets that were fired were from groups in opposition to Hamas. Israel did not live up to its end of the bargain, which was to end the blockade of Gaza. Then Israel violated the ceasefire in November by launching a raid into Gaza killing six Palestinians. When some Gazans responded to this provocation, Israel used this action to justify the Gazan Massacre. Even after Israel violated the ceasefire, Hamas attempted to renegotiate. But it was election season in Israel, and politicians needed to look tough.

Finally, while it’s true that international law recognizes the power of countries to control their borders, it does not recognize the “right” of countries to control the borders of other countries or territories not legally under their authority. When a country controls the borders of a territory, then that country effectively occupies that territory.

Israel controls more than the borders of Gaza. As news stories out today demonstrate, Israel has decimated Gaza’s fishing industry by progressively ratcheting down Gaza’s freedom to fish its own territorial waters. Israel restricted Gaza to twenty miles, then to ten, then to three nautical miles, where it stands today. The fishing industry employed 45,000 of the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza (the majority of which are refugees). With the disappearance of the industry, one of Gaza’s few sources of protein is disappearing, and since Israel restricts food aid into Gaza, Palestinians are among the most malnourished people in the world.

Resistance to this situation is grounds for more oppression? In what moral universe are some people living?

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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