Few Gambians, arguably, take the Gambia Action Party (GAP) seriously now. With the unending hifalutin “billahi just give me three months” rhetoric of its founding leader, the torrid long john scandal of its first presidential flag-bearer and the public humiliation on the streets and dragging to court of its leader. You can’t blame people for haemorraghing trust in the party.
But over the weekend, while the major talking heads and surrogates of the so-called more serious and big parties were engaged in trading insults and making barbed comments against political rivals, the Gambia Action Party, rose above the petty fray by issuing a statement calling on the government of The Gambia to break ties with the state of Israel for its destruction and murderous carnage against Palestinians.
Palestinians in Gaza face bombardment while those living inside Israel’s borders have suffered murderous attacks. Israel’s latest assault has exposed it as a racist, violent state. Palestinians who resist are challenging that oppression. People who say ‘both sides’ must end violence are really siding with the oppressor.
Two quotes from the past week sum up the regime of violence that Israel forces on Palestinians. The first was a chant by Israelis tearing through Palestinian neighbourhoods —“Death to Arabs.” That’s the murderous hatred towards Palestinians by Israelis who for more than 70 years have driven them from their homes.
The second was a threat by Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz to resistance groups in Gaza. “Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire,” Gantz said. “Only when there is complete quiet can we talk about calm.” That’s the punishment for Palestinians who dare to fight back — bombed into silence. And that’s why it’s obscene to talk of Israel’s “right to defend itself” while calling for “an end to violence on both sides”. In practice it means siding with Gantz — denying Palestinians the right to resist, and granting Israel the right to bomb them into submission if they do.
It also means ignoring the source of the violence. As Israel’s history shows, it is founded on racism and violence towards Arabs designed to keep them in a ghettoised minority. Its dependence on its role as the US’s enforcer in the Middle East has made it a highly militarised society.
Palestinians have no choice over the fact that, for them, violence is a fact of life. Inside Israel’s borders they face discrimination, poverty and harassment by Israeli citizens and police. In the Gaza Strip, there are young Palestinian adults who have grown up under siege. In the 14 years since Israel first imposed its blockade, it has pounded Gaza with countless airstrikes and waged three devastating wars. The latest assault looks set to become the fourth.
And in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, Palestinians live under a repressive Israeli military regime. Soldiers restrict their movement with checkpoints, raid their houses, and ?protect the settlers who attack them.
Throughout their history, many Palestinians have decided that, rather than living in a state of fear, they’re going to resist. Whenever — and however — they do resist, they’re met with brutal and often lethal repression that makes violence not only justified, but necessary. When Palestinians are shot down for protesting, as thousands were in Gaza during mass protests in 2018, it is hypocrisy to demand they be peaceful.
Israel is not “defending itself” when it bombs Gaza or shoots down protesters — it is enforcing a system of violent oppression. When Palestinians fight back, they are challenging that oppression. They have the right to do so — with rocks or with rockets.
The whole world should condemn the brutalities being perpetrated against Palestinians by the state and the people of Israel. The Gambia stood up for the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. It should also stand up for the Palestinians against the apartheid state of Israel.