Against all Odds

Over the past week, 17 Palestinians, civilians and fighters, have been killed in Israeli air and ground shelling in the Gaza Strip. The rage came in response to a missile fired from the Strip, which hit an Israeli school bus, injuring two. Hamas took responsibility for the strike but said it did not know the bus was carrying school children.

Israel would not have it, unsurprisingly. It began to pummel the Strip, threatening more should the Palestinians continue to fire rockets. And if anyone knows Israel’s capability to carry out its threats, it’s the Palestinians. Cast Lead was only two winters ago and the people of Gaza are still reeling from its destruction.

The point is that yes, the Palestinians do rebel against Israel, they lash out and sometimes cause harm. But they, like any underdog under the burden of oppression, are trying to survive. They are also keenly aware –” even when they decide to shoot a rocket or hold a demonstration –” that they are no match to Israel’s army and will therefore pay a heavy price.

Enduring airstrikes and tank shells is not the only method with which Israel squashes the Palestinians. According to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Israel reached a record high in the number of home demolitions in the West Bank for the month of March. Seventy-six houses and stables were razed to the ground by Israeli authorities compared with 29 in January and 70 in February. As a result, 158 people were made homeless, including 64 children.

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said the policy was clearly one of "discrimination against one ethnic group," adding that, "The West Bank is where the future Palestinian state is meant to be situated. Its viability is being further eroded with each demolition."

Israel, in response to this clear violation of basic human rights, churns out its customary justifications, all of which are sheathed in a misleading guise of legality.

"The Civil Administration is responsible for enforcing laws regarding planning and building in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] … As such, illegal structures built by both Israelis and Palestinians are dismantled as a matter of course,” said Captain Amir Koren spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank. Funny, how no one ever hears of Israeli houses being torn down.

The bottom line is that the Palestinians are at a disadvantage no matter how the situation is sliced. If rockets fly out of Gaza, one can argue if this is a sound tactic to resist Israel or not but in no case can Israel and the Palestinians (even Hamas) be judged by the same standards because at no given time are the two sides ever on equal ground.

When Israel demolishes 76 homes in one month, the Palestinians have no legal recourse. On the contrary, the only reason they built these houses “illegally” is because obtaining construction licenses is close to impossible. When Israel’s bombs destroy homes, schools, power plants and people’s lives in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians must depend on the outside world to bring them some reprieve, no matter how little. Neither do they have a sovereign state or government to hold Israel accountable nor do they rely on Israel’s so-called investigations into violations for legal recourse. They have been given, in other words, the short end of the stick.

That is why it is so peeving to hear calls for “both sides” to practice restraint. This is not to say that the Palestinians should not live by standards that will allow them a place among civilized nations, but it also does not mean it should be treated as if it were a sovereign state and equal to the might and brutality of Israel’s occupying army.

For the Palestinians, the conflict with Israel is a constant uphill battle. But like little David, it is one they will not surrender, no matter how high the odds are stacked against them.