A little more than 56 years have passed since the occupation of the Palestinian Territory by the Israeli Authorities, it is important to realize, and acknowledge every fact when it comes to addressing how things have unfolded since October 7, 2023. According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since 2008, until August of 2023, 6,407 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory, of which 1,437 are children, and 626 Women.
Since the beginning of the recent escalation that took place on October 7, 2023, the number of Palestinian casualties and prisoners have almost doubled. As of today, the number of Palestinians that have been killed since October 7, has reached over 5000, including over 1,100 women, 2,000 children as well as journalists, medical workers and first responders, with more than 15,000 injured.
According to B’TSELEM, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, at the end of June 2023, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) was holding 4,499 Palestinians in detention or in prison on what it defined as “security” grounds, those prisoners include children and Women, furthermore, 1117 of those prisoners are held under what is called “administrative detention”, which is incarceration without trial or charge, alleging that a person plans to commit a future offense.
As stated by the United Nation’s Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his remarks to the Security Council on 24 October 2023, “Polarization and dehumanization are being fueled by a tsunami of disinformation”, adding, “it is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum”. That being said, it is important to shed light on some claims that have been put forward by some media outlets and others, to only be reclaimed later by the Prime Minister of Israel.
While it is of crucial importance to note that any loss of life, regardless of where, is tragic, and must be condemned. Yet, we fail to uphold International Law in a just and equitable manner. Terrorism does not have an agreed-upon universal definition, but General Assembly Resolution 49/60, which seeks to criminalize a number of armed activities considered to be “terrorist” in nature defines it as follows: Acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.
Reflecting on this definition, which focuses on intent rather than the perpetrator, and given the facts listed previously, Israel’s, the Occupying Power actions, through the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, targeting of Hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, house demolitions, ceasing of land, complete blockade of Gaza, collective punishment, unlawful detention of Palestinians, denial of the right of Self Determination of the Palestinian people, denial of the Right of Return enshrined in General Assembly Resolution 194, and countless other breaches of International Law, does in fact account to terrorism.
Moreover, for Palestinians, the 1948 and 1967 massive expulsions meant families took what they could carry or was shipped in trucks, from their homes to areas outside the new State of Israel, thus making them not just displaced peoples, but rather refugees, and as of now 5.9 million Palestinians are registered as refugees under the UN agency created to serve the displaced population (UNRWA). Gaza’s population of over 2 million people, the majority of which are refugees, and as of the October 7 2023, 1.4 million of them have been displaced, with nowhere to go back to.
Finally, the lesson that must be learned after October 7 2023, is that managing the occupation is not the answer, ending it is. What is needed from Humanity as a whole is to put an end to this never-ending cycle of violence, achieving a just, comprehensive, long-lasting peace, which can only be achieved through upholding International Law, and all relevant United Nations resolutions without discrimination, giving the Palestinian people their right to Self- Determination, safe and dignified livelihood in their independent, sovereign state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its Capital.
Hazem Shabat is the Palestinian Ambassador to Kenya.