Self-Defense, Vengeance or All-Out War against Civilians?

By/ Elsayed Zakaria Abuamer, PhD; AOCE English Unit

  • | Wednesday, 28 February, 2024
Self-Defense, Vengeance or All-Out War against Civilians?

     The Zionist entity ‘has the perfect full right to defend itself.’ This is a catchword that has been unceasingly and emphatically repeated for about five months now, since the beginning of the Zionist attacks, or more rightly war, on Gaza. This article inquires into whether these attacks are considered acts of self-defense, vengeance, or an all-out annihilation war. It is an admitted fact that self-defense is a fully legitimate right to any party that comes under oppression or attack. Let us first state what is meant by self-defense. According to international law, self-defense “refers to the inherent right of a State to use of force in response to an armed attack.”[i] In this way, it is a justification for inflicting harm on others for fear of becoming under attacked or as a response to being actually attacked.  

In the case at hand here -the war on Gaza- Hamas launched an attack on the Zionist settlements near Gaza’s border on the 7th of October, resulting in Zionist casualties and prisoners of war taken. From the Zionist point of view, there is another narrative. They argue that Hamas attacked and killed innocent civilians. They further allege that Hamas fighters beheaded some children, a narrative that went viral and was even rehearsed by high profile Western leaders.

Upon further scrutiny, the claims of Hamas killing innocent civilians or beheading children appear to lack substantiation. The Zionist authorities did not evidently confirm these allegations, and the reports of beheaded minors were later dismissed as fabrications. It seems this narrative was purposefully crafted to draw parallels between Hamas and other demonized factions, so as to instill worldwide apprehension assisting the Zionist objective. By portraying Hamas as a barbaric entity endangering all, it aims to justify eliminating this obstacle and convince others of this necessity. The ensuing bombardment of Gaza by Zionist armed forces, impacting over two million Palestinians compressed within the densely packed Strip, arouses grave humanitarian concerns given the intense population density and scale of the operation within this confined area (about 2.3. million people living in 365 km2 according to 2022 estimate).

            Now, a pressing question arises here: are these attacks to be considered acts of self-defense, vengeance or an all-out annihilation war? According to the textbook definition of self-defense, some may classify these attacks as self-defense, but when they are put in their rightful context, the situation will be totally different. To put them into context, two points are to be clearly stated.

First, the response or reaction should be proportionate to the action. In the case at hand, Zionists have launched a massive military campaign targeting a densely populated area. This should result in thousands of deaths and injuries as well as destruction of thousands of buildings. It is, moreover, not a one-day or two-day operation, but the destruction and killing have continued now for more than 145 days.  So far, the ongoing war on Gaza has resulted in killing about 30.000, more than a half of whom are children and women. Is this response or reaction proportionate to the action taken by Hamas?!

Second, the Gaza Strip has endured a siege for nearly two decades, during which Zionist forces have asserted authority over all Palestinian matters therein. Through harassment of the people and deprivation of basic rights, tight restrictions on movement have been imposed within and beyond the Strip’s borders. Such prolonged occupation warrants resistance, a justifiable action for any people subject to oppression. International law maintains that an occupying power holds no entitlement to self-defense. As Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special rapporteur on Palestine, states, "There is jurisprudence from the International Court of Justice asserting that self-defense cannot apply in a context of military occupation, as when Israel occupies another state and its people."[ii]

In conclusion, the evidence suggests the response extended beyond self-defense alone. By all accounts, the conflict has taken on the scope and severity of outright war against Gaza, rather than a bounded retaliation. The aims appear directed at dispossessing Palestinians from their native lands through any available means - a clear breach of international humanitarian law. The Palestinian people maintain their natural right to peaceably inhabit their ancestral home without incessant fear for their security and wellbeing. The international community should shoulder its legal and humanitarian responsibility, enforce law, and protect the Palestinian people.






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