It is unusual to wish a foreign occupation of your homeland, but I wonder if that’s what Palestinians find themselves thinking today.
Palestine – An Occupied State
Palestine has a protracted history of occupation. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has been occupied by the Ottomans, the British, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and for the last seventy-five years by Israel. Since the British occupation the Palestinian state has also experienced land theft and is now a mere twenty-two percent of its pre-1937 area. The theft continues to this day – there are currently 280 illegal Israeli settlements housing close to a million illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands. Despite this painful history of partition and occupation, some are wondering how different things would be if today Palestine were occupied by Russia and not Israel.
Red, Black, White and Green Everywhere
Often cited as an act of solidarity it has become common practice for western governments to plant the flags of states inflicted by occupation across government buildings and landmarks.
If Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Russia would the Palestinian flag, banned from public places in Occupied Palestine, be hoisted in a visible act of camaraderie by governments across the global north? Denied their flag at home Palestinians would be elated to see it flying across iconic UK landmarks such as 10 Downing Street, the Treasury, the Home Office, and the glittering Thames-side HQ of Britain’s secret service MI6.
And it wouldn’t stop there. Famous landmarks in the US, such as the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, the Kennedy Centre, the Lincoln Theater and Niagara Falls State Park would be illuminated in the colours of the Palestinian flag. European institutions would follow – the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament buildings would light up in a salute of solidarity to Palestinian resistance. Red, black, white, green. Even Berlin’s most famous landmark, Brandenburg Gate, would glow in the colours of Palestine, proudly proclaiming “Ich bin Palästinenser.”
Meet and Greet
If Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Russia would Palestinian resistance leaders be welcomed around the world? In the first twenty months of occupation, would they visit the US to meet with president Biden, and present the US Congress with a battle flag signed by the defenders of Gaza? Would they visit the United Kingdom, meet with the British prime minister, address the UK Parliament, have an audience with King Charles III and visit the British Army’s Camp Lulworth – where Palestinian resistance fighters were being trained?
Might they meet with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf, address the European Parliament and attend a European Council summit? Would they visit the leaders of Poland and Finland and the Netherlands and Italy, before meeting with the Pope in Vatican City? Would they be flown on a loaned French government plane to Japan as the guest of honour at the G7 summit?
Would they address the United Nations General Assembly? And while there would they meet with: President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President William Ruto of Kenya, President Charles Michel of the European Council, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania, President Gabriel Boric of Chile, President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission, President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz and President Lula of Brazil? And then fly to Washington DC for a separate meeting with President Biden?
If Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Russia would 37,000 Palestinian resistance fighters receive five weeks intense training from seasoned military trainers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom at the British Gunnery School at Camp Lulworth, in an operation codenamed Interflex?
Would a further 10,000 Palestinians be trained in Germany?
Another 11,000 trained in the US?
Weapons and Aid
If Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Russia would the US commit some $46 billion in military aid to the Palestinians fight for freedom and independence? Or $26 billion in support packages to stimulate its economy? Or $4 billion in humanitarian aid to ensure adequate health care and food supplies for the Palestinian population?
Might 100 special forces personnel from NATO countries be deployed in Gaza and the West Bank, assisting Palestinians in their resistance?
Would Denmark provide 19 F-16 fighter jets to afford the Palestinian resistance air superiority?
Would the UK’s largest defence company, BAE Systems, set up a local entity in Gaza or the West Bank in order to provide an interrupted supply of weapons and equipment to the Palestinian resistance?
If Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Russia would the US and the EU lead a global sanctioning effort that would result in 10,000 individuals, 3,400 companies, and 490 institutions being sanctioned?
Might the EU apply eleven different rounds of sanctions against the occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank?
Would the occupier of Gaza and the West Bank be the most sanctioned country in the world?
If Russia – instead of Israel – had occupied Gaza and the West Bank how different it would all be.
But not all occupations are equal, some rot the West’s moral compass in ways not seen for 100 years – unconditional support is provided to the oppressor and not the oppressed.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals,” said Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant.
Gallant is no stranger to Gaza – he commanded Israel’s Gaza Division in the mid 1990s. Gallant is no stranger to spitefulness – he had a suit filed against him claiming ‘grave violations of international law were committed’ during his command role in operation Cast Lead (a 22-day military assault on the Gaza Strip which killed 1,400 Palestinians, 300 of whom were minors). The suit was filed by Yesh Gvul, a movement founded by Israeli combat veterans.
As I finish this piece I am alerted to a message from Gaza’s doctors: “We are issuing a SOS to the whole world. We are running out of electricity. Our hospitals are turning dark.”
Sul Nowroz is an immersive journalist and essayist giving voice to people and places resisting injustice and oppression. Key themes include colonial and settler occupation, protest and resistance, civil disobedience and direct action with a particular focus on the Mid-East and near Asia regions.