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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantIsrael’s Fateful March: From Settler Colonialism to Genocidal State

Israel’s Fateful March: From Settler Colonialism to Genocidal State

Author: Berdal Aral

Affiliation: Istanbul Medeniyet University, Turkiye

Organization/Publisher: Insight Turkey

Date/Place: November 20, 2023/Turkiye

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 13



Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Gaza, Genocide, Settler Colonialism



On October 7th, the Izzad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas government in Gaza, led an unexpected military operation in Southern Israel: Operation al-Aqsa Flood. Within hours, Palestinian resistance fighters managed to seize several military bases, police headquarters, and towns hosting Jewish occupier settlers. For days after, they continued to engage in gun battles with Israeli forces in various parts of Southern Israel.   

Israel and almost all Western governments were quick to label this offensive as a “terrorist attack” by Hamas. Accordingly, the Zionist state asserted the right of self-defense, declared war on Gaza, and started relentlessly and indiscriminately bombing its inhabitants, which brought about a horrendous humanitarian tragedy. 

Challenging the claim of the Israeli government, Berdal Aral argues that the military offensive of October 7 does not constitute an act of military aggression as defined in international law. Furthermore, he states that Israel’s declaration of exercising its right of self-defense against the offensive is a travesty of the rules of international law on the use of force, military occupation, self-determination, and statehood. He presents evidence that the Zionist state breached the Genocide Convention, and questions its statehood and territorial claims. Finally, he calls for declaring it a global threat to international peace and security. 

Aral states that Operation al-Aqsa Flood was motivated by a variety of factors, all of which reveal the desperation of the Palestinians, who have been faced with extinction as a “political” category. This was partly due to the Abraham Accords, which brought about normalization between Israel and some Arab states, as well as the Zionist government’s attempt to fully assimilate the occupied Palestinian territories into Israel proper. The operation was also intended to bring global attention to the military siege of Gaza since 2007. It was also out of their frustration with the Zionists’ constant assaults on al-Aqsa Mosque and their increasing restrictions on Muslim worshippers. Other motives were the escalation of settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and the expansion of Jewish settlements. 

However, Israel and most Western countries labeled the operation an unprovoked “terrorist attack.” This gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the right to declare his country at war and to launch a heavy bombardment on Gaza from land, air, and sea, in an act of self-defense, bringing about a horrifying humanitarian tragedy in Gaza that saw the killing and injuring of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, and houses. 

This interpretation—terrorist attack vs. the right of self-defense—has little relevance to the situation in Gaza. Israel occupied Gaza, alongside East Jerusalem and the West Bank, during the Six-Day War of 1967, and refused to withdraw despite UN Security Council Resolution No. 242. As for Gaza’s case specifically, Israel continued to exercise effective control over it till 2005 when the Zionist state announced the withdrawal of its troops and the evacuation of its four illegal settlements only to control it in the form of de facto occupation as acknowledged by the UN, and other respected international humanitarian bodies. It is important to recall that, in addition to customary law, the UN General Assembly’s two historic resolutions of 1970 and 1974 declared the illegality of territorial acquisition by force. This is why Hamas’s military offensive against Israel on October 7th does not constitute an act of military aggression as defined by international law. A state under military occupation enjoys the right of self-defense as stated in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Palestine has been considered a state since its declaration of independence in 1988 and has been an “observer state” of the UN since 2012. The right of a people to liberate their homeland through armed resistance against their colonizers is a natural right. In contrast, an occupying power has no right of self-defense against those it occupies. Thus, Israel’s claim to the right of self-defense against the Palestinian resistance on October 7 is a travesty of the principles of international law on the use of force, military occupation, self-determination, and statehood. 

Since Israel has been the occupying power in Gaza since 1967, it is under legal duty to follow the Hague Conventions (1907), the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), and the customary international law on the laws of armed conflict and military occupation. These laws prohibit practices that aim to deprive residents of their basic livelihood. Yet, in breach of its international legal duties, Israel’s assault on Gaza became an indiscriminate killing and wounding of Palestinians. Its genocide against them and cutting off of their essentials for survival such as water, food, medicine, and electricity serve its strategy of ethnic cleansing through their forceful transfer from Gaza.  

Moreover, Israel’s actions against Gaza easily check off all the boxes of the Genocide Convention of 1948. Members of the Israeli government vocalized their intent to destroy the entire population of Gaza, whom they blamed for supporting Hamas. The heavy Israeli bombardment of al-Ahli Hospital, which caused the death of 500 people, was enough proof that Israel, in its cruelty, surpassed all previous perpetrators of genocide known in modern history.

In fact, the Zionist state’s creation is itself legally dubious. It was started by the infamous Balfour Declaration of November 1917, about a month before the British occupied Jerusalem as part of their war campaign in the First World War. The document was a clear travesty of the principle of national self-determination that constituted the very essence of the mandates system during the League of Nations (1919), since at the time of its proclamation more than 90 percent of the inhabitants of Palestine were Arabs. Furthermore, even though the mandatory regime of Article 22 of the Convent of the League of Nations concerning the A group mandates, which were established in Palestine, merely conferred on Britain the “right of administration” and not the “right of sovereignty”, Britain encouraged Jewish immigration to the land. Despite the majority of the population being Palestinian Arabs, Britain refused to grant them independence to govern their land at the close of the Second World War as it did for the other Arab states under the same mandates system.

After Britain decided to withdraw from Palestine, it brought the matter to the UN General Assembly, which decided to partition the land between a Jewish and an Arab state. This resolution allocated only 43 percent of Palestine to the Arabs despite their constituting 70 percent of the population. The notorious resolution was legally suspect on several fronts. First, the UN General Assembly was not empowered to adopt binding resolutions; second, it had no authority to create states; third, the U.S. exerted enormous pressure on some UN member states to vote in favor of the Resolution to the point that it threatened them—which is in breach of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Despite all that, Israel was not satisfied with the partition and continued to occupy nearly half of the territories allotted to Palestinians, which is invalid under international law.  

The legal dubiousness of Israel is matched by its continuous criminality via Zionist terrorist groups, which launched countless bloody attacks against Palestinians in the decades preceding the establishment of the State of Israel. The Zionist leadership was fixated on the idea of creating a Jewish state in which there would eventually be no Palestinians. The means to achieve that was through ethnic cleansing, which reached its climax in the 1948 Naqba leading that displaced 750,000 Palestinians. Thus, the current genocide can be seen as the latest iteration in the perpetual criminality of the Zionist network. 

Israel is not only an expansionist state; it is also a colonial-settler state. Since occupying what remained of Palestinian territory in 1967, it established about 250 illegal Jewish settlements.  It has also perpetuated large-scale human rights violations, including the continuous killing of Palestinians, denying them their basic human rights, and eradicating their heritage. 

The Zionist state does not limit its victimization to Palestinians, rather it employs strategies of domination and terror to any actor it deems inimical to its interests. This includes aggressive policies towards states like Syria and Lebanon, and threats to attack Iran and to use nuclear weapons against Egypt and Gaza. It is also viewed as an agent of American imperialism and as its reliable accomplice in the UN General Assembly. It is thus time for it to be declared as a global threat to international peace by the UN, as its impunity from punishment has only served to exacerbate its criminality. 

Berdal consequently concludes by suggesting various countermeasures and legal procedures the UN can take to punish Israel and its criminals for their current genocide of Gazans and their crimes against humanity. He also calls for embargoes against Israel to be brought to the agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 


By: Asmaa Bahy, CIGA Research Intern



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