OP-ED: Oppression is a Pressure Cooker

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Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.

I know oppression. I lived with it every day of my early childhood in the segregated South. And during that time, I witnessed the demonization of the oppressed by the oppressors – a demonization that intensified when the oppressed resisted injustice.

by Oscar Blayton, Esq., Guest Columnist

Because of my life experiences, I do not believe that it is hyperbole to say that there are some similarities between the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1960s and the recent violence in Israel and Gaza.

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While there is no comparison between the volume of violence that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the much more horrific tragedies resulting in such a short period in Israel and Gaza, both tragedies were created by conflict and perceived injustice.

Violence is never the first response of a legitimate political movement to a perceived injustice, but it is to ignore history to claim that violence is never legitimate. Witness the fact that we live in a nation that lionizes the actions of those Colonial Americans at the battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. We also salute the French who stormed the Bastille.

Given these historical realities, is it fair to say there can never, in any instance, be any justification for some form ofviolent response against the government of Israel by the people of Gaza?

The recent eruption of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza is being termed by some as a “Third Intifada,” a term used to describe the violence that has rocked the Palestinian people and the state of Israel for decades. 

While there have been several violent protests and movements in different nations that have been termed “intifadas,” the first intifada in Palestine began in 1987, when Palestinian frustration with years of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip boiled over. The violence initiated by the Palestinians was meant to “shake off” the oppressive Israeli occupation and led to more than 1,000 Palestinians killed and 130,000 injured. During this time, 200 Israelis were killed and approximately 3,100 were injured by the violence.

The second intifada erupted in 2000 and lasted for four years after Palestinians became angered over failed peace negotiations that included the Camp David Summit. The Second Intifada resulted in the deaths of approximately 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

Despite the many deaths resulting from these uprisings to this day, many Palestinians still believe that the only path to ending their naked oppression by the Israeli government and its militaristic allies is through violence.

So, given this reality, where do we begin to search for peace in the Middle East?

An essential point to be agreed upon in attempting to solve the seemingly intractable Middle East dilemma is to recognize the situation as one of “transnational belligerence.”

To get to this point, there must be an agreement that Palestinians have a national identity, and therefore, have a national community. If this cannot be agreed upon, then logic fails, and diplomacy is impossible. And if diplomacy is impossible, brute force will be seen as the only possible option.

Violence is never the first response of a legitimate political movement to a perceived injustice, but it is to ignore history to claim that violence is never legitimate.Oscar Blayton, Esq.

The Palestinian people have a fundamental right to have their national community recognized as a state within the global community. But the United States, for reasons too complex to unravel here, mulishly continues to block the United Nation’s full recognition of Palestine as a state. This roadblock to true Palestinian statehood paves the way for the oppression of the Palestinian people by the government of Israel. This U.S. roadblock is maintained more with an aim toward maintaining its regional hegemony than with any concern for the safety of the people of Israel. This oppression leads to violence and suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The loss of life in both Israel and Gaza is breathtakingly tragic, as is the myriad of other instances of misery and suffering that have plagued this land. But this suffering and misery will continue until obstructive nations, like the United States, get out of the way of a fair and equitable peace process and allow the better angels of human nature to replace the demons of hubris, and the desire for regional hegemony and global dominance.   

As of April 2022, 138 of the United Nations’ 193 members (and one observer) have recognized Palestine as a state. On the other hand, Israel has full voting membership, having been recognized by 162 members. This 24-vote difference is mainly due to the United States refusing to recognize Palestine’s statehood and lobbying heavily against its admission to the U.N. as a full member. By doing this, the U.S. has become a major roadblock to peace in the Middle East. 

The United States, by effectively preventing the recognition of Palestine as a state within the international community,has contributed to the conditions that result in the convulsions of violence that have been witnessed over the last seven-plus decades. Even though the majority of the United Nations General Assembly has recognized Palestine as a nation, under pressure from the United States, the U.N. has only granted Palestine status as a “non-member observer state.” This second-class status being hung around the neck of Palestine has allowed the U.S. and its allies to look the other way while Palestinians have been denied many of the basic human rights to which all people are entitled. By refusing to recognize Palestine’s statehood, the U.S. is, in effect, refusing to recognize the humanity of the people of Palestine and their right to statehood. This is a form of transnational belligerence. 

Transnational belligerence can include a wide range of actions, from embargoes to bombings. And, as demonstrated in recent events, it can include armed attacks across established borders or the disabling of the infrastructure of a targeted nation. Refusal to recognize the statehood of a national community is also a form of transnational belligerence. It is one national community denying the full measure of human rights to the people of another national community.

The current Israel–Gaza conflict that began in October 2023 has been characterized as Israel against Hamas, but the violence by Israel is directed against all of Gaza. And in a larger context, Israel’s oppression is directed toward all of Palestine.

Denying a national community recognition as a national state in this instance is a form of oppression that opens a path to further transgressions. But the state of Israel and its neighbors have been geopolitical pawns on an international chessboard where the U.S. and its adversaries have vied for political hegemony in the region for these many years. And this horrific slaughter will continue for as long as larger powers push forward their agendas in this region as they seekglobal dominance. 

We must come to understand that what we are witnessing is a manifestation of “hate that hate produces.” This is hate manufactured by global powers to create and maintain a political pressure cooker deemed necessary for certain geopolitical strategies. As we witness yet another abhorrent instance of genocide unfolding on the world stage during our lifetime, we should never stand by quietly. We must condemn the warmongers on both sides and the geopolitical strategies that set it in motion.

Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia. His earlier commentaries may be found at https://oblayton1.medium.com/###

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