People inspect the damage in the rubble of a mosque following Israeli bombardment, in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 Image Credit: AFP

Four months into Israel’s war on Gaza, there is no let-up. More than 28,000 were killed in a genocidal war, live on TV! And what have we learnt? Gaza is a test for humanity, one that puts the rules-based international order to shame. The war confirms what we have tried to ignore; that might make right.

So here are a few lessons from the war

Lesson number one: It’s about semantics! Israel calls it a just war. Has there ever been a just war? It’s an oxymoron. The rest call it genocide. Israel says it’s about the right to self-defence. Forced displacement can become “voluntary migration” in the Israeli lexicon. And killing fewer civilians now means “low-intensity operation” and “deconfliction”.

Benjamin Netanyahu says his army is the most moral in the world. But can allegations of genocide and morality walk hand in hand? President Biden calls on Israel to respect the rules of war. Are there rules in a war when hospitals and mosques are being bombed? Or when ambulances and medics are struck from the air?

Read more by Osama Al Sharif

Lesson number two: It’s about owning the narrative. Israel would like the world to believe that it all started on 7 October. The Palestinians say it’s been going on for the last seven decades. Talking heads on TV trade barbs, each defending a particular narrative. Social media is bloated with horrific images of dead children. Israel says it is collateral damage and that Hamas uses its people as human shields. The US presents its narrative: Israel has the right to self-defence, but Israel must limit the number of murdered civilians. What’s an acceptable number?

The UN and other organisations say Gazans are being subjected to the most horrific bombing in modern times. No food, no water, no medicine is allowed in. But Israel disagrees and says aid is going in despite proof to the contrary. Which narrative holds water? The winner can obfuscate the truth. But then, what is the truth?

Lesson number three: The media does not tell it as it is. Don’t believe everything you see, read, or hear. There is nothing such as objective journalism. It’s about who holds the most giant megaphone. It’s about money and influence. The media can be manipulated. Beheaded Israeli babies! No evidence, but few did retract the story. There is no independent coverage of the Gaza debacle from within. Israel prevents Western media from entering the beleaguered strip. More than four months on, and we are yet to see a Western journalist reporting from inside Gaza.

Kill the messenger!

Israel has killed more than 120 journalists in Gaza in four months. Never before has such a number of reporters been assassinated in a war zone.

Meanwhile, anchors and reporters who dare challenge the Israeli narrative are threatened or even fired from their jobs. How dare they use the word genocide or even holocaust in connection to Israel’s war on Gaza?

Lesson number four: The UN has expired. Israel is gaslighting the international community. Allegations are hurled against UNRWA — the only organisation that caters to the needs of more than 1.8 million Palestine refugees in Gaza. If Israel makes an accusation, then it must be true. The UN is guilty until proven innocent.

When it concerns Palestine and the Israeli occupation, the UN has permanently been neutralised, set aside, ignored, challenged, insulted, and finally accused. What does that say about international law, Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions, treaties. etc? If the UN loses credibility over Palestine, then how can it survive?

Lesson number five: It’s all about identity politics. Nothing is universal about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The US sides with Israel no matter what because of the “shared values.” So, it’s OK to dehumanise the Palestinians. It’s OK for extremist Israeli politicians to call for the extermination of the people of Gaza. It has always been “us against them.” This is a scary script for a world that is at the precipice of a major catastrophe: a world war, looming climate disasters, collapse of international organisations, selective justice!

What legacy are we leaving for future generations?

The sixth and final lesson: It’s about impunity. Justice is blind, but it can be manipulated. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ruled that it has found that there is a prima facie case of genocide being perpetrated in Gaza. But it did not order a stop of the war.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is worried about what is happening in Gaza, but it has yet to take action against Israeli officials. The bottom line is that for the victims of the war on Gaza, justice is delayed and may never come.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.