The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union Stands in Solidarity with South Africa’s Charging Israel of Genocide in the International Court of Justice

Since Israel’s escalation of their violent occupation of the Gaza Strip in early October, their relentless attacks on the Palestinian people have made their genocidal intent clear. As the area of Gaza considered “safe” from Israeli attacks shrank to the South and eventually disappeared, the barrage of bombs, white phosphorus, ground invasions, blockades, and continuous violence from the Israeli Occupying Forces demonstrates that the Israeli government does not consider there to be a future for Palestinians in Gaza. Statements from Israeli officials, such as National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s call “to encourage the migration of Gaza residents” out of the Gaza Strip, have confirmed this.

Recently, the United States has come out against these sentiments, and Secretary Anthony Blinken has said that Palestinians “cannot, they must not be pressed to leave Gaza.” This sentiment is nice on paper, but examining the “moderate” proposals for what should happen to Gaza once Israel’s aggression has abated reveals that the event “moderate” Israeli plans are just a smoke screen for continual displacement and genocide. Additionally, the mechanisms by which they would fall short reveal why the Palestinian struggle is connected to our work as tenant unionists fighting gentrification and displacement. 

The New York Times has reported that moderates in the Israeli government are now calling “for Israel to maintain military control of Gaza’s borders while a “multinational task force” oversees reconstruction and economic development in the territory.” Supposedly this proposal, which does not even have consensus in Israel’s right wing government, would not resettle Israelis in Gaza. This is hard to take at face value, as Israeli settlers have been building illegal settlements on Palestinian lands for years. A more honest look at what reconstruction and economic redevelopment might look like comes in the form of a joke from Israeli development company Harey Zahav which published “joke” renderings of Israeli beachfront condos on the rubble of Gazan homes. But even the company’s CEO said that while it was a joke “we want it to happen.” Harey Zahav openly advocates for prospective settlers to move to Israel and join their developments from other countries. One of their developments is Nerya in the Talmon-Nehliel Settlement; in 2016 the UN reported that Palestinians could only return to their land in Talmon-Nehliel twice a year for mere days at a time. This arrangement is not materially different from Ben-Gvir’s calls to “encourage migration.”

The idea of “economic development” in Gaza should not be seen as moderate, but as a promise that Palestinian land will be turned over to companies like Harey Zahav that seek to turn a profit on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians. Tenants in Milwaukee know all too well the effects of development; they may be promised the right to stay in their homes, but ultimately developers sell land, houses, and apartments to the highest bidder. We have fought with developers and landlords time and time again for tenants’ right to remain in place, and we stand for the decommodification of housing because we know that as long as housing is ruled by a capitalist profit motive, safe and affordable housing will remain out of reach for many. Therefore we condemn any attempts to frame the economic redevelopment of Gaza by capitalists as a “moderate” solution that would stop the removal of Palestinians from Gaza. How could a people who have had all of their material possessions destroyed and that have been maimed and disabled en masse, possibly compete with private investors in a market for redevelopment?

We stand with the South African case for genocide against Israel in the ICJ, and we reject the “economic redevelopment” of Gaza as a fig leaf for Israel’s mass displacement and genocide. We know that both the Israeli and United States governments are aware of the material consequences of economic redevelopment because we see the way economic redevelopment pushes tenants out of their generational homes here in the United States. The MATU stands firmly with the Palestinian people, their right to remain in their homes, and their right to return to their lands going all the way back to the Nakba in 1948.