Al-Jazeera / May 31, 2021
The unity which Palestinians demonstrated in the past few weeks marks the rise of a new national consciousness.
After the latest genocidal onslaught by apartheid Israel, some serious questions have been raised, once again, about the usefulness of resistance and whether the outcome of the war can, or cannot, be considered a victory for the Palestinian people. Those same questions were raised in 2009, 2012, and 2014, when Israel launched massive attacks against Gaza, and even during the non-violent 2018 Great March of Return, when Palestinians marched towards the fence around the Strip and were shot and killed by Israeli snipers.
Some “liberals” resorted to the usual proclamations, blaming the “two sides of the conflict” – i.e., the colonizer and the colonized, and concluding that Palestinians must stop launching rockets from Gaza.
Once again, we were being challenged by those same “neutral” voices about the very definition of resistance. They fail to see, for ideological reasons, that resistance, broadly speaking, is not only the ability to fight back against a militarily more powerful oppressor, but also the ability to creatively resist the colonization of one’s land. They fail to understand peoples’ power, in our case, “sumud” (steadfastness), or even to see that it exists.
In other words, they accept Israel’s narrative, where there are “two sides of the conflict” with equal military power and moral standing. They reject the reality that this is a Western-backed settler colonialist and apartheid project which the Palestinian people are resisting. They also ignore all our moral “weapons”: that we are the natives of the land, that we have international law supporting our claims, that we have the moral high ground, and increasingly the support of international civil society, and others.
Edward Said once said that the intellectual is supposed to be, “someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d’être is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug.”
Those “liberal” voices that have been condemning Palestinian “violence” in the latest confrontation with apartheid Israel are anti-intellectual. They refuse to see that Palestinians are able to be agents of change in their present and future. They are ideologically unable to acknowledge Palestinian agency because they refuse to respect the will of the people as expressed in the popular support given to resistance in its various forms – in Gaza, the West Bank and the areas Israel occupied during its creation in 1948.
They are also unable to see the Palestinian victory over apartheid Israel in the recent events. They side with the Israeli fascist, ruling class who believe they “won” because they killed a huge number of “terrorists”: 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women, and 17 elderly.
Yet, none of the so-called “objectives” of the Israeli war on Gaza – putting an end to the rocket fire from Gaza and destroying the tunnels used by the resistance fighters and obfuscating any form of unity between Jerusalem and Gaza – has been achieved. Rockets are still being launched and the resistance movement proved to be strong enough to respond to the call to action by the Jerusalemites of Sheikh Jarrah who are facing imminent ethnically cleansing by Israel.
As one frustrated Israeli pilot, who bombed Gaza, said in an interview for the Israeli Channel 12: “I went on a mission to carry out air strikes with a feeling that destroying the towers is a way to vent frustration over what is happening to us and over the success of the groups in Gaza in kicking us… We failed to stop the rocket fire and to harm the leadership of these groups, so we destroyed the towers.”
But more importantly, Gaza 2021 bust the carefully constructed and zealously defended myths that Israel has been promoting for decades: that it has the “most moral” army in the world; that its Iron Dome is invincible; and that the Palestinians are just “Arabs” that have no common identity and would give up their claim to the land once the old generations die out.
It is obvious that those “neutral voices” that blame “both sides” are under the “spell” of these myths and that is why they see Palestinian resistance as “unjustified violence” and “terrorism”. But as Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire wrote in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed:
“With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence? … There would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation. Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons -not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and unrecognized.”
It is apparent to all but the Western liberals and the Israeli elite they support that the Palestinians have emerged from protests across historic Palestine and the onslaught in Gaza victorious.
These events put an end to the infamous “deal of the century” by re-affirming that Palestinians will not give up their claim on Jerusalem, put another nail in the coffin of the fictional two-state solution, and brought liberation and the rights of third-class Palestinian citizens of Israel and five million refugees back to the top of the international community’s agenda. They have also brought to the fore a new Palestinian consciousness that defies the ossified hegemony of the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The new consciousness formed by Palestinian sumud and resistance is clearly characterized by a rejection of the conditions imposed by apartheid Israel on the three components of the Palestinian people, residents of Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinians in the territories Israel occupied in 1948, and refugees living in camps and in the diaspora. Even more crucially, this is a rejection of the crumbs that are offered as a reward for good behaviour to a select minority of Palestinians.
We have been told to accept Israeli occupation in its ugliest form – the apartheid wall, the colonies, the checkpoints, the segregated roads, the colour-coded number plates, the forced evictions and house demolitions, the “security coordination”, the arrests, torture and imprisonment – or have a medieval blockade imposed on us and be periodically bombed into death and oblivion.
But the answer from Gaza, Jerusalem, Lydda, Haifa and the rest of historic Palestine this spring was very clear: the Palestinian people will not be reduced to only those living in the 1967 occupied territories. We are witnessing a paradigm shift from separatism, as represented by the two-state solution – which aims to establish a Palestinian Bantustan and deny the rights of millions to their land – to full Palestinian unity.
True, the Palestinian victory was very costly, but it was a decisive one. The Palestinian people prevailed over an armed-to-the-teeth apartheid regime and its American-made Iron Dome by breaking through their own “Mental Dome”. Palestine after Gaza 2021 will not be like Palestine before. The Palestinians have begun to decolonize their minds away from the “peace process” and racist two-state solution and with their sumud, they have brought the arrogant Zionist regime in Palestine to its knees.
Haidar Eid is an associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza