The Palestinian struggle at the crossroads between barbarism and hope

Jamal Juma

Mondoweiss  /  February 1, 2023

The Israeli assault over the last month has left devastation in its wake. But, however grim the reality looks for Palestinians, this may also be the moment of change.

The past month has been nothing less than traumatic for the Palestinian people. 

The massacre in Jenin, ongoing invasions, arrests, home demolitions; 36 people have been killed, eight of them children. Adam Ayyad, 15, was aware that a Palestinian under Israeli apartheid is always a potential target.

The handwritten will he carried in his pocket the day he was shot began with the following words: “There were a lot of things I wished I could do, but we live in a country where realizing your dreams is impossible.”

Palestinians are enduring the rise to power of one of the most brazenly racist and brutal governments in the Israeli state’s history. 

As soon as Prime Minister Netanyahu had received congratulations from Italy’s fascist prime minister Georgia Meloni and Hungary’s far-right prime minister Victor Orban, who encouraged him that “hard times require strong leaders […] It’s time to do big things,” and had sent condolences to his “dear friend,” India’s Prime Minister and hindutva strongman Narendra Modi, the government went straight to work against Palestinians.  

The racist ideology at the heart of Israeli apartheid has never been so openly and unapologetically proclaimed. Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-proclaimed fascist, considers Palestinians ‘mosquitos,’ and in his manifesto, “Decisive Plan,” he outlines how to stop “chasing mosquitos but rather draining the swamp.”

Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir is best known for keeping a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers and wounded 125 others in the 1994 massacre in Hebron, in his living room. Yet, Palestinians face not only a despicable political ideology but its concrete effects on our land and lives. 

Let’s be clear — nothing of what Israel does or says today is new. 

Killings, massacres, arrests, torture, displacement, land and water theft — these are all longstanding features of Israeli apartheid and Jewish settler-colonialism, and have been on the rise for years.

The UN declared 2022 as the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2006. Israeli occupation forces killed 224 Palestinians in the West Bank and 54 in the Gaza Strip. Over 7000 Palestinians were injured in the West Bank. Since 2000, settlement construction increased by 62% and six additional illegal colonies were established. During 2022, 928 Palestinians have been displaced and Israel announced its plan to start the largest mass ethnic cleansing since 1968 with the destruction of over 8 Palestinian villages in the Masafer Yatta region, in the southern West Bank. 2022 has also been the sixth consecutive year of an increase in the number of Jewish settler attacks, which last year reached record heights.

The extent and brutality of the crimes of this apartheid regime are staggering, though unsurprising. Israel’s regime has been granted impunity for everything it did so far. This has allowed it to shed all restraints of political strategy or diplomacy. 

While the responsibility is on the international community, the price is paid by the Palestinian people. 

However grim the reality looks for Palestinians, this may also be the moment of change. They say that the night is darkest just before dawn breaks. 

A common cause against apartheid and annexation

According to all ethical and legal norms, Israeli apartheid crossed the threshold that calls for international action and sanctions for grave breaches of international law and human rights already in 1948, when it was founded upon the massacres and mass expulsion of over half of the Palestinian people. 

Yet, until now diplomatic démarches continue to deplore, condemn, and exhort Palestinians and Israel “to resume negotiations on the basis of a two-state solution.” Is there really anyone out there who believes that there is room for negotiations, let alone justice for Palestinians, if the Israeli government isn’t forced into them by biting sanctions and international isolation? 

Prime Minister Netanyahu declared annexation as the basic principle of his government, reiterating that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria [the Zionist term for the occupied West Bank].” Apartheid Israel is carrying out the Zionist dream of “Greater Israel” of its founders, advancing the de facto annexation of the West Bank.

After 56 years of occupation, Israel’s new government has largely integrated control over the West Bank into Israel’s national civil affairs and moved it away from Israel’s Minister of Defense, who would be tasked with overseeing a military occupation. Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of National Security and the Police, controls repression; the Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, expands funding for the illegal settlements, which are meant to replace indigenous Palestinians, who are being expelled from their land.

Palestinians need international resolve to end and punish Israeli annexation and apartheid. The United Nations urgently needs to reactivate its Special Committee against Apartheid, as well as other mechanisms to fight apartheid, such as targeted and legal sanctions, and a comprehensive military embargo. The International Criminal Court has to finally stop its delay tactics and hold accountable those that are responsible for Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity . 

Stopping Israel is now also in the interest of global politics.

We have always known that the struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people is a paradigmatic struggle against colonialism. Tolerating the forcible annexation and conquest of our land is not only a crime against our people, but a threat to all peoples and their national sovereignty, especially in the global south. 

Over the last years, the far right that has threatened democracies the world over has adopted Israel and its openly racist, repressive, and militarist policies as its model. The Trumpist gangs that invaded Capitol Hill were carrying the same Israeli flags that the Bolsonaro supporters waved when they stormed parliament and the presidential building in Brasília. Even though in the US and across Latin America, progressive or liberal governments have gained ground, the global fight against extremism, racism, and fascist policies is anything but won. 

Today, the acceptance of an apartheid regime that preaches hatred, dehumanization, racism, and supremacy, while bulldozing all rules of law, is a threat to all people across the world. Without any illusions about liberal democracy, this is a menace to all of us that believe in or depend on a human rights framework for their very survival. That’s the 99 percent.

The question of Palestine today is not only a question of self-determination of a people and a colonial project on our land. It is centrally enshrined within a dispute for the future of us all. 

As Palestinians, we cannot wait any longer. 

Crimes are escalating against our people as you read. It will get worse. No matter whether this current government continues or collapses.

We are steadfast, challenging the occupation, standing up against the bulldozers, holding on under torture and burrying our dead. The Zionist theory that the old people will die and young people will forget is proven false by the determination and popular resistance of the Palestinian people. Adam Ayyad’s testament ends with a hopeful plea ‘I just wish that the people will wake up.’ 

Let’s not forget: it is not difficult to stand up against apartheid. What is truly difficult is enduring it. 

Jamal Juma is the general coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall)