Gaza has changed the political equation in Palestine.
Moreover, the repercussions of this devastating war are likely to alter the political equation in the entire Middle East and to re-center Palestine as the world’s most urgent political crisis for years to come.
Since the establishment of Israel, facilitated by Britain and protected by the United States and other Western countries, the priorities have been entirely Israeli.
‘Israeli security,’ Israel’s ‘military edge,’ ‘Israel’s right to defend itself,’ and much more have defined the West’s political discourse on the Israeli occupation and apartheid in Palestine.
This bizarre US-western understanding of the so-called conflict that an oppressor has ‘rights’ over the oppressed has enabled Israel to maintain a military occupation over the Palestinian Territories that has lasted for over 56 years.
It has also empowered Israel to neglect the roots of this ‘conflict,’ namely the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the long-denied Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.
Within this context, every Palestinian-Arab overture for peace was rejected; even the supposed ‘peace process,’ namely the Oslo Accords, turned into an opportunity for Tel Aviv to entrench its military occupation, expand its settlements and corral Palestinians in Bantustan-like spaces, humiliated and racially segregated.
Some Palestinians, whether enticed by American handouts or shattered by a lingering sense of defeat, lined up to receive the dividends of the US-Israeli peace – pitiful crumbs of false prestige, empty titles and limited power granted and denied by Israel itself.
However, the Israeli war on Gaza is already changing much of this painful status quo.
Israel’s constant emphasis that its deadly war is against Hamas, against ‘terror,’ against Islamic fundamentalism, and all the rest may have convinced those who are ready to accept the Israeli version of events at face value.
But as the bodies of thousands of Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom are children, began piling up at Gaza hospitals’ morgues and, tragically, in the streets, the narrative began changing.
The pulverized bodies of Palestinian children, of whole families perished together, stand witness to the brutality of Israel, to the immoral support of its allies, to the inhumanity of an international order that rewards the murderer and reprimands the victim.
Of all the biased statements made by US President Joe Biden, the one where he suggested that Palestinians are lying about counting their own dead was perhaps the most inhumane.
Washington may not realize this yet, but the repercussions of its unconditional support for Israel will prove to be disastrous in the future, especially in a region that is fed up with war, hegemony, double standards, sectarian divisions and endless conflict.
But the greatest impact will be felt in Israel itself.
When Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, gave a powerfully emotional speech on October 26, he could not hold back tears. International delegations at the UN General Assembly clapped non-stop, reflecting the growing support for Palestine, not only at the UN but in hundreds of cities and towns and in countless street corners around the world.
When the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who had spearheaded much of the lies communicated by Tel Aviv, especially in the early days of the war, delivered his talk, not a single person clapped.
The Israeli narrative had clearly crumbled, crashing to a thousand pieces. Indeed, Israel has never been so isolated. This is definitely not the ‘New Middle East’ that Netanyahu had prophesied in his UNGA talk on September 22.
Unable to fathom how the initial sympathy with Israel quickly turned into outright disdain, Israel resorted to old tactics.
On October 25, Erdan demanded the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres resign for being “unfit to lead the UN.” Guterres’ supposedly unforgivable crime suggests that “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.”
As far as Israel and its American benefactors are concerned, no context is allowed to taint the perfect image that Israel has created for its genocide in Gaza. In this perfect Israeli world, no one is allowed to speak of military occupation, siege, the lack of political prospects, or the absence of a just peace for Palestinians.
Even though Amnesty International has said in its statement that both sides had committed “serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” Israel still attacked it, accusing the group of being ‘anti-Semitic.’
Because, in Israel’s thinking, even the world’s leading international human rights group is not permitted to contextualize the atrocities in Gaza or dare suggest that one of the “root causes” of the conflict was “Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians.”
Israel is no longer all-powerful, as it wants us to believe. Recent events have proven that Israel’s ‘invincible army’ – a brand that allowed Israel to become, as of 2022, the world’s tenth-largest international military exporter – turned out to be a paper tiger.
This is what is infuriating Israel the most. “Muslims are not afraid of us anymore,” said former Knesset member Moshe Feiglin in an interview with Arutz Sheva-Israel National News. To restore this fear, the Israeli extremist politician has called for burning “Gaza to ashes immediately.”
But nothing will turn Gaza into ashes, even if the over 12,000 tons of explosives dropped on the Strip in the first two weeks of war have already incinerated at least 45 percent of the housing units in the Strip, according to the UN’s humanitarian office.
Gaza will not die because it is a powerful idea that is deeply entrenched within the hearts and minds of every Arab, every Muslim and millions of people around the world.
This new idea is challenging the long-held belief that the world needs to cater to Israel’s priorities, security, selfish definitions of peace and all other illusions.
The discussion should now return to where it should have always been – the priorities of the oppressed, not the oppressor.
It is time that we speak about Palestinian rights, Palestinian security and the Palestinian people’s right, in fact, obligation, to defend themselves.
It is time for us to speak about justice – real justice – the outcome of which is non-negotiable: equality, full political rights, freedom and the right of return.
Gaza has told us all of this and much more. And it is time for us to listen.
Feature photo | A mother and daughter cry at a rally in Palestine, November 1, 2023 | Sipa via AP
Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net