The Israeli campaign against Gaza poses a serious challenge to almost all concerned parties. As always, the main Israeli rhetoric is that the current atrocities started with Hamas bombarding Israel, and that Israel responded in “self-defense.”
However, this narrative could not be farther from reality.
Israel has always succeeded in subverting the truth and feeding its distorted discourse to the international community, constantly pointing the finger of blame at the Palestinians.
But let’s talk about the facts.
First are the prolonged Israeli military occupation, Israeli settler colonialism, Israel’s denial of Palestinians’ basic human rights (including the right to self-determination and national independence), the systematic oppression and abuse of Palestinian civilians, and the continuous siege and blockade of Gaza.
These are the everyday realities of the Palestinian people.
Secondly, we must address the recent events, which began when Israel invaded and violated the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the most sacred ten days of the holy month of Ramadan. Palestinian worshippers and citizens of Jerusalem were subjected to excessive, disproportionate, and indiscriminate use of force. This included beatings, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and the so-called “Skunk Water,” arbitrary detention and other forms of aggression.
At the same time, Israel’s relentless attempt to uproot Palestinians, once again, from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Occupied Jerusalem escalated. Simultaneously, Israeli settlers organized, for all intents, an armed militia, which was given the green light by Israeli authorities to terrorize and perpetrate all forms of aggression against Palestinian residents.
Only after these aggressive actions did Hamas send its rockets against Israel. And the Israeli occupying power acted as it usually does, that is, unleashing massive, indiscriminate, and disproportionate violence, using its cache of the newest American fighter jets and armaments against targets in Gaza.
The Conflict’s Carnage and the New Ceasefire
These actions by Israel have resulted in approximately 248 deaths, including 66 children, and more than 1,900 wounded. There is unparalleled destruction of almost everything in Gaza. Yet, during much of the conflict, most world leaders watched silently and gave their usual pass to Israel to continue without accountability.
The international community’s impassivity during the first days of conflict, which began on May 6, and its reluctance to seriously confront all of this carnage was an abrogation of the responsibilities of regional and global leaders.
Nonetheless, on May 21, 2021, both the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a mutual, simultaneous, and unconditional ceasefire brokered by Egypt.
The Egyptian authorities, American, Qataris, Europeans, and others took the step to push the situation toward a ceasefire. Subsequently, a broad and growing demand among the international community has been that the suffering and bloodshed must stop and the call for a ceasefire became ubiquitous.
The most difficult tasks have followed the ceasefire: ensuring adherence to the cessation of hostilities, the reconstruction of Gaza, and securing the necessary financial support as well as administrative structure needed to deal with the broader picture and push for a political solution. The goal will be to prevent yet another return to the same kind of conflict in a few years.
Israel’s Ultimate Goal: Disempower Hamas
Despite the current ceasefire, the recent 11 days of conflict in Gaza have been a result of the Israeli far-right leadership’s attempt to weaken Hamas while nonetheless keeping it in power in Gaza to maintain the division in the Palestinian national movement.
In recent years, Hamas has been unusually assertive. This was evident when Hamas linked the forced uprooting of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as well as the provocative assaults at Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, to actions the organization would take from Gaza.
In addition, Hamas developed surprising new military capabilities that exceeded the expectations of the Israeli intelligence services. Consequently, the Benjamin Netanyahu-led attacks are part of the Israeli state’s plan to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities so that conditions in the Gaza Strip can be significantly reversed.
In this way, the political assertiveness of Palestinians in Gaza will be mitigated, while maintaining the overall policy of keeping Hamas in control of the Strip to guarantee the continuity of the division in the Palestinian National Movement and Palestinian Territory.
Achieving this criminal and contradictory status quo is not an easy task, which explains Israel’s insistence in protracting its massive military assault.
The Next Steps for All Palestinians
Palestinian efforts have been mobilized to resist, contain, and stop this assault. However, serious thinking and planning is needed to address what comes next now that the smoke has cleared.
Change within the internal National Movement and the Palestinian Authority that would finally enable better and more effective performance on both the internal front and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is urgently needed. Palestinians must also be prepared for reconstruction and meeting the needs of the most affected segment, especially in Gaza.
If anything, the futile Israeli aggression proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the dismal failure of the overall Israeli policy adopted by its extreme right and the successive Netanyahu governments. This policy claims all the land of mandated Palestine, negates the Palestinian national existence and Palestinian national rights, including the right to their State of Palestine. This Israeli policy has unleashed full-scale settler colonialism and extremely oppressive measures.
Israel is facing not only a dilemma in Gaza but also a volatile situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and perhaps even more painfully, intercommunal unrest between Palestinians and Israelis in Israel itself. All of this raises red flags for Israel and requires a thorough review and change of Israel’s policy. In the coming months, we will see whether this will be the case from the Israeli side.
There is no alternative to recognizing the national rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to their national independence in their State, Palestine, and the fulfillment of the rights of Palestine refugees, including their right to return, compensation, and ownership of their properties.
Only when these conditions are met can peace prevail in the Middle East. Attempts to circumvent the question of Palestine and instead pursue normalization with some Arab countries will never succeed.
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