The Palestinian cause is having a 1960s moment

The Palestinian cause is having a 1960s moment

(File/AFP)
Smoke plumes billow during Israeli bombardment amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. Nov. 1, 2023 (AFP)
Short Url

It is difficult to imagine how Israel can declare, and relish, a victory after a three-week war against Gaza. What would that victory look like? Would it be the destruction of Hamas’s military wing and the killing or capitulation of its top leaders? The cost for both Israel’s military and the Gaza population would be unbearable. Or, will it be a picture of a convoy of tanks pummeling through the skeletal streets of Gaza City? A few square kilometers of a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip may also suffice. The war will go on as long as US and Western backing of Israel’s devastation of Gaza cities, towns, and refugee camps is allowed. At some point, Israeli leaders will be told to call it quits.

What is unlikely, though, is that Israel will manage to drive 2.3 million Palestinians into the Sinai desert. An exodus of that magnitude would be construed not as a victory but as the most extensive human calamity in the 21st century. Moreover, it would not bring security to Israel, or end its decades-old attempt to bury the Palestinians and their cause.

Israel’s so-called victory will become its stigma. It is already a bungled operation in terms of the horrific cost to human lives. If Israel is allowed to continue with its indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, the world will have to deal with tens of thousands of casualties, the vast majority of which will be women and children. The carnage may also come to a sudden halt. More than 230 Israeli hostages and their families are putting unprecedented pressure on beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his divided war Cabinet. The Israeli public is furious and wants a victory; a hostage return; an inquiry; Netanyahu on the stake; and the destruction of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. It will not get all that.

‘Free Palestine’ became the mantra of anyone with a grudge against the status quo

Osama Al-Sharif

Whether or not Hamas chose this particular moment in history to launch its Oct. 7 offensive, we will never know. But the timing was certainly effective. Israel was divided and weak internally over its far-right government’s controversial judicial amendments and the rise of an ethno-religious cult that was determined to dismantle the country’s secular identity. The West had become exhausted after pouring billions of dollars into an endless war in the Ukraine. The socioeconomic conditions of ordinary citizens in the West had deteriorated. People had become frustrated with a ruling clique associated with corruption and self-serving interests.

And then you have the social media platforms; a relative newcomer in the war of narratives, and the antithesis of everything that the traditional mainstream media was peddling.

A perfect storm was forming, resulting in a poly-crisis; chaos, where many parts were moving in all directions simultaneously. Who could have imagined that the Zionists would lose the narrative a few days after the Oct. 7 attack? Israel’s barbaric bombardment of residential towers, houses, mosques, churches, hospitals, medical staff, ambulances, journalists, and the entire infrastructure of a home of millions of civilians could be compared only to the Second World War obliteration of cities. And it was all posted on social media.

Israel had hoped to run the playbook of previous rounds of violence: That it was the victim — ironically, it was at the onset of this war — and that it had the right to self-defense at any cost. But as its initial allegations of beheaded babies and raped women were debunked, the world saw what Israeli shelling had claimed: thousands of Palestinian babies and children killed along with many more innocent civilians.  

This is a 1960s moment for the US and Europe, and not a 1982 photo op — when Israeli tanks screeched their way across downtown Beirut — for Israel: The double standards by Western officials have been exposed. Fury and condemnation had become a public issue for millions around the globe. It was not sympathy for Hamas — yes many did — as much as people’s association with Palestinians yearning for justice. Justice had turned into anger against capitalism, class struggle, racism, colonial wars, corrupt elites, and much more. In response, a new McCarthyism by the deep state will never be accepted.

Israel has become a liability to an equitable world order because of its impunity and exclusivity

Osama Al-Sharif

“Free Palestine” became the mantra of anyone with a grudge against the status quo. This was a significant moment. The status quo is collapsing. The world can never return to the pre-Gaza war phase. The resurgence of the Palestinian cause has been beyond belief. A “Free Palestine” has become the mother of all causes.

The 1960s anti-Vietnam war, anti-ruling class, and anti-warmonger movement spread like wildfire across the Western world. Youth demanded social justice, accountability, the rule of law, and an end to despotism in all its forms. The Gaza war has triggered a counterculture movement, whose reverberations will be felt in Western democracies for years to come, and at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Israel’s image as the constant victim is no more.

Netanyahu has already lost, no matter the outcome. Israel will go into a long and painful soul-searching phase that may, in the end, produce a new class of politicians that will accept the inevitable truth that Palestine will have to be shared with the Palestinians, and that Israel must distance itself from its colonial genesis and accept the fact that it cannot remain a forward military garrison of the West in the heart of the Middle East.

The tremors of the Oct. 7 failure will resonate for years. This was a breaking point that Israel never anticipated, though one it wholeheartedly created. There cannot be an apartheid state in historical Palestine. The Zionist, ultra-religious, ultra-nationalist mantra of an “Eretz Israel” is doomed to failure. To pursue such an insane scheme is to drag the region into a nuclear war. The extremists in Israel must be contained, and Zionist terrorism must be acknowledged as a threat to humanity.

So, where do we go from here? The West must change. Israel has become a liability to an equitable world order because of its impunity and exclusivity. Both must end. The status quo has collapsed. The world will be a different place after the Gaza war. Zionism and its apologists must be defeated.

Regardless, if Hamas is defeated or not, questions will be asked and answers will be needed. The current world order is going through labor pains and a new order will have to emerge. The West can no longer claim to occupy the high moral ground.

On another note, those who supported war crimes in Gaza must be questioned once the dust settles. Gaza is in ruins, but that is not the issue. What is at stake is the credibility of a world order that has been tested with the first casualty of an innocent Palestinian child. Nothing can redress the loss of a child, and nothing can exonerate its killers.

Palestinians may never be compensated for the death of thousands of innocent civilians, but a just closure of their century-old plight is still possible.            

  • Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. X: @plato010
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view