Israel has succeeded in turning the world against it
We are in completely uncharted territory.
Israel feels it has sufficient mandate from the West to slaughter Palestinian civilians by the thousands, including 4,000 children. Immense 1,000kg bombs dropped on densely crowded refugee camps and airstrikes on ambulances, schools and hospitals amply demonstrate utter disregard for civilian casualties commensurate with that of Hamas.
Israel appears to be doing everything in its power to discredit itself in the eyes of the civilized world. The Gaza massacre, preceded by the attempted sabotage of judicial institutions by Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabal of fascists and fundamentalists, makes a mockery of years of rhetoric by politicians on the AIPAC lobby group’s payroll about Israel being a democratic, morally superior beacon of progress.
In past decades, the only international voice that mattered was Washington’s, with European allies in lockstep. But in the multilateral 2020s, emerging powers throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa are queuing up to denounce Israel and downgrade diplomatic ties.
Huge pro-justice constituencies erupted in anger, even in the Western world. Along with electorally crucial demographics of Muslims, Arabs and progressive Jews, universities have become major crucibles for pro-Palestinian activism from newly politicized millennials. As millions pour on to the streets worldwide, right-wingers such as Britain’s interior minister have been furiously cracking down on civil freedoms to criminalize pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which she describes as “hate marches.”
The era when pro-Israel lobbies controlled the narrative is long-gone. Horrifying social media images afford real-time exposure to atrocities, while both sides simultaneously deluge us in disinformation and propaganda. All this further exacerbates communal tensions, with more than 1,000 antisemitic hate incidents reported to British police in the past month, along with an increase in Islamophobic attacks.
Elderly US politicians such as Joe Biden and Donald Trump represent a dying pro-Israel consensus, particularly with large Muslim, Arab and African-American communities in crucial swing states such as Michigan turning against Biden over his Israel policy. Obama warned his successors: “If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth. And you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit.” He added: “Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire”. Following this current catastrophe Biden will have little choice but to urgently bring Middle East peacemaking back from the dead.
The Democratic Party is inexorably trending toward its pro-Palestinian progressive wing, backed by the vast demographics which today are protesting against the Gaza carnage. These progressives will one day have few qualms about vetoing Congress bills for vast sums of Israel military aid once they acquire sufficient legislative power.
Comparable tensions have been playing out throughout Europe: Ireland and Spain are outspokenly pro-Palestinian, while figures such as Ursula von der Leyen and Rishi Sunak outdo one another in pro-Israel hyperbole. States such as France and Germany with large Arab and Muslim populations have been compelled to moderate their political rhetoric. Israel fought so vigorously against international boycott movements because it comprehends how catastrophic global economic isolation would be for a state encircled by enemies.
The era when pro-Israel lobbies controlled the narrative is long-gone. Horrifying social media images afford real-time exposure to atrocities, while both sides simultaneously deluge us in disinformation and propaganda
Such trends are too long-term to offer solace to under-fire Gaza residents, but they dictate that in years to come the Palestine conflict will play out in a context of growing Israeli international isolation. The full spectrum of global bodies, including the International Bar Association, have vigorously advocated a ceasefire, while stressing Israel’s non-exemption from universal human rights obligations.
The Hamas attack on Oct. 7 was an incalculably large psychological shock for Israel, ultimately compelling recognition that it will continue to face existential threats as long as it rejects peace-making. In this tiny state, sizable populations have been moved out of large areas of southern and northern Israel and other vulnerable areas, some probably permanently, but large population centers are still within easy reach of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad rockets.
It is the symbiotic actions of rejectionists such as Hamas and Netanyahu that have made a return to the peace table inevitable. Within both Palestinian and Israeli societies there is a need for recultivation of the activist peace camps of the Oslo years who can campaign for justice, peace and reconciliation.
Israel’s thirst for vengeance has empowered the exterminationist camp, which contends that the Gaza military campaign offers the perfect smokescreen for purging Palestine of Arabs. The former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, urged Israel to “create conditions where life in Gaza becomes unsustainable … a place where no human being can exist” so that “the entire population of Gaza will either move to Egypt, or move to the Gulf.” Netanyahu has been exerting pressure on Egypt to accept “temporary” evacuation of Gazans to the Sinai, while actively seeking to starve and crush a besieged population into non-existence.
All Palestinians seek is a more nuanced global understanding of their plight. Support for Palestine does not equal support for Hamas. Uncritical Western backing has enabled Israel to conceitedly perceive itself as untouchable, not only in committing crimes against humanity in the occupied territories, but also undermining countless UN resolutions and fundamental tenets of the global order. The 72 UN refugee agency staff in Gaza killed by Israel is a record for such a short period, while Israel simultaneously accused the UN secretary-general of “blood libel” and “justifying acts of terror.”
It had been a truism among Israelis that time was on their side. Arab states seemed to be losing interest, Palestinians sullenly acquiesced to year-on-year losses of territory, and once the 1947 and 1967 generations had died out wouldn’t nationalist sentiment likewise dissipate?
Instead, the new Palestinian generation and their global supporters are in many ways more passionate, determined and politically engaged than those who came before. And justifiably so, because despite all hardships and bloodshed, inexorable global trends dictate that time, justice, demographics and ultimately history are on their side.
The question thus becomes how soon far-sighted Israelis begin advocating the compromises necessary for peace, as strategic threats multiply and their state’s geopolitical strength ebbs away.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.