Gaza is forcing the West to abandon its old illusions
Shortly after the start of a four-day ceasefire in the war on Gaza on Friday, the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium, Pedro Sanchez and Alexander De Croo, appeared in a joint press conference at the Rafah crossing. Sanchez described what was happening as “a disaster,” while De Croo called for a “permanent cessation of hostilities” and for an end to the killing of children. Just as significantly, the two European leaders declared that they may decide to recognize the state of Palestine, even if the EU does not.
Coupled with the strong position of Ireland, some in Europe seem to be waking up to the fact that the Israeli occupation is the primary cause of the recent Gaza “hostilities.”
Israel was not pleased by this evolving European position. It immediately summoned the ambassadors of both countries and sharply rebuked them, according to reports. This exaggerated response shows that Israel is not willing to give Europe even the narrowest of margins — such as condemning the killing of children or expecting some kind of a peaceful settlement centered on Palestinian sovereignty.
Spain and Belgium’s indication that they may decide to recognize Palestine even without EU consensus is indicative of a foreign policy schism within Europe. It turns out that not all European governments have the same tolerance of the genocide in Gaza as, for example, Germany and Britain.
Palestinians have succeeded, through their resistance and steadfastness, in reasserting Palestine on the global agenda
Interestingly, other EU officials are also calling for a Palestinian state, though their intention is neither to ensure Palestinian freedom nor to safeguard Palestinian rights. The bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, for example, argued last week that “the best guarantee for Israel’s security is the creation of a Palestinian state.” Even David Cameron, the former UK prime minister and now foreign minister, used similar logic. Israel will not have security unless it guarantees “long-term safety, security and stability” for the Palestinian people, Cameron said.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the growing emphasis on a “solution” and rights for the Palestinians, this language was almost entirely absent from the Western political discourse prior to Oct. 7.
The truth is that Palestinians have succeeded, through their resistance and steadfastness, in reasserting Palestine on the global agenda. But how did Palestinians succeed in doing so despite the utter marginalization of their cause before the war?
Firstly, unlike during previous wars, especially those that preceded the so-called Unity Intifada of May 2021, this time around the Palestinians spoke in unison. Without rehearsing or even coordinating, it felt as if the Palestinian message flew seamlessly, when all Palestinians, regardless of their ideological background, placed the focus on the Israeli atrocities without falling into the trap of the typical factional blame game.
Even children who had lost members of their families in Gaza would stand bravely in front of cameras and state that they would never weaken and that nothing would remove them from their homeland. Young and old repeated the same logic and used similar language, even from their hospital beds.
This led Israel to do everything in its power to cut off the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza from the rest of the world, shutting down the internet, electricity and any form of communication, even among Palestinians themselves.
Yet, somehow, a clear and united Palestinian message continued, amplified countless times by an army of social media activists that impressively helped balance out the mainstream media bias and eventually overpowered the corporate media’s control of the war narrative. The Palestinians did this, and more, without powerful lobby groups, media consultants or a hasbara machine, like that which attempted, to no avail, to sway public opinion in favor of Israel.
Secondly, the factional Palestine suddenly disappeared. For years, factional narratives, which divided Palestinians into conflicting interest groups, thwarted the Palestinian people’s attempt to unify behind a single leadership — one capable of conveying, representing and defending Palestinian political aspirations.
All the Fatah-Hamas talks and agreements failed, leaving the people with no alternative but to explore different manifestations of unity that go beyond the interests of politicians. This unity is now on display, compelling everyone, including those affiliated with the Palestinian Authority itself, to adhere to the line of the people. While Gazans fought to free prisoners in the West Bank, West Bankers rose up in defense of Gaza.
This popular unity must continue, so that it will eventually be harnessed in the form of political unity
This popular unity must continue, so that it will eventually be harnessed in the form of political unity, which will bring all Palestinian groups together under a single leadership. This is the only way to ensure the tremendous Palestinian sacrifices and precious blood that has been spilled in Gaza eventually translate into the freedom that all Palestinians covet.
Thirdly, unity beyond Palestine has also proved critical. Arabs and Muslims have served as the core of Palestinian solidarity throughout the Israeli war on Gaza. They have protested, boycotted, fought and mobilized. Moreover, tens of millions of people, beyond the confines of the Arab and Muslim worlds, have marched in favor of Palestinian rights and priorities.
Indeed, whole new conversations on Palestine are now occupying public spheres around the world. The Global South is once more embracing the struggle for Palestine, while the Global North is challenging governments, big corporations and the mainstream media for justifying, supporting and financing the Israeli genocide.
The Palestinian people now have to lead and direct this momentum of solidarity so that it serves their righteous objectives; those of equality, justice and freedom — all enshrined in international law.
No public space should be left without engagement, no audience should be overlooked or neglected and no stone should be left unturned in the search for the critical mass needed to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.
Western leaders and officials are speaking out now because they understand that the Palestinian cause has become a global one and that the prolonging of Israeli occupation and apartheid will not bode well, either for Tel Aviv or for the West.
It is time for Palestinians to utilize this significant moment. It is time for them to lead the process of their own liberation. In fact, in Gaza, Jenin and elsewhere, this process has already begun.
- Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. X: @RamzyBaroud