October 7th, 2023

Image: Brett Sayles


In the face of Israeli policies and the silence, if not outright complicity, on the part of the West, all Palestinians, and among them all resistance movements, face a fight against time.

October 7, 2023 will go down in history as one of the most dramatic and important milestones in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Something seismic has occurred and it could have enormous consequences.

One question I've heard about what's happening is: why? because now?

Let me first analyze the possible, perhaps combined, meanings of such a question.

The first underlying assumption, which may or may not exist and which may or may not be perceived by the person asking, is that Hamas' actions were not in response to any immediate provocation and could therefore hardly be understood.

A second element of the question, different from an immediate provocation, concerns the existence of “a motive” or “reasons” for the operation.

Reasons, in turn, are different from “justification”, which can concern the arguments presented to justify the action and/or to say whether the action can be seen as objectively justified, that is, whether it is a legitimate action.

Finally, the question may contain an investigation into the objectives of the action, what is expected of it.

A good starting point, I thought, would be to look at the way Hamas presents its reasons, justifications and objectives. Perhaps this is an unnecessary caution, but I want to make it clear that by trying to clarify how they (Hamas) present their case, this does not necessarily mean that I subscribe to them. This is not the time for me to judge myself; this time will come soon.

I start here because, in the context of what I have been calling “selective blindness”, we rarely know, in the West, what “others” say; We do not have access to what, for example, Hamas leaders say or declare, while at the same time we have extensive information about what Israeli and Western authorities express. More than that, we barely know the names of people of enormous importance, people who, for example, plan, execute and announce operations like this one that started two days ago.

The person who announced the operation and presented to the world the reasons on which Hamas based it is a man called Mohammad El-Daif or, in another spelling, Mohammed Deif. Despite being virtually unknown to the general public, he is the supreme commander of Hamas' military forces.

Born in a refugee camp in Gaza, he is said to have survived around twenty assassination attempts by Israel. On one of these occasions, in 2014, Israel killed his wife, his 7-month-old son and his 3-year-old daughter.

While giving a 10-minute speech on October 7 to announce Operation Al Aqsa Flood, Al-Daif spoke about Israel's continued disregard for international law, including human rights law; his refusal to heed warnings; the inaction of the international community; the crimes committed against the holy places and the people; the recent cases of settlers storming the Al Aqsa Mosque; the ongoing expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem and the West Bank; the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, etc.

A central argument, which contains the most important underlying justification (according to Hamas, once again) for the operation is that all Israeli actions are aimed at establishing fait accompli on the ground in order to make all of Jerusalem an exclusively Jewish city, to eventually destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque to rebuild the Temple. It may be important to point out here that these intentions are not kept secret by most leaders and members of the Israeli government. Therefore, there is agreement between them and Hamas on this issue.

Thus, in Al-Daif's speech there is a suggestion as to what the immediate reason for action would be, which would result from the recent provocations – the invasions of the Al Aqsa Mosque, the violence against Muslim and Christian believers, the violence against Palestinian prisoners …

But it is clear that Operation Al Aqsa Flood could not just be a spontaneous and immediate reaction to unbearable offenses. The operation is of such a nature and scale that it certainly required years of planning. Thus, even if the offenses were real and even if they were unbearable, they may have provided the opportunity for action that was thought to be necessary and inevitable.

So what is the real reason?

In the face of Israeli policies and the silence, if not total complicity, on the part of the West, all Palestinians, and among them all resistance movements, face a fight against time!

Let me develop the idea a little more, and here's me talking. The two-state solution has been dead for a long time. Everyone can see this. People should bury the body and move on to a different solution. At this stage, anyone who still talks about the internationally agreed solution, of two States living side by side, in peace, is either trying to ignore reality so as not to deal with it, or is an accomplice in the Israeli project of establishing a Greater Israel (in fact, if anyone does not believe that such a project exists, just look at the map of the New Middle East presented by Netanyahu before the UN General Assembly a few days ago).

Israel and its Western supporters, the United States at the forefront, by preventing the implementation of the two-state solution, have created a race to the bottom situation, in which the existential threat imposed on the Palestinians will necessarily correspond to an existential threat for Israel (at least as an exclusively Jewish state).

The Palestinians have been pushed against a wall: either they accept to continue being expelled from their lands, they accept to renounce Jerusalem as their national and religious capital, they accept to be denied a state of their own, they accept to abandon the rights of millions of refugees, or they must to fight.

And fight against time, because the Israeli project is being implemented right now.

The Palestinian resistance movements – and now, for those who so often ask, it becomes clear why they claim to be “resistance” and why I call them that – have a clear understanding of the fact that their conflict is one of Long term. This understanding is common to all forces in the region that unite under the banner of opposition to Israel, the United States and the latter's imperial agenda.

In this sense, in recent decades, these movements have gradually developed new military, intelligence, strategic and security capabilities and reduced the gap between their strength and that of Israel.

Operation Al Aqsa Flood inaugurates a new phase in this long-running conflict. For now, this can be summarized as follows: i) there is a need to stop the clock on Israel's implementation of its project of occupation, colonization and seizure of Jerusalem; ii) there is a changing international scenario, in which the power of the United States is being challenged and Europe is weakened, particularly in Ukraine; iii) there is an unprecedented internal division in Israeli society, an identity crisis and political disorder; iv) the plan to take the fight to Israel's home front, long in preparation, needed to be tested – in this case, Hamas was considered less capable of carrying out such a thing than Hezbollah, for example – and see how Israel and the US would react, therefore drawing lessons for the future; v) Successful as it was, the operation revealed an ill-prepared Israeli army and a very fragile internal front.

* Salem Nasser is a professor at the Faculty of Law of FGV-SP. Author of, among other books, Global law: norms and their relationships (Alamedina). [https://amzn.to/3s3s64E]

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