Uprising in Palestine

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By TARIQ ALI*

Palestinians have the right to resist the continued aggression to which they are subjected. There is no moral, political or military equivalence as far as the two sides are concerned

In December 1987, a new intifada broke out in Palestine, shaking Israel and the elites of the Arab world. A few weeks later, the great Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani wrote “The Stone Children Trilogy”, in which he denounced the older generation of Palestinian leaders – today represented by the corrupt and collaborationist (Non-) Palestinian Authority. It was sung and recited in many Palestinian cafes:

The children of the stones
disseminated our papers
they spilled paint on our clothes
mocked the banality of ancient texts…
O children of Gaza
Don't mind our broadcasts
Don't listen to us
We are people of cold calculation
Addition, subtraction
Wage your wars and leave us alone
We are dead and without graves
Eyeless orphans.
Children of Gaza
Do not refer to our writings
Don't be like us.
We are your idols
Don't worship us.
O crazy people of Gaza,
A thousand greetings to the crazy
The era of political reason is long gone
So teach us madness…

Since then, the Palestinian people have tried every method to achieve some form of meaningful self-determination. “Renounce violence,” they were told. And that's what they did, with the exception of the singular retaliation after an Israeli atrocity. Among Palestinians at home and in the diaspora, there was mass support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS): a peaceful movement par excellence, which began to gain traction around the world among artists, academics, unions and, eventually, governments.

The US and its NATO family responded by trying to criminalize BDS in Europe and North America, claiming, with the help of Zionist lobby groups, that boycotting Israel was “anti-Semitic.” This proved to be quite effective. In Britain, Keir Starmer's Labor Party banned any mention of the “apartheid Israeli” at its next national conference. The Labor left, fearful of being ostracized, was silent on this issue. A regrettable situation.

Meanwhile, most Arab states joined Turkey and Egypt in capitulating to Washington. Saudi Arabia is currently in negotiations, mediated by the White House, to officially recognize Israel. The international isolation of the Palestinian people appears set to increase. Peaceful resistance led nowhere.

All this time, the Israel Defense Forces have attacked and killed Palestinians at will, while successive Israeli governments have worked to sabotage any hope of statehood. Recently, some retired Israel Defense Forces generals and Mossad agents admitted that what is being done in Palestine amounts to “war crimes”. But they only had the courage to say this after they had already retired.

While still serving, they fully supported the fascist settlers in the occupied territories, standing by as they burned houses, destroyed olive plantations, poured cement into wells, attacked Palestinians and drove them from their homes while chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The same happened with Western leaders, who allowed all this to happen without a murmur. The era of political reason is long gone, as Nizar Qabbani would say.

Then one day, the elected leadership in Gaza begins to fight back. They break out of their open-air prison and cross Israel's southern border, attacking military targets and settler populations. Suddenly, the Palestinians are at the top of international headlines. Western journalists are shocked and horrified that they are actually resisting. But why shouldn't they? They know better than anyone that Israel's far-right government will retaliate violently, supported by the tight-lipped US and European Union.

But even so, they are not willing to sit by while Benyamin Netanyahu and the criminals in his cabinet expel or gradually kill the majority of their people. They know that fascist elements in the Israeli state would not hesitate to sanction the mass murder of Arabs. And they know that this must be resisted by any means necessary. Earlier this year, Palestinians watched demonstrations in Tel Aviv and understood that those marching to “defend civil rights” did not care about the rights of their occupied neighbors. They decided to take matters into their own hands.

Do Palestinians have the right to resist the uninterrupted aggression to which they are subjected? For sure. There is no moral, political or military equivalence as far as the two sides are concerned. Israel is a nuclear state, armed to the teeth by the US. Its existence is not threatened. It is the Palestinians, their land, their lives, that are. Western civilization seems willing to stand by while they are exterminated. They, on the other hand, are rising up against the colonizers.

*Tariq Ali is a journalist, historian and writer. Author, among other books, of clash of fundamentalisms (Record). [https://amzn.to/3Q8qwYg]

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the website Sidecar da New Left Review.


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