For decades, Israel, aided and abetted by the American empire, has sought to politically erase Palestine from the map. Over the past few days, Palestinians have proved, once again, that they won’t easily give up their indigenous claim to and sovereignty over the land stolen from them.
I do not use “sovereignty” here to mean “the authority to govern a land” in the narrow Euro-American sense. Rather, I’m speaking of an authority to govern that stems from the deep, non-utilitarian connection between a people and their ancestral land – a connection that renders meaningless all other political impositions.
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That deep connection between Palestinians and Palestine is exactly what the Israeli state has long been seeking to erase.
Recently, efforts to normalise relations between Israel and Arab states, and especially between Israel and Saudi Arabia, have intensified this erasure. With every step towards normalisation, more and more people around the world, including top diplomats and politicians, bought into the idea that the Middle East has become a region where Palestinians do not matter, where Palestinian aspirations for freedom, liberation, and sovereignty do not figure into the future of the region.
Palestinians have, for decades, tried to put under a global spotlight the violence Israel has been inflicting on them on a daily basis. They recorded all the killings, the torture and the abuse. They catalogued the stolen homes, lands and other vital resources. They documented in painstaking detail how Israeli state violence deprives them of their freedom and dignity, and harasses and abuses them on a regular basis, in blatant violation of international law.
How did the leading members of the international community respond to all this evidence of Israel’s relentless brutality?
They responded with something much worse than silence.
They voiced their support, repeatedly and loudly, for Israel. They aided and abetted Israel’s colonial oppression and basically encouraged it to intensify its efforts to expel Palestinians from their remaining lands and erase Palestine from history and global politics.
Palestinians tried diplomacy, political advocacy, and all types of armed and unarmed resistance and protest to get the world’s attention. They pleaded their case over and over to anyone who listened, but all that effort has not brought their situation to a stasis – in fact, their situation has gotten worse.
As Israel intensified its efforts to erase Palestine and Palestinian people from Arab and global consciousness, Palestinians found themselves at a crossroads.
They could continue to try and plead their case, from within the confines of their prison, obeying the rules of those who imprison them, and hope that someone with some humanity would eventually intervene to stop their constant brutalisation. Or they could start acting in a manner that responds to the brutal, inhumane system in which their tragedy is playing out in accordance with that system’s internal logic.
Looking at the states holding leadership positions in the global arena – states that have a say over the fate of Palestinians, there is one clear thing: these states, including Israel, and its main protector the US, achieved their positions of influence, power and security through organised state violence. No state or actor in this current system can gain enough authority and power to ensure its safety and dictate its will on the global community by merely speaking of higher ideals. In fact, higher ideals are proclaimed in this wretched world order only to conceal the brutal violence required to gain and maintain any authority whatsoever.
As such, mirroring the behaviour of the states oppressing Palestinians through acts of organised violence emerged as a rational way forward for the Palestinian struggle.
Many label such actions by the colonised as “terror”, as if that violence is somehow worse than the much more systematic and thus far-reaching and long-term state violence perpetrated by the coloniser. Others say this course of action is “irrational” because the colonised are too weak to wage a battle of organised violence against mighty states whose capacities for violence cannot be matched by stateless, weakened, suffocated peoples like the Palestinians.
This latter point is, of course, true, but this is an observation that is not lost on the colonised.
The recent attacks on Israel from Gaza are not aimed at immediately liberating Palestine, even if that discourse is sometimes used by the resistance. Rather, these operations are meant to change the outlook and dynamic of the struggle. They are meant to shake up the current international consensus, which holds that Palestine is a lost cause and should be completely ignored and eventually forgotten. These operations are reminders – and from the viewpoint of those who call for organised armed resistance, the only ones that will work in this system – that Palestinians exist and will never give up their right to live as a free and sovereign people on their lands.
These operations will not change the current conditions on the ground for Palestinians. And it is probable that their conditions will be made worse. But they are not going to be made worse because of these operations: they are going to be made worse by the ongoing actions of the Israeli state, which is determined, regardless of how Palestinians resist, to erase Palestine and officially create what they already achieved in practice: exclusive Israeli-Jewish sovereignty over the entire land of Palestine. So yes, the colonised are outmatched in the relations of force, but in this colonial world order, the colonised have observed clearly and unambiguously that they only receive attention and recognition of their existence when they engage in organised violence. Otherwise, they are killed and erased anyway, and without states that can make a difference paying any attention.
This is the state of affairs that journalists, academics, and politicians in powerful states want to return to when they ask for de-escalation and calm: a slow, gradual, brutal erasure of Palestine. In this reality, there is no calm, there is no de-escalation; there is no break for Palestinians from the brutal yoke of Israeli settler colonial power.
I think that I can safely predict that the Israeli government, as well as politicians and foreign policy experts in the US and elsewhere, are now considering all of these developments purely in security terms. They will focus on the intelligence failure and other technical security failures that allowed the Palestinian fighters to undertake Saturday’s operation. They will focus on their continuing brutal bombing of the Gaza Strip. They will focus on their continued expulsion of Palestinians, their official annexation of even more Palestinian land, and the erasure of Palestine. In short, they will try and carry on business as usual.
But here’s the most important point: Palestinians will not be erased, and the majority of people in the region and many people in other regions of the world understand and support the just Palestinian struggle. The people of Palestine will continue to refuse this fate of erasure that all these great powers have determined should be theirs. People from across the world will continue to see their struggles reflected in the Palestinian struggle, ensuring that Palestine as a political story, a political vision, and as a revelation of the current political conditions and systems of power, will never be erased from the hearts and minds of people the world over.
This, and not the current configuration of the relations of force that favour Israel, will be what stands the test of time. The Palestinian revolutionary spirit that shows the foundational violence and injustice of this colonial world order and insists on liberation and the creation of an alternative system will outlast all of the powerful states who are currently ruling the world and plotting to erase Palestine from the map.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.