The destabilization of the Zionist myth and the return of the cause
Sari Hanafi, American University of Beirut
Palestinian protests are rife, with Israeli reactions typically violent and take the form of mass killings and the systematic destruction of the Gaza Strip. But what’s new in the last round of events? There are five key points to be considered:
1 – This Palestinian intifada occurred not only in the occupied territories but also inside Israel – with the aim of ending settler colonialism and the apartheid regime. What pushed matters to this point is the unconcealed Israeli discrimination against the Palestinian people and their gatherings – especially in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood – as well as limits on religious freedom surrounding access to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
2 – From a social point of view, tension has existed for many years in Israel. The young Palestinians of Israel clashed with Israeli Jews throughout the country. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin denounced the riots in the country, describing it as a pogrom against Jews. The consequences of recent events are so crucial that this time will not be like the others. The rift is now within the Green Line between Jews and Arabs and adds to tensions between the secular and religious Jewish orthodox communities.
3 – Palestinians united with diaspora refugees: witness the mass demonstrations in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
4 – Demonstrations occurred in solidarity with the Palestinians throughout the Arab and Islamic world – despite the COVID-19 pandemic and, if not in the political arena, at least on all social networks – notably in Morocco, Yemen and Tunisia.
5 – Some Arab countries are equally uncomfortable with the intifada and the broad solidarity with the Palestinian people because the escalation of violence has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back onto the regional agenda. The uprising made it clear that the various agreements in 2020 between the UAE, Sudan and Morocco would embarrass their leaders. These agreements sought to bypass the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, to some extent, naively achieve political rapprochement with Israel without considering the Palestinian issue’s centrality.
Why did some people lose sight of the centrality of the Palestinian cause?
In recent decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict was considered to be of “low intensity”, based on a classification that always takes into account the number of casualties. This conflict is an enigma since the small number of casualties does not necessarily mean the weakness of the conflict; on the contrary, it reflects its intensity. Among other indicators that proved their importance here, concerning the spatial domain and the land: the uprooting, occupation and destruction of the spatial domain, which is called “spatial purification” (Spacio cide).
Since the emergence of the Zionist myth – “a land without a people for a people without a land” – the policy of successive Israeli governments has been to seize Palestinian lands and ignore their residents. This myth of a foundational character took root and appeared in a modern style, manifested in the policy of “greater land and fewer people”. This institutionalized disregard for the Palestinian people has fueled the day-to-day colonial practices of the State of Israel.
How did the Palestinians of Lebanon understand the centrality of the conflict?
In a demonstration in the center of Beirut, a group of Palestinian girls who wrote on the sign “Stop the war on Gaza and our camps” caught my eye. Why did they write that? Because for them, the moral centrality of the Palestinian cause is manifested not only in the restoration of Jerusalem but in giving the Palestinian refugees minimal socio-economic rights.
Is obtaining the right to work for the Palestinian a step towards resettlement? Is the possibility of Palestinian ownership after living here for four generations a violation of the right of return? Of course not.
Those who use the scarecrow of settlement are the ones who always start with expressions of their love for Palestine or their hostility towards imperialism and Zionism and their support for the liberation of all Arab soil, not forgetting Jerusalem, of course. It is as if they are telling us that the liberation of Palestine is achieved only by crushing and displacing the Palestinians of Lebanon, by preventing them from the right to work and own property.
I hope that the latest war on Gaza will be an opportunity for moral reflection on the gravity of the injustice that the Palestinians suffer, not only in Gaza but everywhere – especially in Lebanon.
It is no longer possible to separate the justice of the Palestinian cause from social justice and the yearning for democracy in all Arab countries.