By Tariq Shadid
Among Palestinians, many consider the recent cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians to be a victory for the resistance. For those looking on from the outside, this response may be quite puzzling.
How can a people claim victory when 2145 of their citizens have lost their lives under Israeli shelling and bombing, the vast majority of them civilians, and a staggering 578 among them children? Is this idea of ‘victory’ merely Hamas capitalizing on a cease-fire that suits it quite well, in order to increase its popularity? Is it the irrational response of a people traumatized by years of siege, and some of the most intense bombing of civilian areas history has ever seen, to an end to 50 days of hell on earth? Or is there more to it?
To begin with, we must understand that the mood of today cannot be judged by the past two months alone, but must be seen in the context of a long history of struggle against injustice and occupation. This is not the first time that Gaza has been subjected to massive atrocities, nor the first time in history that Israel has ruthlessly unleashed its military might upon the Palestinian people as a whole.
More than 1 million of the inhabitants of Gaza, which in total has about 1.8 million people living in it, are not originally from Gaza but were violently expelled from other parts of Palestine in 1948, the year of the Nakba. This means that the majority of its people are refugees and their descendants, carrying with them the burden of involuntary displacement and exile. This continuum of injustice and struggle plays an important role in how Palestinians tend to view and respond to tragedy and violence.
Since over 6 and a half years, the population has been living under an Israeli-imposed siege, further amplified by the Egyptian closure of the Rafah border. In March 2008, airstrikes and shelling by Israel took the lives of 110 Palestinians, half of them civilians, and this was followed in December of that year by the infamous 2008/2009 massive Israeli assault on Gaza which lasted 22 days, and claimed the lives of over 1400 Palestinians.
The continuing blockade subjected the Palestinians of Gaza to poverty, poor hygienic conditions, shortages of medicine and food, and a nerve-wracking paralysis of ordinary life, due to long periods of inability to travel abroad, power cuts and water shortages. Gaza managed to keep itself going by digging an impressive network of smuggling tunnels into Egypt, which made it possible to circumvent some of the restrictions imposed by the blockade. Despite repeated Egyptian attempts to disrupt the passage of contraband by destroying hundreds of tunnels, new ones were continually being dug, typical of the almost proverbial determination of the Palestinians to survive under the harshest of conditions.
On top of this desperate situation of continued siege and deprivation, it was only a matter of time before there would be another bout of Israeli violence against the territory, and most inhabitants of Gaza were well aware of this. However, what surprised both friend and foe was the ability to strike back at the Zionist invaders that was displayed by Hamas and the other guerrilla factions of the Palestinian resistance. While Israel may have expected a walkover, instead it met with fierce resistance, cunning defensive strategies and a solid Palestinian determination to repel its violent invasion.
While media and politicians in the West were keen to echo Israeli state spokesmen in their deceitful portrayal and reporting of the hostilities, social media played a vital role in relaying the truth to the masses across the world. Despite paying thousands of Zionist students good sums of money to counter this social media wave, Israel was unable to prevent the bitter truth of genocidal child-murder by its forces from reaching the crowds around the world. The result was an unprecedented showing in the streets in capitals around the world of huge demonstrations by thousands of protesters, including the largest ever pro-Palestine demonstration in London, bringing over 150,000 protesters to the streets.
The overwhelmingly pro-Israeli media in the West tried their best to downplay this powerful popular response by strongly limiting coverage of these events, but again, the massive pro-Palestinian social media network across the world managed to put their ardent efforts to cover things up, to shame. Eventually, it proved impossible for human rights organizations to remain silent, if only to maintain their credibility among the crowds of the world community, leading to widespread condemnation of the unimaginable atrocities committed by the forces of the Zionist entity against the civilian Palestinian population.
There can be no doubt about it: Israel, by its 2014 attack on Gaza, suffered its biggest PR-defeat in its entire history. It stood unmasked before the world in all its racism, its ruthless violence against civilians, its reckless disdain for non-Jewish human life, and its wilful targeting of women and children as its primary objective in its blood-thirsty assault. It was the determination of the Palestinians to hold their ground that won the hearts of the majority of the world community all across the globe, despite massive efforts by Zionist-affiliated corporate media to portray the Palestinians as terrorists who deserved to be annihilated. Apparently, the world community could not be fooled into believing that small children whose bodies lay strewn across the streets of Gaza, were the dreadful forces of terrorism that Israel claimed to be fighting and defeating.
Of course, news of the cease-fire caused exhilarated joy all across Gaza, and sent people dancing and cheering in the streets. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize how people must feel after 50 days of fearing for their lives, knowing they have nowhere to hide from murderous missiles and mortars that could rain down upon them at any given time, including in their sleep. Still, those looking on would not have missed the widespread sense of victory that was felt by Palestinians both in Gaza and outside of it.
As summed up above, the history of these resilient people, the hardships and carnage they had already witnessed in their lives, the powerful response of solidarity of ordinary citizens around the world with their plight, and the relief of 50 days of anxiety, stress and sorrow, all contributed to this feeling. Still, there is more.
This Pyrrhic victory of the Palestinians showed the Israeli occupier that his overwhelming military might does not enable him to pick and choose any objective he sets out to achieve, and consider it a done deal. It showed the forces of Zionism that the Palestinian resistance has grown into a force to be reckoned with, despite even the limitless military supplies that are at the disposal of the Zionist entity, thanks to their American benefactors. It showed the forces that ally themselves with Israel that it is not as easy as they thought to demonize the Palestinians, and that the majority of the population of the world is well aware that Israel is not the victim, but the aggressor, and a terrifyingly blood-thirsty one at that.
Before ‘Operation Genocidal Edge’, many world citizens were not aware of the ideological drive of Israeli ethnic supremacism. Currently, these same previously confused people have woken up to the fact that all of this violence stems from a racist ideology known as Zionism, and millions around the world have ventured to dig into its history for the first time in their lives, and discovered its shocking facts.
When Abu Obayda, Hamas spokesman, stepped up to engage Palestinian and other Arab media with a speech about the cease-fire on August 27, he made it clear that this was not a victory speech, but that the real victory speech would someday be held from the Al Aqsa mosque. This, of course, may be a far stretch from the current situation, a dream perhaps, but it indicates that the resistance is not keen to claim a true victory until its ultimate goals have been achieved. This clearly must be understood both as a message of determination and of realistic pragmatism.
So, go ahead and marvel at why Palestinians respond the way they do: they are more realist than you may be inclined to think. We Palestinians all realize that our current victory is a Pyrrhic one at best. We are not blind to the massive devastation caused by the Zionist entity, like the rest of the world seems to be. Still, under a suffocating siege by a land-hungry, racist and blindly violent enemy, we are well aware of our options.
Our realism is that we know that it’s going to take many of these Pyrrhic victories before we will be able to achieve liberation. Our realism is also that our only current alternative for Pyrrhic victories, in the current time frame, is defeat. Defeat is a completely unacceptable outcome, and surrender will never be an option to be considered. It is from the realism of these hard facts that resistance is born, and therefore our willingness to resist, from generation to generation, knows no limits. Pyrrhic or not, Palestine won this one, and will continue on until it wins the big one.
- Tariq Shadid is a surgeon living in the Arab Gulf who has been contributing articles to the Palestine Chronicle for many years. Some of these essays have been bundled in the book ‘Understanding Palestine’, which is available on Amazon.com. He also is the founder of the website ‘Musical Intifada’ featuring his songs about the Palestinian cause, on www.docjazz.com.