By Yanis Iqbal
On May 24, 2021, Israel’s security apparatus launched a wave of mass arrests against the country’s Palestinian citizens as part of a violent attack on the anti-Zionist resistance movement. These arrests took place as part of a “law and order” campaign i.e. a mission of terrorization wherein thousands of police officers kick into doors, brutalize families, and kidnap Palestinians. In Jerusalem, the police arrested a 10-year old boy even as his sister pleaded for his release.
These monstrous acts come hard on the heels of a ceasefire on May 21, 2021, which put a halt to an intensification of colonial aggression in Gaza. In response to the attempted ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and murderous assaults on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Hamas, which came to power in Gaza through the 2006 elections, responded with a warning to the Israeli government: either stop the attacks or face armed resistance.
Israel’s attacks did not cease, so on May 10, a few days after issuing its warning on May 4, Hamas launched its crude unguided rockets into Israel. While its Iron Dome defense system repelled most of these rockets, Israel pounded Gaza with its advanced weapons technology. By the time a ceasefire took hold on May 20, Israel had killed at least 243 Palestinians, including 66 children. Israeli violence has also injured approximately 1,900 Palestinians and displaced 90,000 residents of Gaza; Hamas rockets killed 12 Israelis, including 2 children.
The continued subjugation of Palestinians drives home a crucial point: Zionist settler-colonialism needs to be comprehensively dismantled. A mere ceasefire is not enough. A lasting solution to the plight of Palestinians requires a comprehensive consideration of the structural roots of the present-day situation. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was declared. West Bank was annexed by Jordan. Gaza strip came under Egyptian military control, and formally Palestine ceased to exist except in the hearts and minds of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people who became refugees. In 1967, Israel expanded its frontiers, occupying West Bank and Gaza.
Two broad patterns can be identified in the illegal occupation of Palestine. Firstly, Israel uses tactics of dehumanization to create a background of permanent death. Palestinians live in inhuman conditions, in brutal Bantustans, where they are subjected to collective punishments, 24-hour curfews, where they are humiliated and dehumanized on a daily basis. They never know when their homes will be demolished, when their children will be shot, when their valued trees will be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be allowed to walk down to the market to buy food and medicine, and when they will not. They live with no semblance of dignity. They have no control over their lands, their security, their movement, their communication, their water supply.
Secondly, Israel deploys fragmentation to weaken Palestinian anti-colonialism. The settler state has long separated Palestinians from each other physically, symbolically, and experientially. Scattered and contained within easily controllable splinters in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, ’48 Palestine (the lands within what became Israel, where Palestinians managed to remain), refugee camps, or in exile across the world, Israel felt assured that Palestinians would no longer be able to resist in a collective manner.
However, Israel’s expectations of an acquiescent colonized population have remained a dream. Palestinians have steadfastly confronted the dehumanization and fragmentation promoted by settler-colonialism. Over its long history, Palestinian resistance practices have included labor strikes, boycotts, marches, demonstrations, general strikes, popular commemorations, sit-ins, resistance art, etc. It is a struggle full of creativity, courage, and humanity. Year after year, these practices have stood and continue to stand in the face of Israeli violence, which seeks to annihilate and replace the native Palestinians.
The opposition to fragmentation has been most visible in recent acts of resistance to Israel’s tightening of the garrote around Palestinians’ neck. When Israeli mobs, supported and protected by Israeli soldiers, attacked Palestinians in Lydd, Palestinians from Jerusalem and the Naqab drove there in buses to protect them by sheer numbers. From Lebanon and Jordan, children of Palestinian refugees who were displaced in 1948 managed to temporarily cross back into their historic lands. Palestinians also went on a historic general strike on May 18, 2021, widely observed by Palestinians, and serving as a remarkable show of unity and strength against decades of settler colonialism and military occupation that has structured every aspect of Palestinian life.
“To the End, I Shall Fight”
In “A Letter from a Bankrupt”, Samih al-Qasim wrote:
“I may lose my daily bread, if you wish
I may hawk my clothes and bed
I may become a stone cutter, or a porter
Or a street sweeper
I may search in animal dung for food
I may collapse, naked and starved
Enemy of light
I will not compromise
And to the end
I shall fight.
You may rob me of the last span of my land
You may ditch my youth in prison holes
Steal what my grandfather left me behind:
Some furniture or clothes and jars,
You may burn my poems and books
You may feed your dog on my flesh
You may impose a nightmare of your terror
On my village
Enemy of light
I shall not compromise
And to the end, I shall fight.”
The poem captures the essence of the current conjuncture in which Palestine’s anti-colonial movement finds itself. In spite of the cessation of Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza, unconscionable cruelty against Palestinians persists. This can only be put to an end if the world acknowledges the fundamental role of Zionist settler-colonialism in the persecution of Palestinians and demands the dismantlement of the ethno-racist state of Israel.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.