Majed Abusalama writes his personal reflections on the last 48 hours following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, reminding us that it is Israel’s colonial crimes that must be stressed amidst increasing racist Western framing of Palestinians as ‘terrorists’.
When I woke up yesterday morning, I received many messages from friends both in Gaza and elsewhere, informing me that our beautiful friend and poet, Omar AbuShawish, was killed while walking home after his morning prayer to rescue his three-year-old daughter Elyna. I panicked at the thought of what might have happened in Gaza that led to this tragedy, and immediately called to check on my parents, brother, his newborn baby Naya and toddler Elya.
Luckily my parents managed to relocate to another safer home, but they survived multiple bombardments on the way. My mother sounded out of breath as she spoke to me, as though she’d just completed a marathon. She told me that everyone felt overwhelmed, they were happy and proud. “It was like a dream”, she added. Palestinians took over Israeli tanks, walked into nearby illegal settlements, captured Israeli military vehicles as well as soldiers and were raising the Palestinian flags above Israeli military bases around Gaza.
Still, in this never-ending cycle of death or survival, I couldn’t help but worry about the children back home.
From the outside, I have no choice but to continue checking on the fate of loved ones through social media and news outlets. I discovered that my old friends, Bahaa and Mohammed, were murdered during the early hours of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood – when Palestinians broke down Israel’s colonial barriers, captured soldiers, and took back stolen towns.
Anyone who has followed the years of Israeli aggressions in Gaza and the ongoing siege, naturally sympathised with the feelings of liberation that were triggered amongst a people oppressed for so long. The unimaginable took place: local resistance brigades broke out of the prison that Israel had turned Gaza into, and won against one of the most militarised and highly funded armies in the world.
The uprising in Gaza is showing the world what is possible.
For the first time in history, Gaza was actively liberating itself and all of Palestine.
Now, as Israel continues to threaten and attack the Palestinians in response, we have to remember that is not the people of Gaza who started the cycle of violence, they are resisting the colonial oppression imposed on them.
A fear of what’s to come
Many Palestinian families are understandably scared, and are preparing themselves for one of the most brutal bombardments since the enforcement of Israel’s blockade.
As I write this, Gaza’s sky is already filled with Israeli warplanes and drones, and bombs are being dropped everywhere. Israel has issued several air airstrikes particularly targeting large residential towers, populated neighbourhoods, and even ambulances.
Over 700 Palestinians in Gaza have already been killed, and almost 4,000 injured.
The response internationally also provides no reassurances. Despite years of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, there still seems to be a failure (or refusal) to recognise the oppression being inflicted. From mainstream Western media to politicians worldwide, concern is disproportionately extended to the Israeli soldiers and those living in illegal settlements.
The messages of support towards Israel, the dehumanising and racist depictions of Palestinians, the failure to provide any context to the resistance unfolding, all left me feeling so disgusted I had to leave Twitter (X) altogether.
Social media is flooded with mostly white, entitled people telling Palestinians what they should be doing. Yet, absent from the entire public discussion, is the reality that the Palestinians have been oppressed, besieged and captured for many years.
How, exactly, are the oppressed and colonised supposed to behave? If we’re to follow mainstream thought, that is defined by a white supremacist, Eurocentric worldview, Palestinians would be expected to just sit and take all the violence meted out against them: ethnic cleansing, imprisonment, blockade, theft of land and resources…the list goes on.
Those critical of Palestinians resisting their colonisers are all too willing to engage in debates over “humane” forms of enduring oppression, but fail to criticise or offer advice to the very cause of the inhumanity: Israel.
International audiences and media commentators who fail to recognise, call out and oppose Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid practices, are complicit in the ongoing injustice.
Indeed, the dominant narrative is highly racialised, feeding Israel’s impunity. For example, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European parliament, failed to say even one word to Palestinians, and only spoke in defence of Israelis, and against “Hamas terrorists”.
Von der Leyen like many across mainstream media, paints a picture of Palestinian freedom fighters as “terrorists,” while Israeli colonial forces are presented as “innocent people” who haven’t been committing crimes against humanity since the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes, and many killed.
As mainstream depictions of what is taking place continue to erase Palestinians, and only see Israelis as victims of Palestinian “terror”, any engagement with the right of the oppressed to resist, is of course non-existent. To this, I only need to respond by citing the United Nations General Assembly Resolution and Geneva Convention, which endorsed a right to resist alien subjugation, domination and exploitation, an even a legal right to armed resistance. (Though, I shouldn’t need nor have to provide such a reference from an institution that has itself got a lot to answer for in the continuing oppression of Palestinians.)
The levels of hypocrisy when it comes to such rights being extended to Palestinians is also all too clear to see when we consider that since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been wide Western military support given to Ukraine, as well as the defence of its people’s right to resist.
Israel has been causing death and destruction in Gaza for many years. The people have been trapped, with no autonomy over their lives and no sovereignty over their bodies and land. But, in the last 48 hours, Palestinian children were able to conceive of escaping Israel’s evil. That the possibility of liberation doesn’t just live in their dreams.
It is a truly historical moment for Gaza, one that has reinvigorated many of us to fight on for the freedom of our land, from the river to the sea.
I am not sure what will play out in the coming days, I don’t know if I will ever see my parents again, and painfully sense that I will likely lose more friends to Israel’s attacks. What I am sure of, however, is that as Palestinians, we shall always overcome.
Majed Abusalama is an independent award-winning writer, human rights defender and policy analyst who have a long history of engaging with conflict transformation programmes, decolonising Palestine, and building grassroots movements in the Global South. This article was first published in The New Arab. Views are personal.