“For every second of time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter.”
We witnessed recently the most heroic collective act that we can expect to see in our lifetimes, but it has not been much remarked upon. Perhaps this is because we in the Western left have become so accustomed to the tremendous courage of the Palestinian people — to their renowned samoud (صمود), steadfastness — that we don’t register surprise. I fear the more likely explanation is that our orientation, for some time and for reasons that are not mysterious, has privileged the standpoint and activity of the oppressors, the settlers and the Israeli military, or else regional and Western states, foreign interest groups, protestors elsewhere, and so forth.
I refer to the fact that the residents of Gaza immediately and unanimously rejected the suggestion, widely touted for a period, that they “temporarily” relocate to Sinai for humanitarian supplies and shelter. The people of Gaza, 75 years on, have internalized the terrifying message of the Nakba, that they cannot rely on others, even as they desperately need support against a monstrously armed enemy. Now, in the middle of an entirely unprecedented bombing campaign, they have not given ground. Watch this interview. It is the Palestinians themselves who have, in the words of Nkosi Mandla Mandela, shattered the Zionists’ air of impenetrability, like Apartheid South Africa before it. This, he says, is irreversible, even if Israel razes Gaza to the ground.
The limitation we confront on the Western left is that, today, we lack the institutional heft on an international scale to intervene directly in the catastrophe, or certainly to advance the struggle for national liberation, except in roundabout ways. In this we are different to the thin crust of elites that rules our “democracies,” entirely unresponsive to our expressed will to stop arming and fueling the genocide. We are different also to the working people of Arab countries, who are already influencing the policy of even their worst comprador regimes. And, most obviously, we are no longer in anything like the position of the regional Islamic resistance, able to support militarily in an international cause. This we now see clearly, and painfully.
This said, the global popular support for the Palestinian cause has been undeniable and beautiful, not least from Jews around the world. This must, at all costs, continue and intensify. As the cell and internet feed from Gaza goes dark, and with perhaps the worst in front of us rather than behind us, we should consider what kinds of courage, what acts of treason, what new organizational forms the moment calls for, as we seek to build something rather than nothing. While we look around for available examples — to the occupation of government buildings, the blockade of weapons manufactures, strikes in ports — we might also look to the Palestinians themselves, not only as victims of unimaginable suffering with whom we must sympathize, but as an image of the courage and sacrifice required for freedom. It does not take much reflection on the past three weeks to recognize that, if we have any success at all, it will be the Palestinians who have freed us.