Reframing the “setback” of Israeli retaliation

M. Muhannad Ayyash on BBC Breaking News, 10/8/23

INTERVIEWER: Where do Palestinian authorities go next, given the many people now saying that this really underlines the weakness within their policies, in terms of their future?

M. MUHANNAD AYYASH: Yes, and we have to understand, why is the authority weak to begin with? The authority is weak to begin with precisely because of the Oslo Accords — and people have to understand this – the Oslo Accords were not a real peace process. They were a cementation of Israeli control over the entire land, from the river to the sea. They viewed the Palestinian Authority in those accords as an arm, an extension of the Israeli state and its colonial project on Palestinian lands.

So the Palestinian people, for many years now, have been seeing this. They have been opposed to the direction that the Palestinian Authority has taken the national struggle for liberation — the Palestinian struggle for decolonial liberation. Events like this cement that. I think what is really important about the political context is that you can’t understand the internal Palestinian politics without understanding the larger geopolitical — in fact, global — politics in which all of this takes place.

The interests of the international community have never been aligned with the aspirations of the Palestinian people for liberation and sovereignty: to exist as sovereign beings living as sovereign peoples on their sovereign lands. That has been their desire and aspiration for over 100 years. An aspiration that has been denied them by the international community, and they refused to let go that aspiration. So as long as the international community does not understand that the Palestinian people will not give up that their inherent sovereign rights to these lands, and this story will continue to go on.

The Palestinians have attempted all sorts of resistance to Israeli settler colonial annexation of their lands. They’ve tried labor strikes. They’ve tried political advocacy. They’ve tried going the legal route to international systems of justice. They’ve tried everything! They’re trying the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. They’ve tried armed resistance as well throughout their history. And we’re no closer today to achieving our aspirations than we were 100 years ago —

INTERVIEWER: Well, then as you say, we’re no closer. What now, though, where are we now? Given this latest incursion by Hamas into Israel, given the seriousness of it, the unprecedented nature of what’s happened: Where does this leave the Palestinian desire for everything that you’ve described there? Surely this is a setback, surely.

AYYASH: That’s what I was going into… The setbacks have already been accumulating intensely over the last decades. As we see these normalizations with Arab states increase, people in the international community are increasingly talking about Palestine as if it already is erased from the map. As if there is no such thing as a Palestinian people whom Britain’s aspirations don’t figure into the future of the region’s. So… I see these operations as an as a as an attempt to say, we’re not going away. And if we’re going to go away, we’re not going to go quietly into the night. So people talk about these operations as causing a setback, but that’s completely misplaced analysis. These setbacks have been ongoing.

INTERVIEWER: Going into Israeli territory, killing Israeli citizens, taking hostages, they are not actions that are going to make things better, as difficult as that is.

AYYASH: No, they won’t, and I expect the Israeli reaction to be extreme. I expect the international community to double down now on their efforts to erase Palestine from the map. I expect that to be the next steps. But what choice do the Palestinian people were going to be killed anyway, that they’re saying, well, I might as well die raising my voice…

What these events also showed is that there is widespread people’s support for the Palestinian cause, because they do see it as a just cause. People across the region are not buying into this normalization. Blinken gets a lot of things wrong, but the thing he got most wrong in his comments… was that the only Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah are against the normalization. No, no the entire the majority of people across the region are against these normalization deals. Look at the protests in Morocco. Look at the protests in Yemen, look at the protests across the Middle East, and in Turkey, and across the world even. [Protests] that are saying that we don’t accept these normalization deals… They see Israel for what it is doing, for its brutal occupation and colonization of Palestinians and the elimination of their desire to exist.

So there are no good answers open to the Palestinians. The Palestinians don’t wake up in the morning thinking, oh, I want to go and kill civilians today. Of course, it breaks my heart to see anybody suffer. It’s not something that Palestinians… do because that’s what they want to do. They’re doing it out of desperation, because they see themselves as being completely erased from the international consensus. And into the complete ignoring of their aspirations for freedom and liberation.

I don’t have faith in governments to change here. I’m speaking directly here to your viewers as people: people power is the only way to cause change here and create an actual dialogue, a real dialogue for peaceful coexistence here, we’re where everybody has a place to call home on these lands.

INTERVIEWER: It’s been really, really interesting to talk to you. And I do appreciate you taking the time to come speak to us on BBC News today.

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