It isn’t just Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist political (and militant) party in Gaza, that is having a hard time accepting the reality of Israel — a state forcibly established on part of Palestine in 1948 and now in control of all of Mandate Palestine.
Since that time, Palestinians have been trying, in various ways, most notably in the last couple of decades through the so-called “peace process”, to accept Israel while retaining a vestige of dignity.
None of it has worked out, because accepting the reality of Israel as a Jewish state means giving up their fundamental human rights — to self-determination and equality in their own homeland, their rights to return and restitution.
Fateh (Mahmoud Abbas’s political party) has bungled the job so badly that Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz recently,
… it would have been better to follow the uncompromising path taken by [George] Habash [founder of left-wing secular nationalist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)], who for most of his life didn’t agree to any negotiations with Israel, who believed that with Israel it was only possible to negotiate by force, who thought Israel would only change its positions if it paid a price, who dreamed of a single, democratic and secular state of equal rights and refused to discuss anything but that.
Expecting anything other than a continuing struggle for liberation from Palestinians means denying that the Nakba has ever existed and denying that Palestinians have a right to resist injustice.
Regardless of their political affiliation or whether they are currently in Gaza, in the West Bank, citizens of Israel or exiles and refugees, Palestinians understand, as Ali Abunimah put it, that “Israel’s so-called independence was not a liberation but a violent conquest that has never paused or ended.”
If you understand that, then it is easy to understand the magnificence of Gaza’s indomitable and defiant stand — even on amputated legs:
in Gaza, the Great March of Return defies the siege, the assaults, the imprisonments, the mass impoverishment with a festival of courage and non-violence; there are reading chains, football, handball, chess matches, girls dance dabka in traditional dresses, boys show off feats of parkour, grandmothers bake taboon on campfires for the masses, women prepare sweets, mothers and sons carry tyres for burning, clowns delight kids, medics and stretchers at the ready, thousands pray ṣalāt al-maġrib at dusk, children share dreams with Martin Luther King, flags, kites and balloons adorn the sky, a donkey is draped with the Israeli flag, a child’s birthday party is celebrated, wedding guests and groom arrive, homework is completed, the ingenuity of tear gas masks, the wounded bandaged and bold return to the front lines…
Just as we admire Don Quixote for his un-sensible chivalry, we admire the the sacrifices of the brave men and women, indeed the children, of Gaza, who may not be reviving knight-errantry, but who are certainly on a mission to revive the idea Palestine.
Palestine, as Edward Said described it, is a “a noble ideal, a moral quest”. And as the saying goes, “a nation is not defeated until its will to resist is completely snuffed.”
But where does the courage come from? Taghreed al-Barawi says it comes from our deep desire to move closer to our homes:
“I had this feeling of strange courage, or I don’t know what to call it — it’s as if the nearer I got to the border, the stronger my desire was to move forward. Maybe it was the urge to come closer to our home.”
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.