All posts by Ramzy Baroud

Cultural Warriors: Why Palestine’s Sports Victories Should Inspire Us 

The Palestine National Football Team has, once more, done the seemingly impossible by qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. By any standards, this is a great achievement, especially as the Palestinians have done it with style and convincing victories over Mongolia, Yemen and the Philippines, without conceding a single goal. However, for Palestinians, this is hardly about sports.

This accomplishment can only be appreciated within the larger context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

In November 2006, the Israeli military prevented all Palestine-based footballers from participating in the final match of the Asian Football Confederation qualification group stage. The news had a major demoralizing effect on all Palestinians. Even rare moments of hope and happiness are often crushed by Israel.

As disappointing as the Israeli decision was, it was hardly compared to the collective shock felt by Palestinians everywhere when, in 2007, Palestinian players were not allowed to participate in a decisive World Cup qualifying game against Singapore. Instead of showing solidarity with Palestinians and condemning Israel, the International Football Association (FIFA) decided to award an automatic victory to Singapore of 3-0.

This is why Palestine’s latest qualification is historic, as it is more proof that Palestinian resilience has no bounds. It sends a message to Israel as well, that its unjust draconian measures will never break the spirit of the Palestinian people.

The latest achievement should also be placed within another context. It is the third time in a row that the Palestine national team qualifies for the Asian cup finals, thanks to an impressive squad that represents all Palestinian communities, at home and in the Diaspora.

This moment, however, is bittersweet. Many Palestinian footballers, who should have been present in the Sports Center Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – where the qualification rounds were held – were missing. Some are in Israeli prisons, others are maimed or killed. Much of the killings happened in 2009.

Indeed, 2009 was a terrible year for Palestinian football.

In January 2009, three Palestinian footballers, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtaha, were killed during the Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip. All three were seen as promising athletes with bright futures.

Two months later, Saji Darwish was killed by an Israeli sniper near Ramallah. The 18-year-old was slated to become a big name in Palestinian football, too.

In July of that same year, the tragedy of Mahmoud Sarsak began. Sarsak had only been a member of the Palestine National Football Team for six months when he was arrested and tortured by Israel in a painful saga that lasted for three years. He won his freedom after undergoing a hunger strike that lasted for over 90 days. The permanent health issues Sarsak was left with, however, meant that his once-promising sports career was over.

Arrests, torture and killings of Palestinian footballers became a regular headline in Palestine. This includes the killing of former Palestinian football star, Ahed Zaqqut, in 2014, and the deliberate shooting of the feet of Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd Al Raouf Halabiya, 17. The two players were attempting to cross an Israeli military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank to return home after a long training session.

These are but mere examples. The targeting of Palestinian sports is a constant item on the Israeli military agenda. Palestinian stadiums are often bombed during Israel’s brutal wars on Gaza. In 2019, the Israeli military attacked Al Khader Stadium in Bethlehem by lobbing tear gas at players during the match. Five players were hospitalized, as hundreds of fans rushed out of the stadium in panic. In 2019, Palestinians couldn’t hold the much-anticipated Palestine Cup final match, because Israel prevented the Gaza-based Khadamat Rafah team from traveling to the West Bank to compete against the FC Balata team. And so on.

Like every aspect of Palestinian life that can easily be disrupted by Israel, the Palestinian sports community learned to be resilient and resourceful. The Palestine National Football Team is the perfect example of this tenacity. When Gazan players are prevented from traveling, West Bankers come to the rescue. And when West Bank players suffer a setback of their own, Palestinian players in the Diaspora are dispatched to take their place. Luckily, Palestinian footballers, the likes of  Oday Dabbagh, are now gaining prominence in the international arena, giving them the chance to be available whenever duty calls.

When Palestine defeated Mongolia 1-0 in the Asian Cup qualifiers on June 8, Palestinian media reported about the sense of euphoria and hope felt throughout Palestine. But when the Palestinian team, known as the Fida’i – meaning the freedom fighter – won two more games with convincing victories of 5-0 and 4-0, hope turned into a real possibility that Palestine could perform well in the Asian Cup finals scheduled for June 2023. And maybe, the Fida’i could have a chance at World Cup qualifications for 2026.

For Palestinians, sports – especially football – remains a powerful platform of cultural resistance. Every aspect of a Palestinian football match attests to this claim. The names of the team, the chants of the fans, the images embroidered on the players’ jerseys and much more, are symbols of Palestinian resistance: names of martyrs, colors of the flag and so on. In Palestine, football is a political act.

While Israel uses sports to normalize itself and its apartheid regime in the eyes of the world, Tel Aviv does everything possible to impede Palestinian sports because Israel understands, and rightly so, that Palestinian sports is, at its core, an act of resistance.

It is heartbreaking to think that Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe, Wajeh Moshtaha, Saji Darwish and others were not there to witness the celebrations of their beloved team’s qualification to a major international tournament. But it is the spirit of these valiant cultural warriors that continues to guide the Fida’i in their struggle for recognition, their fight for dignity and their quest for glory.

The post Cultural Warriors: Why Palestine’s Sports Victories Should Inspire Us  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestinians “Are Bound to Win”: Why Israelis Are Prophesying the End of Their State    

While it is true that Zionism is a modern political ideology that has exploited religion to achieve specific colonial objectives in Palestine, prophecies continue to be a critical component of Israel’s perception of itself, and of the state’s relationship to other groups, especially Christian messianic groups in the United States and worldwide.

The subject of religious prophecies and their centrality to Israel’s political thought was once more highlighted following remarks by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a recent interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Barak, perceived to be a ‘progressive’ politician, who was once the leader of Israel’s Labor Party, expressed fears that Israel will “disintegrate” before the 80th anniversary of its 1948 establishment.

“Throughout the Jewish history, the Jews did not rule for more than eighty years, except in the two kingdoms of David and the Hasmonean dynasty and, in both periods, their disintegration began in the eighth decade,” Barak said.

Based on pseudo-historical analysis, Barak’s prophecy seemed to conflate historical facts with typical messianic Israeli thinking, reminiscent of statements made by Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017.

Like Barak, Netanyahu’s comments were expressed in the form of fear over the future of Israel, and the looming ‘existential threat’, the cornerstone of Israeli hasbara throughout the years. At a Bible study session in his house in Jerusalem, Netanyahu had then warned that the Hasmonean kingdom – also known as the Maccabees – had merely survived for 80 years before it was conquered by the Romans in 63 B.C.E.

The “Hasmonean state lasted only 80 years, and we needed to exceed this,” Netanyahu was quoted by one of the attendees as saying, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported.

But, even according to Netanyahu’s purported determination to exceed that number, he had reportedly vowed to ensure Israel will surpass the Maccabees’ 80 years, and survive for 100 years. That is merely 20 years more.

The difference between Barak and Netanyahu’s statements is quite negligible: the former’s views are supposedly ‘historical’ and the latter’s are biblical. Worth noting, however, is that both leaders, though they subscribe to two different political schools, have converged on similar meeting points: Israel’s survival is at stake; the existential threat is real and the end of Israel is only a matter of time.

But the pessimism in Israel is hardly confined to political leaders, who are known to exaggerate and manipulate facts to instill fear and to rile up their political camps, especially Israel’s powerful messianic constituencies. Although this is true, predictions regarding Israel’s grim future are not confined to the country’s political elites.

In an interview with Haaretz in 2019, one of Israel’s most respected mainstream historians, Benny Morris, had much to say about the future of his country. Unlike Barak and Netanyahu, Morris was not sending warning signals but stating what, to him, seemed an unavoidable outcome of the country’s political and demographic evolution.

“I don’t see how we get out of it,” Morris said, adding: “Already, today there are more Arabs than Jews between the (Mediterranean) Sea and the Jordan (River). The whole territory is unavoidably becoming one state with an Arab majority. Israel still calls itself a Jewish state, but a situation in which we rule an occupied people that has no rights cannot persist in the 21st century.”

Morris’ predictions, while remaining committed to the racial fantasy of a Jewish majority, were far more articulate and also realistic if compared to those of Barak, Netanyahu and others. The man who once regretted that Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion, did not expel all of Palestine’s native population in 1947-48, spoke with resignation that, in a matter of a generation, Israel will cease to exist in its current form.

Particularly notable about his comments is the accurate perception that “the Palestinians look at everything from a broad, long-term perspective,” and that the Palestinians will continue to “demand the return of the refugees.” But who were the “Palestinians” Morris was referring to? Certainly not the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have already marginalized the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and most certainly have no “broad, long-term perspective”. Morris’ ‘Palestinians’ are, of course, the Palestinian people themselves, generations of whom have served, and continue to serve, as the vanguards of Palestinian rights despite all of the setbacks, defeats and political ‘compromises’.

Actually, prophecies regarding Palestine and Israel are not a new phenomenon. Palestine was colonized by Zionists with the help of Britain, also based on biblical frames of reference. It was populated by Zionist settlers based on biblical references dedicated to the restoration of ancient kingdoms and the ‘return’ of ancient peoples to their supposedly rightful ‘promised land’. Though Israel took on many different meanings throughout the years – perceived to be a ‘socialist’ utopia at times, a liberal, democratic haven at others – it was always preoccupied with religious meanings, spiritual visions and inundated with prophecies. The most sinister expression of this truth is the fact that the current support of Israel by millions of Christian fundamentalists in the West is largely driven by messianic, end-of-the-world prophecies.

The latest predictions about Israel’s uncertain future are based on a different logic. Since Israel has always defined itself as a Jewish State, its future is mostly linked to its ability to maintain a Jewish majority in historic Palestine. By the admission of Morris and others, this pipe dream is now crumbling as the ‘demographic war’ is clearly and quickly being lost.

Of course, co-existence in a single democratic state will always be a possibility. Alas, for Israel’s Zionist ideologues, such a state will hardly meet the minimum expectations of the country’s founders, since it would no longer exist in the form of a Jewish, Zionist state. For co-existence to take place, the Zionist ideology would have to be scrapped altogether.

Barak, Netanyahu and Morris are all right: Israel will not exist as a ‘Jewish state’ for much longer. Speaking strictly in terms of demographics, Israel is no longer a Jewish-majority state. History has taught us that Muslims, Christians and Jews can peacefully coexist and collectively thrive, as they have done throughout the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula for millennia. Indeed, this is a prediction, even a prophecy, that is worth striving for.

The post Palestinians “Are Bound to Win”: Why Israelis Are Prophesying the End of Their State     first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The End of Laissez-Faire: Russia’s Attempt at Reshaping the World Economy

Starting on May 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov embarked on a tour to Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where he visited Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, among others. Lavrov’s main objective of these visits is to strengthen ties between Russia and GCC nations amid a global race for geopolitical dominance.

The Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is vital for the current global economic order and is equally critical for any future reshaping of that order. If Moscow is to succeed in redefining the role of Arab economies vis-à-vis the global economy, it would most likely succeed in ensuring that a multipolar economic world takes form.

The geopolitical reordering of the world cannot simply be achieved through war or challenging the West’s political influence in its various global domains. The economic component is possibly the most significant of the ongoing tug of war between Russia and its western detractors.

Prior to the Russia-Ukraine war, any conversation on the need to challenge or redefine globalization was confined largely to academic circles. The war made that theoretical conversation a tangible, urgent one. The US, European, western support for Kyiv has little to do with Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and everything to do with the real anxiety that a Russian success will demolish or, at least, seriously damage, the current version of economic globalization as envisaged by the US and its allies.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the world was no longer a contested space between two military superpowers — NATO vs Warsaw Pact — and two massive economic camps: US vs USSR. We often speak about the American invasion of Panama (1989) and war in Iraq (1990), to demarcate the uncontested American ascendancy in global affairs. What we often omit is that the military and geopolitical component of this war was accompanied by an economic one.

As Panama and Iraq were meant to demonstrate US military dominance, the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994-5, was meant to illustrate Washington’s economic outlook in this new world order.

Though unprecedented in their scale and ferocity, the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 seemed like a desperate attempt at reversing the alarming trend in the world’s economic affairs. Though successful in demonstrating the power of civil society at work, the protests have failed to produce any real, lasting outcomes. In the US/Western-centered definition of globalization, smaller countries had little bargaining power.

While rich countries successfully negotiated many privileges for their own industries, much of the Global South was left with no other option but to play by the West’s rules. The Americans spoke of free trade and open markets while maintaining a protectionist agenda over what they perceived to be key industries. Globalization was branded as a success story for freedom and democracy while, in essence, it was a cheap reproduction of the 18th-century ‘laissez-faire’ France’s economic doctrine.

It is easy to criticize poor countries for failing to challenge US/Western dominance. In fact, they tried, and the result was economic sanctions, regime change and war. The only silver lining is that this predatory form of capitalism encouraged small countries in the Global South to formulate their own economic blocks, so they may negotiate with greater leverage. However, even that was not enough to influence, let alone dismantle, the skewed global paradigm.

Large economies, like China, were allowed to benefit from globalization as long as their massive growth served the interests of the global economy, namely the West. Things began changing, however, when China’s political and geopolitical outreach started to match its economic influence. Former US Republican President Donald Trump dedicated much rhetoric and eventually declared economic war on the so-called ‘China threat’. The current Democratic administration of Joe Biden is hardly different. Though busy countering Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, Washington remains dedicated to its anti-Chinese rhetoric.

The Marrakesh Agreement in 1994, the treaty upon which the WTO was established, was reached to replace the geopolitically defunct General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades of 1948. Note how each one of these global economic treaties resulted from their unique global geopolitical orders, the latter following World War II and the former following the collapse of the socialist camp. Though Russia and its allies are now mostly focused on claiming some kind of victory in Ukraine, their ultimate goal is to sow the seed for a different economic balance, with the hope that it will ultimately force a renegotiation of today’s globalization, therefore the West’s economic hegemony.

Russia is clearly invested in a new global economic system, but without isolating itself in the process. On the other hand, the West is torn. It wants to drop on Russia the Iron Curtain of the past, but without hurting its own economies in the process. This equation is simply unsolvable, at least for the next few years.

In a speech at the Eurasian Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that trying to isolate Russia is “impossible, utterly unrealistic in the modern world.” His words accentuate Russia’s full awareness of the West’s objectives, and Lavrov’s busy itinerary, especially in the Global South, is Moscow’s own way of animating an alternative global economic system in which Russia is not isolated. The outcome of all of these efforts will not only redefine the world from a geopolitical perspective, but will redefine the very concept of globalization for generations to come.

The post The End of Laissez-Faire: Russia’s Attempt at Reshaping the World Economy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom

What took place between May 2021 and May 2022 is nothing less than a paradigm shift in Palestinian resistance. Thanks to the popular and inclusive nature of Palestinian mobilization against the Israeli occupation, resistance in Palestine is no longer an ideological, political or regional preference.

In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and only a few years ago, Palestinian muqawama – or resistance –  was constantly put in the dock, often criticized and condemned, as if an oppressed nation had a moral responsibility in selecting the type of resistance to suit the needs and interests of its oppressors.

As such, Palestinian resistance became a political and ideological litmus test. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas, called for ‘popular resistance’, but it seems that it neither understood what the strategy actually meant, and certainly was not prepared to act upon such a call.

Palestinian armed resistance was removed entirely from its own historical context; in fact, the context of all liberation movements throughout history, and was turned into a straw man, set up by Israel and its western allies to condemn Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and to present Israel as a victim facing an existential threat.

With the lack of a centralized Palestinian definition of resistance, even pro-Palestine civil society groups and organizations demarcated their relationship to the Palestinian struggle based on embracing certain forms of Palestinian resistance and condemning others.

The argument that only oppressed nations should have the right to choose the type of resistance that could speed up their salvation and freedom fell on deaf ears.

The truth is that Palestinian resistance preceded the official establishment of Israel in 1948. Palestinians and Arabs who resisted British and Zionist colonialism used many methods of resistance that they perceived to be strategic and sustainable. There was no relationship whatsoever between the type of resistance and the religious, political or ideological identity of those who resisted.

This paradigm prevailed for many years, starting with the Fidayeen Movement following the Nakba, the popular resistance to the brief Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1956, and the decades-long occupation and siege starting in 1967. The same reality was expressed in Palestinian resistance in historic Palestine throughout the decades; armed resistance ebbed and flowed, but popular resistance remained intact. The two phenomena were always intrinsically linked, as the former was also sustained by the latter.

The Fatah Movement, which dominates today’s Palestinian Authority, was formed in 1959 to model liberation movements in Vietnam and Algeria. Regarding its connection to the Algerian struggle, the Fatah manifesto read: “The guerrilla war in Algeria, launched five years before the creation of Fatah, has a profound influence on us. […] They symbolize the success we dreamed of.”

This sentiment was championed by most modern Palestinian movements as it proved to be a successful strategy for most southern liberation movements. In the case of Vietnam, the resistance to US occupations was carried out even during political talks in Paris. The underground resistance in South Africa remained vigilant until it became clear that the country’s apartheid regime was in the process of being dismantled.

Palestinian disunity, however, which was a direct result of the Oslo Accords, made a unified Palestinian position on resistance untenable. The very idea of resistance itself became subject to the political whims and interests of factions. When, in July 2013, PA President Abbas condemned armed resistance, he was trying to score political points with his western supporters, and further sow the seeds of division among his people.

The truth is that Hamas neither invented, nor has ownership of, armed resistance. In June 2021, a poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), revealed that 60% of Palestinians support “a return to armed confrontations and Intifada”. By stating so, Palestinians were not necessarily declaring allegiance to Hamas. Armed resistance, though in a different style and capacity also exists in the West Bank, and is largely championed by Fatah’s own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The recent Israeli attacks on the town of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, were not aimed at eliminating Hamas, Islamic Jihad or socialist fighters, but Fatah’s own.

Skewed media coverage and misrepresentation of the resistance, often by Palestinian factions themselves, turned the very idea of resistance into a political and factional scuffle, forcing everyone involved to take a position on the issue. The discourse on the resistance, however,  began changing in the last year.

The May 2021 rebellion and the Israeli war on Gaza – known among Palestinians as the Unity Intifada – served as a paradigm shift. The language became unified; self-serving political references quickly dissipated; collective frames of reference began replacing provisional, regional and factional ones; occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque emerged as the unifying symbols of resistance; a new generation began to emerge and quickly began to develop new platforms.

On May 29, the Israeli government insisted on allowing the so-called ‘Flag March’ – a mass rally by Israeli Jewish extremists that celebrate the capture of the Palestinian city of al-Quds – to once more pass through Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. This was the very occasion that instigated the violence of the previous year. Aware of the impending violence which often results from such provocations, Israel wanted to impose the timing and determine the nature of the violence. It failed. Gaza didn’t fire rockets. Instead, tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilized throughout occupied Palestine, thus allowing popular mobilization and coordination between numerous communities to grow. Palestinians proved able to coordinate their responsibility, despite the numerous obstacles, hardships and logistical difficulties.

The events of the last year are a testament that Palestinians are finally freeing their resistance from factional interests. The most recent confrontations show that Palestinians are even harnessing resistance as a strategic objective. Muqawama in Palestine is no longer ‘symbolic’ or supposedly ‘random’ violence that reflects ‘desperation’ and lack of political horizon. It is becoming more defined, mature and well-coordinated.

This phenomenon must be extremely worrying to Israel, as the coming months and years could prove critical in changing the nature of the confrontation between Palestinians and their occupiers. Considering that the new resistance is centered around homegrown, grassroots, community-oriented movements, it has far greater chances of success than previous attempts. It is much easier for Israel to assassinate a fighter than to uproot the values of resistance from the heart of a community.

The post Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Geopolitical War over Mali: West Africa is Up for Grabs

The distance between Ukraine and Mali is measured in thousands of kilometers. But the geopolitical distance is much closer to the point that it appears as if the ongoing conflicts in both countries are the direct outcomes of the same geopolitical currents and transformation underway around the world.

The Malian government is now accusing French troops of perpetuating a massacre in the West African country. Consequently, on April 23, the Russian Foreign Ministry declared its support for Malian efforts, pushing for an international investigation into French abuses and massacres in Mali. “We hope that those responsible will be identified and justly punished,” the Ministry said.

In its coverage, Western media largely omitted the Malian and Russian claims of French massacres; instead, they gave credence to French accusations that the Malian forces, possibly with the help of ‘Russian mercenaries’ have carried out massacres and buried the dead in mass graves near the recently evacuated French army Gossi base, in order to blame France.

Earlier in April, Human Rights Watch called for an ‘independent, credible’ inquiry into the killings, though it negated both accounts. It suggested that a bloody campaign had indeed taken place, targeting mostly “armed Islamists” between March 23-31.

Media whitewashing and official misinformation aside, Mali has indeed been a stage for much bloodletting in recent years, especially since 2012, when a militant insurgency in Northern Mali threatened the complete destabilization of an already unstable and impoverished country.

There were reasons for the insurgency, including the sudden access to smuggled weapon caches originating in Libya following the West’s war on Tripoli in 2011.  Thousands of militants, who were pushed out of Libya during the war and its aftermath, found safe havens in the largely ungoverned Malian northern regions.

That in mind, the militants’ success – where they managed to seize nearly a third of the country’s territory in merely two months – was not entirely linked to western arms. Large swathes of Mali have suffered from prolonged governmental neglect and extreme poverty. Moreover, the Malian army, often beholden to foreign interests, is much hated in these regions due to its violent campaigns and horrific human rights abuses. No wonder why the northern rebellion found so much popular support in these parts.

Two months after the Tuareg rebellion in the north, a Malian officer and a contingency of purportedly disgruntled soldiers overthrew the elected government in Bamako, accusing it of corruption and of failure in reining in the militants. This, in turn, paved the road for France’s military intervention in its former colony under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The French war in Mali, starting in 2013, was disastrous from the Malians’ point of view. It neither stabilized the country nor provided a comprehensive scheme on how to pacify the rebellious north. War, human rights violations by the French themselves, and more military coups followed, most notably in August 2020 and May 2021.

But France’s intervention was fruitful from France’s viewpoint. As soon as French troops began pouring into Mali, as soon as France began strengthening its control over the Sahel countries, including Mali, leading to the signing of two defense agreements, in 2013 and 2020.

That’s where the French West African ‘success story’ ends. Though Paris succeeded in digging its heels deeper in that region, it gave no reason to the Malian people or government to support their actions. As France became more involved in the life of Malians, ordinary people throughout the country, north and south, detested and rejected them. This shift was the perfect opportunity for Russia to offer itself as an alternative to France and the West. The advent of Russia into the complex scene allowed Bamako to engineer a clean break from its total reliance on France and its Western, NATO allies.

Even before France formally ended its presence in the country, Russian arms and military technicians were landing in Bamako. Attack helicopters, mobile radar systems and other Russian military technology, quickly replaced French arms. It is no wonder why Mali voted against the United Nations General Assembly Resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

As a result of the Ukraine war and western sanctions starting in late February, Russia accelerated its political and economic outreach, particularly in southern countries, with the hope of lessening the impact of the west-led international isolation.

In truth, Moscow’s geopolitical quest in West Africa began earlier than the Ukraine conflict, and Mali’s immediate support for Russia following the war was a testament to Moscow’s success in that region.

Though France officially began its withdrawal from Mali last February, Paris and other European capitals are increasingly aware of what they perceive to be a ‘Russian threat’ in that region. But how can the West fight back against this real or imaginary threat, especially in the light of the French withdrawal? Further destabilizing Mali is one option.

Indeed, on May 16, Bamako declared that it thwarted a military coup in the country, claiming that the coup leaders were soldiers who “were supported by a Western state”, presumably France.

If the ‘coup’ had succeeded, does this indicate that France – or another ‘western country’ – is plotting a return to Mali on the back of yet another military intervention?

Russia, on the other hand, cannot afford to lose a precious friend, like Mali, during this critical time of western sanctions and isolation. In effect, this means that Mali will continue to be the stage of a geopolitical cold war that could last for years. The winner of this war could potentially claim the whole of West Africa, which remains hostage to global competition well beyond its national boundaries.

The post The Geopolitical War over Mali: West Africa is Up for Grabs first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Masafer Yatta: Israel’s New Annexation Strategy in Palestine

The Israeli Supreme Court has decided that the Palestinian region of Masafer Yatta, located in the southern hills of Hebron, is to be entirely appropriated by the Israeli military and that a population of over 1,000 Palestinians is to be expelled.

The Israeli Court decision, on May 4, was hardly shocking. Israel’s military occupation does not only consist of soldiers with guns, but elaborate political, military, economic and legal structures, dedicated to the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements and the slow – and sometimes not-so-slow – expulsion of the Palestinians.

When Palestinians state that the Nakba, or Catastrophe – which led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ruins – is a continuous, unfinished project, they mean exactly that. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the endless torment of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab and, now in Masafer Yatta, are all testaments to this reality.

However, Masafer Yatta is particularly unique. In the case of occupied East Jerusalem, for example, Israel has made a fallacious, ahistorical claim that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. It combined its unsubstantiated narrative with military action on the ground, followed by a systematic process that aimed at increasing the Jewish population and ejecting the original native inhabitants of the city. Such notions as ‘Greater Jerusalem’ and legal and political structures, like that of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000, have all contribute towards turning the once absolute Palestinian majority in Jerusalem into a shrinking minority.

With the Naqab, Israel’s similar objectives were put into motion as early as 1948, and again in 1951. This process of ethnically cleansing the natives remains in effect to this day.

Though Masafer Yatta is part of the same colonial designs, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is situated in Area C of the occupied West Bank.

In July 2020, Israel purportedly decided to postpone its plans to annex nearly 40% of the West Bank, perhaps fearing a Palestinian rebellion and unwanted international condemnation. However, the plan continued in practice.

Moreover, a wholesome annexation of West Bank regions would mean that Israel would become responsible for the welfare of entire Palestinian communities. As a settler-colonial state, Israel wants the land, but not the people. In Tel Aviv’s calculation, annexation without the expulsion of the population could lead to a demographic nightmare; thus, Israel’s need to reinvent its annexation plan.

Though Israel has supposedly delayed the de jure annexation, it continued with a de facto form of annexation, one that has generated little international media attention.

The Israeli Court’s decision regarding Masafer Yatta, which is already being carried out with the expulsion of the Najjar family on May 11, is an important step towards the annexation of Area C.  If Israel can evict the residents of twelve villages, with a population of over 1,000 Palestinians, unhindered, more such expulsions are anticipated, not only south of Hebron, but throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian villagers of Masafer Yatta and their legal representation know very well that no real ‘justice’ can be obtained from the Israeli court system. They continue to fight the legal war, anyway, in the hope that a combination of factors, including solidarity in Palestine and pressure from the outside, can ultimately succeed in compelling Israel to delay its planned destruction and Judaization of the whole region.

However, it seems that Palestinian efforts, which have been underway since 1997, are failing. The Israeli Supreme Court decision is predicated on the erroneous and utterly bizarre notion that the Palestinians of that area could not demonstrate that they belonged there prior to 1980, when the Israeli government decided to turn the area into ‘Firing Zone 918’.

Sadly, the Palestinian defense was partly based on documents from the Jordanian era and official United Nations records that reported on Israeli attacks on several Masafer Yatta villages in 1966. The Jordanian government, which administered the West Bank until 1967, compensated some of the residents for the loss of their ‘stone houses’ – not tents – animals and other properties that were destroyed by the Israeli military. Palestinians tried to use this evidence to show that they have existed, not as nomadic people but as rooted communities. This was unconvincing to the Israeli court, which favored the military’s argument over the rights of the native population.

Israeli firing zones occupy nearly 18 percent of the total size of the West Bank. It is one of several ploys used by the Israeli government to lay a legal claim on Palestinian land and to, eventually, years later, claim legal ownership as well. Many of these firing zones exist in Area C, and are being used as one of the Israeli methods aimed at officially appropriating Palestinian land with the support of the Israeli courts.

Now that the Israeli military has managed to acquire Masafer Yatta – a region spanning 32 to 56 sq km – based on completely flimsy excuses, it will become much easier in ensuring the ethnic cleansing of many similar communities in various parts of occupied Palestine.

While discussions and media coverage of Israel’s annexation scheme in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley have largely subsided, Israel is now preparing for a gradual annexation scheme. Instead of annexing 40% of the West Bank all at once, Israel is now annexing smaller tracts of land and regions, like Masafer Yatta, separately. Tel Aviv will eventually connect all these annexed areas through Jewish-only bypass roads to larger Jewish settlement infrastructures in the West Bank.

Not only does this alternative strategy allow Israel to avoid international criticism, it will also permit Israel to eventually annex Palestinian land while incrementally expelling Palestinians, helping Tel Aviv prevent demographic imbalances before they occur.

What is happening in Masafer Yatta is not only the largest ethnic cleansing scheme to be carried out by Israel since 1967, but the move should be considered a first step in a much larger scheme of illegal land appropriation, ethnic cleansing and official mass annexation.

Israel must not succeed in Masafer Yatta, because if it does, its original, mass annexation scheme will become a reality in no time.

The post The Ethnic Cleansing of Masafer Yatta: Israel’s New Annexation Strategy in Palestine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Right of Return, Nakba Are Back on Palestinian Agenda

The Nakba is back on the Palestinian agenda.

For nearly three decades, Palestinians were told that the Nakba – or Catastrophe – is a thing of the past. That real peace requires compromises and sacrifices; therefore, the original sin that has led to the destruction of their historic homeland should be entirely removed from any ‘pragmatic’ political discourse. They were urged to move on.

The consequences of that shift in narrative were dire. Disowning the Nakba, the single most important event that shaped modern Palestinian history, has resulted in more than political division between the so-called radicals and the supposedly peace-loving pragmatists, the likes of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. It also divided Palestinian communities in Palestine and across the world around political, ideological and class lines.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, it became clear that the Palestinian struggle for freedom was being entirely redefined and reframed. It was no longer a Palestinian fight against Zionism and Israeli settler colonialism that goes back to the start of the 20th century, but a ‘conflict’ between two equal parties, with equally legitimate territorial claims that can only be resolved through ‘painful concessions’.

The first of such concessions was relegating the core issue of the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees who were driven out of their villages and cities in 1947-48. That Palestinian Nakba paved the way for Israel’s ‘independence’, which was declared atop the rubble and smoke of nearly 500 destroyed and burnt Palestinian villages and towns.

At the start of the ‘peace process’, Israel was asked to honor the Right of Return for Palestinians, although symbolically. Israel refused. Palestinians were then pushed to relegate that fundamental issue to a ‘final status negotiations’, which never took place. This meant that millions of Palestinian refugees – many of whom are still living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, as well as the occupied Palestinian territories – were dropped from the political conversation altogether.

If it were not for the continued social and cultural activities of the refugees themselves, insisting on their rights and teaching their children to do the same, such terms as the Nakba and Right of Return would have been completely dropped out of the Palestinian political lexicon.

While some Palestinians rejected the marginalization of the refugees, insisting that the subject is a political not merely a humanitarian one, others were willing to move on as if this right was of no consequence. Various Palestinian officials affiliated with the now defunct ‘peace process’ have made it clear that the Right of Return was no longer a Palestinian priority. But none came even close to the way that PA President Abbas, himself, framed the Palestinian position in a 2012 interview with Israeli Channel 2.

“Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am [a] refugee, but I am living in Ramallah,” he said.

Abbas had it completely wrong, of course. Whether he wished to exercise his right of return or not, that right, according to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, is simply “inalienable”, meaning that neither Israel, nor the Palestinians themselves, can deny or forfeit it.

Let alone the lack of intellectual integrity of separating the tragic reality of the present from its main root cause, Abbas lacked political wisdom as well. With his ‘peace process’ floundering, and with the lack of any tangible political solution, he simply decided to abandon millions of refugees, denying them the very hope of having their homes, land or dignity restored.

Since then, Israel, along with the United States, has fought Palestinians on two different fronts: one, through denying them any political horizon and, the other, by attempting to dismantle their historically enshrined rights, mainly their Right of Return. Washington’s war on the Palestinian refugees’ agency, UNRWA, falls under the latter category as the aim was – and remains – the destruction of the very legal and humanitarian infrastructures that allow Palestinian refugees to see themselves as a collective of people seeking repatriation, reparations and justice.

Yet, all such efforts continue to fail. Far more important than Abbas’ personal concessions to Israel, UNRWA’s ever-shrinking budget or the failure of the international community to restore Palestinian rights, is the fact that the Palestinian people are, once again, unifying around the Nakba anniversary, thus insisting on the Right of Return for the seven million refugees in Palestine and the shattat – Diaspora.

Ironically, it was Israel that has unwittingly re-unified Palestinians around the Nakba. By refusing to concede an inch of Palestine, let alone allow Palestinians to claim any victory, a State of their own – demilitarized or otherwise – or allow a single refugee to go home, Palestinians were forced to abandon Oslo and its numerous illusions. The once popular argument that the Right of Return was simply ‘impractical’ no longer matters, neither to ordinary Palestinians nor to their intellectual or political elites.

In political logic, for something to be impossible, an alternative would have to be attainable. However, with Palestinian reality worsening under the deepening system of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, Palestinians now understand that they have no possible alternative but their unity, their resistance and the return to the fundamentals of their struggle. The Unity Intifada of last May was a culmination of this new realization. Moreover, the Nakba anniversary commemoration rallies and events throughout historic Palestine and the world on May 15 have further helped crystallize the new discourse that the Nakba is no longer symbolic and the Right of Return is the collective, core demand of most Palestinians.

Israel is now an apartheid state in the real meaning of the word. Israeli apartheid, like any such system of racial separation, aims at protecting the gains of nearly 74 years of unhinged colonialism, land theft and military dominance. Palestinians, whether in Haifa, Gaza or Jerusalem, now fully understand this, and are increasingly fighting back as one nation.

And since the Nakba and the subsequent ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees are the common denominator behind all Palestinian suffering, the term and its underpinnings are back at center stage of any meaningful conversation on Palestine, as should have always been the case.

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Constantly on the Verge of Collapse: How Palestinians Became a Factor in Israeli Politics

Israel’s coalition government of right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is on the verge of collapse, which is unsurprising. Israeli politics, after all, is among the most fractious in the world, and this particular coalition was born out of the obsessive desire to dethrone Israel’s former leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

While Netanyahu was successfully ousted in June 2021, Bennett’s coalition has been left to contend with the painful reality that its odd political components have very little in common.

On April 6, Israeli lawmaker Ildit Salman defected from the coalition, leaving Bennett and his temporary allies wrangling with the fact that their Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) coalition no longer has a majority. Now that the Knesset count stands at 60-60, a single defection could potentially send Israelis back to the voting booth, which has been quite habitual recently.

Two current Bennett allies, Abir Kara and Bir Orbach, are possible defectors. Even Bennett’s old Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) partner, Ayelet Shaked, could ultimately betray him, once his coalition ship begins sinking. And it is.

Both Bennett and Shaked left the Jewish Home in 2018 to form Yamina. Although the latter won only seven seats in the March 2021 elections, the far-right party proved to be the kingmaker, which allowed the anti-Netanyahu coalition to be formed. The only alternative to this current coalition would have been a government in which Netanyahu and Bennett would alternate the prime minister post. Though Bennett is a protegé of Netanyahu, the current prime minister knew too well that his former boss cannot be trusted.

So, instead, Bennett opted to join a hotchpotch coalition of political desperados, each joining an unlikely government for simply having no other option. For example, Yesh Atid (17 seats), and Kahol Lavan (8 seats), once part of the Blue and White center-right coalition, betrayed their political base by joining far-right Yamina and, consequently, leaving behind Telem of Moshe Yalon, which now has no Knesset representation.

The same can be said of Labor (7 seats) and Meretz (6 seats) who, earlier, were the backbone of the Israeli political establishment – in 1992 they had 56 seats combined. Losing faith in their own political base, they opted to join their supposed ideological nemesis, instead of enduring the painstaking process of breathing life into a dying camp.

The captivating part of the story is the United Arab List of Mansour Abbas, which is rightly perceived to have betrayed its Arab base in Israel and its own Palestinian people everywhere else. As the Israeli army is cracking down on Palestinian communities throughout historic Palestine, including Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Naqab – Mansour Abbas’ own base – this strange political creature remains committed to Bennett, though nervous about future possibilities, especially that the nature of the Israeli attacks on Palestinians are increasingly shifting towards a religious war.

Consequently, it is hard to imagine that Bennett’s government could realistically survive till 2025. In fact, it is quite rare in Israeli politics that any government coalition has served its full four-year term. Still, Israel’s historic political instability is worsening. In fact, Bennett’s government is the outcome of an agonizing political process that saw Israeli voters cast their votes in four different general elections in only two years.

Perhaps, what is keeping Bennett’s coalition together, though precariously, is the menacing image of Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, sinisterly watching from across the Knesset aisles while waiting for the right opportunity to pounce. Some Israeli analysts even argue that the defection of MK Salman was largely instigated by the abuse and intimidation she received from Netanyahu’s Likud party, which saw her as a traitor to their right-wing agenda.

Regardless of the fate of Bennett’s government, Israel’s political crisis will continue indefinitely, and there are reasons for this.

Though the Israeli right has dominated the country’s politics for many years, especially since 1996, it remains fractious and opportunistic. The constant need to feed the insatiable appetite of the country’s powerful right-wing constituency keeps pushing Israel’s right-wing parties further to the right. They are merely united around such values as the racial and religious supremacy of Israeli Jews, their hate for Palestinians and Arabs, the desire to expand the illegal Jewish settlements and the rejection of any mediated solution that would provide Palestinians with their basic human rights.

The left in Israel is, frankly, not a left at all. It is recognized as such, largely because of its ‘peace-process’ legacy, which died with the assassination of Labor Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995. Tellingly, Rabin was not a peacenik but one of Israel’s most militant and violent leaders. However, the erroneous association, linking any Israeli leader with the ‘peace process’, automatically classified that individual as a ‘leftist’. According to Israeli analyst Oz Aruch, this also applied to Ariel Sharon. The name of the late notorious Israeli prime minister and Army General is associated with the Sabra and Shatila massacre, along with other horrific episodes.

Without a real ideology and without a ‘peace process’, or even the desire to engage in one, the Israeli left has become irrelevant.

The same applies to the center which, by definition, is the political camp that occupies the space between the right and the left. With the right being in constant redefinition and the left having no strong ideological base, the Israeli center has proven equally hopeless. The outcome of the April 2019 elections, when the center coalition Blue and White obtained 35 seats, should have been a watershed moment for Israel’s political center. This ultimately culminated to nil, and eventually led to the collapse of Blue and White itself.

While this is taking place in Israel, the Palestinian body politic has been slowly reanimating. Though Palestinian Arab parties in Israel remain divided, and Palestinian groups in the occupied territories are yet to find their common ground, Palestinian communities, especially the younger generations, have been articulating a new political discourse. With grassroots leaderships, they are coordinating their actions from occupied Jerusalem to Gaza, to the Naqab to the West Bank and to Palestinian communities in Israel itself.

For the first time in many years, Israel finds itself in a position where it is no longer the only party that is shaping events or determining outcomes in the country. Therefore, Israeli political instability will worsen. Contrastingly, Palestinians are finally becoming a factor in Israeli politics and, through their popular resistance, can mobilize to put pressure on Israel as has been the case in recent years.

Israel is now facing the dilemma of either ignoring this new Palestinian factor, at its own peril, or accepting the inescapable fact that Israel can never enjoy stability while Palestinians remain occupied, confined and oppressed.

The post Constantly on the Verge of Collapse: How Palestinians Became a Factor in Israeli Politics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ending “West’s Neocolonial Oppression”: On the New Language and Superstructures

The Russia-Ukraine war has quickly turned into a global conflict. One of the likely outcomes of this war is the very redefinition of the current world order, which has been in effect, at least since the collapse of the Soviet Union over three decades ago.

Indeed, there is a growing sense that a new global agenda is forthcoming, one that could unite Russia and China and, to a degree, India and others, under the same banner. This is evident, not only by the succession of the earth-shattering events underway, but, equally important, the language employed to describe these events.

The Russian position on Ukraine has morphed throughout the war from merely wanting to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine to a much bigger regional and global agenda, to eventually, per the words of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, “put an end to the unabashed expansion” of NATO, and the “unabashed drive towards full domination by the US and its Western subjects on the world stage.”

On April 30, Lavrov went further, stating in an interview with the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, that Russia’s war “contributes to the process of freeing the world from the West’s neocolonial oppression,” predicated on “racism and an exceptionality.”

But Russia is not the only country that feels this way. China, too, even India, and many others. The meeting between Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on March 30, served as a foundation of this truly new global language. Statements made by the two countries’ top diplomats were more concerned about challenging US hegemony than the specifics of the Ukraine war.

Those following the evolution of the Russia-China political discourse, even before the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, will notice that the language employed supersedes that of a regional conflict, into the desire to bring about the reordering of world affairs altogether. 

But is this new world order possible? If yes, what would it look like? These questions, and others, remain unanswered, at least for now. What we know, however, is that the Russian quest for global transformation exceeds Ukraine by far, and that China, too, is on board.

While Russia and China remain the foundation of this new world order, many other countries, especially in the Global South, are eager to join. This should not come as a surprise as frustration with the unilateral US-led world order has been brewing for many years, and has come at a great cost. Even the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, though timid at times, has warned against this unilaterality, calling instead on the international community to commit itself to  “the values of multilateralism and diplomacy for peace.”

However, the pro-Russian stances in the South – as indicated by the refusal of many governments to join western sanctions on Moscow, and the many displays of popular support through protests, rallies and statements – continue to lack a cohesive narrative. Unlike the Soviet Union of yesteryears, Russia of today does not champion a global ideology, like socialism, and its current attempt at articulating a relatable global discourse remains, for now, limited.

It is obviously too early to examine any kind of superstructure – language, political institutions, religion, philosophy, etc – resulting from the Russia-NATO global conflict, Russia-Ukraine war and the growing Russia-China affinity.

Though much discussion has been dedicated to the establishing of an alternative monetary system, in the case of Lavrov’s and Yi’s new world order, a fully-fledged substructure is yet to be developed.

New substructures will only start forming once the national currency of countries like Russia and China replace the US dollar, alternative money transfer systems, like CIPS, are put into effect, new trade routes are open, and eventually new modes of production replace the old ones. Only then, superstructures will follow, including new political discourses, historical narratives, everyday language, culture, art and even symbols.

The thousands of US-western sanctions slapped on Russia were largely meant to weaken the country’s ability to navigate outside the current US-dominated global economic system. Without this maneuverability, the West believes, Moscow would not be able to create and sustain an alternative economic model that is centered around Russia.

True, US sanctions on Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and others have failed to produce the coveted ‘regime change’, but they have succeeded in weakening the substructures of these societies, denying them the chance to be relevant economic actors at a regional and international stage. They were merely allowed to subsist, and barely so.

Russia, on the other hand, is a global power, with a relatively large economy, international networks of allies, trade partners and supporters. That in mind, surely a regime change will not take place in Moscow any time soon. The latter’s challenge, however, is whether it will be able to orchestrate a sustainable paradigm shift under current western pressures and sanctions.

Time will tell. For now, it is certain that some kind of a global transformation is taking place, along with the potential of a ‘new world order’, a term, ironically employed by the US government more than any other.

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The Limits of Israeli Intelligence: Does Israel Have a Yahya Sinwar Problem?

Like typical analyses offered by western intelligences when trying to assess risks or understand major political phenomena in the Middle East, Israeli intelligence is equally short-sighted. It insists on analyzing the attitudes and body language of individuals instead of focusing on the behavior of collectives. This is the case today as Israel is desperately trying to understand the changing political dynamics in Palestine.

Following the Israeli war on Gaza in May 2021, the Israeli military prepared a ‘personality profile’ of Gaza-based Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar. Though Hamas, and Sinwar, were important political actors in the events that took place throughout Palestine at the time, the real stars of the show were the Palestinian people. The popular Palestinian rebellion did not only challenge the Israeli occupation, but the stagnant Palestinian political discourse, saturated with factional references and power struggles.

Typically, the Israeli government, military and their various intelligence branches refuse to accept that the Palestinian people are capable of behaving and responding to Israeli violence on their own accord.

For example, following the popular Palestinian uprising of 1987 – the First Intifada – Israel resolved that the entire event was orchestrated by top Fatah and PLO leader, Khalil al-Wazir, Abu Jihad. In April 1988, a group of Israeli commandos assassinated him in his Tunis residence. However, the Intifada did not stop, but continued more furiously than before.

Now, Israel says it has a Yahya Sinwar problem.

The Hamas leader made his latest public appearance in Gaza City on April 30. Addressing a group of leaders and representatives of various Palestinian political groups, Sinwar declared that “Our people must prepare for a great battle if the occupation does not cease its aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Though Sinwar did not declare war on Israel, he emphasized that Israeli violations in Al-Aqsa would lead to “regional, religious war”.

Much can be surmised from these words and the rest of Sinwar’s speech. Clearly, Palestinians are trying to change the rules of engagement with Israel altogether. As Israel’s religious and far-right groups are now the forces that are shaping mainstream Israeli politics, many Palestinians, too, find their religious symbols, whether Muslim or Christian, strong points of unity.

In some sense, the choice by all Palestinian groups, including Hamas, is strategic. Failure to achieve unity around other issues – the ‘peace process’, the two-state solution, political representation, the type of resistance against Israel and other contentious points – made the search for common ground more difficult by the day. However, East Jerusalem, Al-Quds and, particularly, Al-Aqsa Mosque, are always a guaranteed platform for national and spiritual unity among all Palestinians.

Prior to May, Palestinians were divided, not only politically, but also in terms of language and priorities. Hamas wanted to end the siege, thus its own isolation in Gaza. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wanted a semblance of any political process that would keep him relevant in the eyes of the world. East Jerusalimites fought alone against mounting Israeli pressures to ethnically cleanse them, one house at a time, from their historic city. Palestinians who are citizens of Israel were almost entirely removed from the national conversation altogether, despite the fact that their struggle against racism and marginalization is a defining one, and matters to all Palestinians.

May changed all of this. When Gaza responded to relieve the pressure on Jerusalem – though at a heavy price of war and massive destruction – Palestinian communities throughout historic Palestine rose in tandem. Using social media and other platforms, they managed to communicate amongst themselves and coordinate their actions. Their unified message resonated throughout the world.

Hamas, like other Palestinian groups, was part of this collective action. But as Abu Jihad did not instigate the First Intifada, Sinwar did not instigate the May rebellion. Israel, however, refuses to accept this because, by doing so, it would be forced to swallow a bitter pill – that Palestinian resistance is not linked to individuals or groups, but is inherent in the behavior of the Palesitnian people themselves. This obvious realization is difficult for Tel Aviv because it simply means that no amount of fire power, military preparedness or intelligence data will ever succeed in maintaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine forever.

Oblivious to the changing reality, last July, Israel declared its assessment of the situation, practically stating that the problem is not human rights violations, apartheid, military occupation, Jewish settlers’ provocations, racism and home demolition, but Yahya Sinwar himself.

In an article reporting on the Israeli military assessment, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz conveyed the obsession of Israel with Sinwar’s messages. “Sinwar is turning himself into a spiritual figure,” the military analysts claimed, alleging that the Hamas leader, who “has become unpredictable”, is taking on the “characteristics of someone who believes that he was chosen to lead the Arabs in the world,” and is “chosen by God to fight for Jerusalem on behalf of the Muslims.”

If Israeli analysts paid closer attention, however, they would have concluded that Sinwar’s growing popularity, confidence and evolving language are all intrinsically linked to the events on the ground. Namely, Sinwar’s political discourse, as of that of other Palestinian leaders – including heads of the Fatah military groups and even some PA officials – are a reflection of popular events on the ground, not vice versa.

While Israelis continue to chase mirages and desperately try to decode messages, Palestinians feel, for the first time in many years, that they are able to influence political outcomes. A case in point was Israel’s decision to postpone the Flag March, scheduled to be held by Israeli extremists in Jerusalem on April 20.

Palestinian messages are not only confined to Israel, however. The fact that the Gaza resistance has threatened to fire 1,111 rockets on Israel, should the latter carry on with its provocations in Al-Aqsa, was intended for a Palestinian audience. The operation, according to Gaza groups, will be called Abu Ammar – the nom de guerre of late Palestinian Fatah leader, Yasser Arafat. Abu Ammar died on November, 11, 2004.

After years of political discord and disunity, there is evidence that Palestinians are finally uniting, the kind of unity that does not require high-level meetings in luxury hotels followed by press conferences and official statements. It is the unity of the Palestinian people themselves, around a set of values, new language and a collective frame of reference. Deep down, this is what truly terrifies Israel most, not the speeches of Sinwar or any other.

The post The Limits of Israeli Intelligence: Does Israel Have a Yahya Sinwar Problem? first appeared on Dissident Voice.