November 10, 2023
From Internationalist 360

Orinoco Tribune

Orinoco Tribune interviewed Palestinian activist and author Khaled Barakat about Palestine and the Palestinian struggle in the context of the Israeli occupation’s genocidal aggression against Gaza following the Palestinian Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. The ongoing genocidal attack on Palestine has killed more than 10,000 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and wounded over 25,000, with 40% of the dead being children.

Barakat, when consulted about the pertinence of the “Ceasefire Now!” slogan used by people sympathetic with the Palestinian Liberation cause worldwide as well as by many governments around the world, commented that no one in Gaza demands ceasefire because that plays into the narrative of two equal forces in a battlefield, when in reality the Palestinian Resistance can not be equated to the Israeli occupation in any way militarily, politically, or morally.

However, he added that we have to look at who are demanding ceasefire in Gaza. “There are those who want this massacre to end; they want this genocide to stop,” he commented, referring to the demonstrations held worldwide in solidarity with the Palestinian people in recent days. “On an international level, in demonstrations, when someone chants ceasefire and people repeat that, our role, I think, is actually not to say we don’t want ceasefire, but to explain that the content of this is to stop the aggression, the Israeli aggression, and to ensure that the Palestinian resistance comes out victorious.”

“For national liberation movements, for people being subjugated to ethnic cleansing and genocide, if you ask them to stop their fire, it’s just misleading,” Barakat continued. “And to be honest with you sometimes some groups that would adopt the ceasefire slogan, I think they care about the Israelis captured in Gaza. If there were no Israelis captured in Gaza, they would probably not demand ceasefire. Then again, some groups want ceasefire because they really want ceasefire. They’re buying into this ceasefire narrative… It depends who is saying this and how they are saying this. But as a movement, I won’t adopt or condone this slogan.” Additionally he pointed out “we cannot adopt slogans that don’t have content and meaning… we have to start giving content to these slogans.”

Barakat is a Palestinian activist and thinker currently based in Canada. A leftist and revolutionary voice on Palestine, he has been the target of numerous smear campaigns in the West, aimed at silencing and criminalizing him and others like him fighting for Palestinian rights in the diaspora. In 2019, he was deported from Germany for his activism. In Canada also, he has been a target of threats and harassment coming from various quarters, including the parliament. On November 5, he was interviewed by Orinoco Tribune on the Palestinian Resistance’s Al-Aqsa Flood operation and its aftermath, the ongoing aggression of the Zionist entity on Palestinians in Gaza as well as in the West Bank and the 1948 Occupied Territories, and how the current situation in Palestine may impact the global geopolitical scenario. The interview was conducted by Orinoco Tribune co-editor Saheli Chowdhury and contributor Dalal.

Palestinian Resistance: From 2006 to Al-Aqsa Flood

According to Barakat, the Al-Aqsa Flood operation is a natural outcome of the way the Palestinian Resistance has developed since 2005-06, since “the end of the Arafat era and the beginning of… a reactionary, puppet Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas.”

“It was a new era that called for elections of the Palestinian Authority, in which Hamas participated, and won,” Barakat explained, referring to the general elections of 2006 in which Hamas won with overwhelming majority in the Gaza Strip. He went on to describe that the United States and its satellite states did not recognize the election results, they “wanted Hamas to become a security agency” like the Palestinian Authority, “to commit to Oslo agreements” and “recognize Israel.” When Hamas refused to cede to the Western demands, “they waged a war against our people and against the resistance, and Gaza was immediately put under siege.” Gaza has been under a total blockade since then.

“In my view, the resistance did the right thing when they ended the Oslo team in Gaza and fully controlled Gaza,” continued Barakat, “because it meant that the resistance now had, I don’t want to say a liberated land in Palestine… but it’s semi-liberated. I have been in Gaza after that, and you can actually go from Rafah all the way to Beit Hanoun without any checkpoint. If you try to do that in the West Bank, go from one village to another, you face an Israeli checkpoint.”

Barakat also gave a view of how the Palestinian resistance works in Gaza. “Gaza is very small, it is 2.1 million Palestinians living in less than 360 km². So the idea was to build another Gaza under Gaza,” he explained. “These networks of tunnels extend almost 360 miles under Gaza because that’s the only way Palestinian resistance can actually defend itself, store their arms, do their programs and their training and at the same time be able to fight back.”

According to the activist, the Palestinian resistance has analyzed the aspects of every Israeli aggression starting from 2008 till today. “In 2019, they adopted the strategy to defend Gaza, which included the scenario that Israel would do something like a ground invasion… cutting Gaza into three parts and then trying to encircle the city, as they are doing now,” he explained. “They developed a strategy and they did three major military trainings on this strategy. So every scenario that the Israeli commanders now are thinking to use, the Palestinian commanders know exactly how they can counter that.”

The activist, however, emphasized that despite this preparation, the resistance in Gaza does not have the air defense systems to respond to the aerial bombardment of the occupation forces.

As for the relation between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance, he described it as “the relationship between the blood and the flesh to the body.” “If you try to separate them, they’ll bleed. If you try to separate the resistance from the people, they’ll bleed,” he said. “When we talk about the steadfastness of Gaza, we’re not just talking about the steadfastness of the armed resistance, we are talking about the fishers, the farmers, the workers, the teachers, the doctors. These are the popular classes that are actually carrying out the tasks of the sumud or steadfastness.”

“October 7 was kind of the accumulation of all of this experience,” he concluded. “It’s not just a military operation for us; October 7 has created a new stage for us. It carries many strategic consequences, as a heroic act by the Palestinian resistance.”

This is not a conflict between Israel and Hamas

Barakat condemned the Western media narrative of “conflict between Israel and Hamas.” “What is happening in Gaza is a total war waged by Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he stressed. “When they say this is a war between Israel and Hamas, it is a very classic and clear Zionist distortion of the real situation.”

“When we hear a Zionist say, we have no problem with Palestinians, we are just fighting Hamas, we know they mean to tell us that Palestinians have no rights and no cause,” he continued. “This is an attempt to ignore our existence… and to give the Zionist Occupation Forces, and the US-European so called international community, the license to murder and kill as many Palestinians as they wish.”

“If Israel’s issue is with Hamas, and if the war is with Hamas, then why do we have 10,000 people killed and over 3000 under the rubble, and mostly children and women who are not members of Hamas?” he wondered. “If that’s true, why Israel is waging war against our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem and inside 1948 Occupied Territories? If the war is against Hamas, then why are they targeting Palestinian nationalists and leftists? There are over 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners, over 50% of them are nationalists. Israel is waging a war against all Palestinians…but they are trying to strip the Palestinian people from their cause as a national liberation organization.”

He further explained that this is nothing new. During 1967-1973, the Zionist entity claimed that “we have no problem with the people of Gaza, our issue is with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—the PFLP, when the Front was leading the armed struggle in Gaza,” Barakat stated. “They also used that excuse to invade Lebanon and destroy the country, claiming their problem is with the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization], not with the Palestinian refugees.”

“This is not limited to the Palestinian experience. I think the colonizers always use this line,” he commented, connecting the Palestinian experience with that of colonized peoples around the planet. “If you ask the people of South Africa, India, Ireland, Algeria, the native people here in Turtle Island [US-Canada], they have heard this from their oppressors in one way or another.”

Barakat also responded to the narrative coming from certain quarters, especially from Western liberals, that Hamas was originally created by Israel to divide the Palestinian movement and to weaken the PLO. “Israel did not create Hamas. Hamas was founded on December 9, 1987, in the First Intifada,” he stated. “Since then, Israel has been targeting Hamas, killing its leaders, assassinating their commanders, killing and imprisoning their members… If Israel created Hamas, then why don’t we have not even one document that shows this?”

He explained that Hamas originated from the Muslim Brotherhood movement which was established in 1928, 20 years before Israel was established. Israel did try to create a religious movement to replace the PLO but failed in the attempt.

“Today the PLO and the Palestinian Authority leadership are traitors and tools in the hands of Israel,” he continued. “And Hamas is leading the Palestinian resistance, but not just the armed resistance. If you look at elections, let’s say the student movement elections or labor elections or any kind of really popular assembly elections, Hamas will win with majority. Palestinian people are voting for Hamas in the most prestigious Palestinian liberal universities, like Birzeit University, Hamas will win student council elections. Even in Christian universities, Hamas will win by Christian votes. Does that mean that the Palestinian people don’t understand Hamas? And these Western liberals understand the situation more than we do?… I do not think it is naive or ignorant when they [repeat this] it is a calculated distortion.” He continued “the idea behind these allegations is to say that Palestinians are not capable of creating their movement [and] someone else must have done this for them.”

Barakat emphasized that Hamas is a national liberation movement of the Palestinian people. He recalled that Western media never mentions that Hamas was actually elected by Palestinians. “They say things like Hamas controls Gaza or Hamas did a coup, as if an elected government is going to do a coup against itself,” he said. “It’s just garbage that Western media put out to mislead people.”

When consulted about the rejection expressed by some sections of the Western left towards anti-imperialist movements that have a religious base, such as Hamas, Barakat called it “an extension of a colonialist mindset.” “They want a Palestinian resistance that fits their image and their criteria, and not how reality is and how Palestinians are,” he said. He added that the same sectors used to criticize the Marxist-Leninist PFLP when it lead the armed struggle during the 1960s-70s, calling the organization “too extreme.”

In this regard, he traced the history of the origin of Islamist anti-imperialist trends in the region. “In the 50s our people were shouting slogans for socialism,” he commented. “They supported Nasser in Egypt… And there were no religious groups anywhere in the movement carrying out any kind of national liberation tasks. Being affected by the situation worldwide—Vietnam, Cuba, Algeria, national liberation movements across Asia and Africa, Palestinians founded the PFLP, the DFLP, and other progressive forces. But that changed. And the reason that things change is not because people are wrong, but because these political parties or these political entities haven’t delivered what they were supposed to deliver. Whether it’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Arab national movements that were defeated in 1967, or whether the socialist organizations and political parties retreated in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc.”

“The popular classes and the working classes are not going to rest until the left rebuilds itself,” Barakat stressed. “They’re going to support the forces that are still fighting. And when there is a vacuum, someone needs to fulfill the vacuum. In that atmosphere, with the 1979 Great Revolution of Iran, a new era began in the region,” and religious movements took up the task of the Palestinian resistance.

He called out the inherent Islamophobia in the “anyone but Hamas” view, and stated, “We are part of the discourse of Liberation Theology. It’s not just churches, mosques can be revolutionary too… If a mosque is calling for the liberation of Palestine and for equality and for supporting the marginalized and the workers, then this mosque is playing a good role, a positive role. But if a mosque is calling for supporting the Saudi prince and extend the life of bin-Salman of Saudi Arabia, that’s a reactionary mosque and a reactionary imam. The way we look at churches, we should look at mosques with the same objectivity and the same way.”

“Those who want to see the left rising and having military capabilities, they should go and support the left instead of saying they don’t like Hamas,” he advised. “It’s just a very bad position and not one Palestinian would respect that position, including any revolutionary leftist.”

There are no ‘both sides’

When questioned about the issue of Hamas killing “Israeli civilians,” Barakat stressed that it is important to clarify what that term means. “When we talk about Israeli settlers, we are talking about settlers who are armed,” he explained. “I describe them as paramilitary, and they act under the full cover and support of the Israeli official army. An Israeli settler could enter his settlement and in ten minutes come out with his full military fatigues and his rifle… They are attacking Palestinians, burning their farms, burning homes, doing all that [the] Israeli army does, except they’re more dangerous because they have no official responsibility. They’re now distributing leaflets across the West Bank saying to Palestinians, ‘Wait for your Nakba.’ So, to distinguish between a civilian settler and an army is just a joke. Every Israeli settler in our homeland is a legitimate target for our resistance, and this has to be very clear.”

“Some people, when they say ‘both sides committed violence,’ when they say that the colonizer is the same as the colonized, it is literally saying that the person who is torturing the prisoner and the prisoner are the same, and so let us just blame them both,” Barakat continued. “If Palestinian prisoners tomorrow have a riot in Israeli prisons, they’ll probably be condemned for using violence. This is a very narrow minded sectarianism.”

Palestinian Resistance Frustrates Israeli Advance into Gaza

“They don’t understand the reality of the Palestinian people, and they speak from their very comfortable zones and try to judge the Palestinian struggle,” he stated further. “Those people usually condemn all resistance, whether it’s by Hamas or not Hamas. Their idea is that they want to blame the victim and at the same time blame Israel. But in reality, everyone blames Israel because it is the occupier. So if we take this case to the United Nations, to the General Assembly, to any people’s forum, they’ll blame Israel, because Israel is the aggressor, the oppressor, the occupying force. But to blame the victim is a very cowardly position.”

“Israelis don’t differentiate between a Hamas fighter or a Palestinian leftist fighter or a nationalist fighter,” he pointed out. “They will target any Palestinian resistance. That is why the Palestinian armed resistance is very unified, despite the very harsh economic conditions, social conditions, even despite our differences.”

Consequences of Al-Aqsa Flood
According to the Palestinian activist, the success of the Al-Aqsa Flood operation shattered the myth that the Israeli army was well organized and invincible. “The Palestinian resistance surprised everybody, and particularly the enemy, because the Israelis did not anticipated this offense,” Barakat said.

He added that the resistance was even surprised to see how the Israeli military system was collapsing so easily. “In fact, they only used 1200 fighters in this offensive and against one of the most well equipped Israeli division called Gaza Battalion,” he explained. “The Gaza Battalion is a small Israeli army surrounding Gaza; it has military intelligence, elite units, all sorts of weapons, tanks, military bases… and they collapsed in hours.”

“We see that in the last two weeks after the ground invasion, the Israelis stayed in their tanks,” he added. “They’re not willing to leave their tanks, and they get attacked by the Palestinian resistance. I mean, they (the Israelis) are not fighters. They throw them there without strategy and without specific military tasks…The (occupation) is very confused and there is mistrust in  their ranks and there is a mistrust between the military leadership and the political leadership.”

According to Barakat, the ongoing Israeli destruction and genocide in Gaza is a sign of the occupation entity’s recklessness in the face of defeat. It is also the “imperialist camp’s” response to their defeat. “This is the US’ doing. This is Germany, UK, France and others, it is not just Israel,” he pointed out. “Israel is committing the war crimes, but when you look at the weapons used, when you look at the support they’re getting, when you look at the political and media support, there is an entire imperialist camp standing behind Israel.”

He also pointed out Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own personal interests in the war. “If this ends now, Netanyahu will fall tomorrow,” he said. “I think, 76% of Israelis in the latest polls don’t want him as the prime minister and they think that he should resign. When a leader is leading a war with these kind of figures, then he is weak and defeated, and his internal front is very fragile and so Israel is going to be defeated for sure in this battle. The only thing they can do is they can kill more Palestinians, and that is what they are doing and they are doing it around the clock… They know they were defeated on October 7, and they are being defeated on the ground and they are being defeated morally because there is nothing brave about an Israeli pilot going into his F-16 and throwing bombs at children.”

“So the US is trying to tell Israel to try to think of a way to come out defeated, but not defeated totally,” he added. “They’re trying to pressure the Palestinian Resistance to give some concessions.” However, in Barakat’s opinion, the Resistance will not settle for less than achieving its original objectives which includes the release of Palestinian political prisoners, ending the siege of Gaza, and stopping the desecration of Muslim and Christian religious sites by Zionist settlers.

According to Barakat, another success of Al-Aqsa Flood was linking the struggle of the people in Gaza with the Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the 1948 Occupied Territories, as well as Palestinians in the diaspora, especially the younger generations.

Regarding the Israeli’s captured by the Resistance, Barakat stated “the reason Israel wants to kill them is because [Israel] is scared of what will say about the resistance. How they were treated fairly, how they were treated with respect, how they were not tortured.” On the other hand, he pointed out “you see how they torture our prisoners.”

The operation also exposed the defeat of the Palestinian Authority, which is nothing but “an Israeli authority with a Palestinian face,” Barakat pointed out. “There are studies from before October 7 that gave Mahmoud Abbas [PA president] 8% or 10%… Most polls are giving pro-Palestinian resistance factions in any elections overwhelming majority up to 80%; so the situation internally has changed.”

“Now Mahmoud Abbas has no legitimacy,” Barakat said in the same vein. “This authority does not represent the Palestinian people. They were not elected by the Palestinian people, and they are trying to wait and see the outcome of this Gaza war, hoping they can come back now riding an Israeli tank or an American tank. That is not going to happen. Everyone knows that the PA is a puppet of Israel, and as long as the PA is serving the US and Israel, they’ll keep it. But if it stopped or ceased to be a useful tool for Israel and the US, they will end it and create some different entity.”

Barakat went on to describe Palestine’s role in the regional geopolitical situation. “Our people in West Asia is one contingent facing imperialism directly, and Palestine is at the forefront of that,” he expressed. “I can’t look at the solidarity movements in Iran or Lebanon or Pakistan as the same as the solidarity movement in Switzerland… They’re fighting for Palestine because Palestine is actually their cause. It is not just an idea for them, but it is connected to their lives and the destiny of their people and their country and the future of their country… For example, in Algeria, it is not just that the people of Algeria are supporting their Palestinian brothers and sisters, but Palestine is an Algerian national issue.”

“Take into consideration that we are living in an interim period, we’re moving from one world to another, a world that is dominated by the United States to a multipolar system,” he continued. “Usually in these kind of interim periods, a lot of things gets hazy… I think that the situation after October 7 has changed drastically to our side, to the Palestinian side, to the revolutionary side, and to those who are willing to accept pluralism within revolution, within the camp of resistance.”

What about the ‘Two State Solution’?
Barakat branded the Two-State Solution as “aggression against the Palestinian people” and a legitimisation of colonialism.

“The two-state solution is not something that was created after Oslo,” he said. “It was created with the partition of Palestine in 1947-1948, when the colonizers said a Jewish state and an Arab state of Palestine. At that time they just wanted to divide countries south and north and they thought that Palestine is the same. Well, we didn’t have civil war in Palestine to divide Palestine south and west. What we had was a colonialist settler movement supported by imperialist powers, and they wanted to displace the Palestinian people and establish this racist regime in Palestine in order to dominate the region. Not in order to dominate Palestine. Palestine is under occupation, but what they wanted Israel to do is to be a base to threaten the region… Whether Palestinians fight or not, the Zionist regime is in contradiction with the Lebanese people, the Syrian people, the people of Pakistan, of Iran, and so on.”

Due to this reason, “Hezbollah, Ansarullah, Algeria, Iran, the people of the region understand very well that Palestine is their cause,” Barakat opined. “For the people in the region to have development, to have freedom, to have democracy, to have renaissance, we must look at what is the obstacle that is making us not being able to move forward in our economic development, our wealth, our resources. It is imperialism and Zionism. It is the US and Israel, and of course the reactionary Arab regimes that are the advocates of the two-state solution.”

As for those who support the Palestinian cause and yet advocate for the two-state solution, Barakat took the example of China. “When we ask our comrades in the Chinese Communist Party, are you willing to divide Taiwan or give any inch of Taiwan, they say no, we have a One China policy,” he explained. “Well, we have a One Palestine policy too. Why should we donate 80% of our land to Zionist racist settlers?”

He further explained that even Israel does not want to implement the two-state solution. “Before October 7, they were trying to convince the Palestinian Authority to accept self-rule government and declare the two-state solution is no longer viable,” he stated. “The two state solution becomes a very high ceiling for Israel and Western powers and reactionary Arab regimes.”

According to Barakat, even if the two-state solution were viable, it is not possible to implement it. “Where are you going to have these two states?” he asked. “There is no West Bank anymore; Zionists took the entire West Bank for settlements and colonies. Gaza is under siege.”

“Even if the settlers leave the West Bank, even if they agree to dismantle all their colonies in the West Bank, even if they lift the siege on Gaza, the two-state solution will not be a viable solution for our people,” Barakat emphasized. “If they want to have Israel they can have it in Australia or in the US. In Canada. They can give some land in France, maybe Holland could donate some land and create Israel there. But in Palestine there is no place for Israel, there is no place for Zionism.”

“Liberation of Palestine is the goal, and it is a noble goal,” he stated. “And it is not only liberation of Palestinians, it is also the liberation of everyone in Palestine. Because the only way we can liberate Zionists from their racist ideology is to defeat them. You cannot teach colonizers equality theoretically or through dialogue. You have to defeat them first and then they will understand.”

Barakat concluded that “the resistance gets stronger after every battle and those who claim that the resistance have not achieved victory get weaker and become more irrelevant. … Resistance is not just about fighting Israel but about creating hope and creating an alternative path to the one [enforced on] us since 1948.” And “surrendering doesn’t lead to development, but resistance can; surrendering doesn’t lead to pluralism and democracy, resistance can. So the path of resistance is the path that imperialists and zionists are afraid of because it could lead to an entire new world. That’s why the liberation of Palestine is not an easy task because it means a change in the region and a change in the world.”