Destroy them, destroy them, this time, Israel must destroy Hamas, otherwise we’re done.
– An unnamed Palestinian Authority official to an Israeli researcher after Israel announced its post-October 7th siege of the Gaza Strip1
Hamas’ surprise military assault on the settlements of the so-called ‘Gaza Envelope’ on October 7th shocked everyone by the scale, ingenuity, and speed of which it was conducted. From paramotors to bulldozers, Hamas, even for a few hours, forcefully broke Gaza’s 16-year siege. Its fighters arrested Israeli settlers for a potential prisoner swap and put Israel’s Gaza Division effectively out of service. This victory should not be viewed only in a military sense; its political connotations threaten the neoliberal peace paradigm that Israel, the US, and the EU pushed, often through a combination of soft and hard power tactics.
This paradigm, upon which the 1993 Oslo Accords are hinged, forced the creation of a ‘peace dividend,’ an incentive for the still-nascent Palestinian Authority (hereafter PA) to uphold its end of the bargain – that is, security and economic obligations towards Israel and maintaining the PA’s control over the scattered towns and refugee camps that it controls. This dividend is described by Palestinian researcher Toufic Haddad as ‘rents … ultimately enforced by Israel, in the hopes that a workable social, political and economic order in favor of Israel could be forged across the OPT.’2 The term ‘subcontractor’ is often used to describe the PA’s subservience to Western and Israeli interests in favor of keeping the steady supply of the ‘peace dividends’ flowing. A subcontractor, however, has contractual obligations as well as rights; meanwhile, the PA, in Israeli eyes, does not have any rights which extend past nourishing its role as a perpetual ‘interim’ self-governing authority relieving the occupation from its obligations vis-a-vis directly ruling the colonized. As such, the term ‘proxy’ is more apt in the case of the PA.
Capitalist neoliberal development in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was encouraged by the UN, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. This mirage of development, dubbed by political economist Sara Roy as ‘de-development,’3 uprooted any hopes for genuine national development in the 1967 territories, steering it towards further erosion of Palestinian agriculture and small-scale industry in favor of certain facades of autonomy. Gaza International Airport, which served flights exclusively within the Arab World, could simply be put out of operation via an Israeli order or an artillery strike, as was done permanently in 2002. Rawabi, the first Palestinian-planned city which is built on the land of nearby expropriated villages and is inspired by the Israeli settlement of Modi’in,4 shows the grotesque intersection of the PLO’s nationalist discourse with the neoliberal peace paradigm pushed onto Palestinians. Amir Dajani, the project manager of Rawabi, described the position of the Palestinian bourgeoisie under Oslo: ‘we are in the business of moderation, building harmony, coexistence, supporting the visionary two-state solution that is hoping to be the way forward under the circumstances … We are not in the business of politics, we are in the business of job creation.’5 As such, job creation, real estate, and extravagant multi-million dollar projects adopt a faux-liberatory aspect that is depoliticised by its enablers and creators. They nevertheless serve a political purpose of creating a certain strata of Palestinian society that benefits directly from the status-quo. Individualist progress is thus portrayed as a step towards securing statehood.
Touching upon the security side, the peace dividend put forth by ‘the international community’ in order to subdue the PLO rests purely on guaranteeing the status-quo at all costs and on the creation of patrimonial networks within Palestinian society, irrespective of what their views on the PA might be, to cement that society’s reliance on Oslo despite constant Israeli settler colonial expansion. It is not a surprise to see that with the signing of the Declaration of Principles6 (DOP) in 1993, many hardline members of Fatah7 in Gaza and the West Bank swiftly adopted the peace process discourse: it materially benefitted them, despite many of them still being in Israeli crosshairs. A statement put forth by Fatah Hawks in the Gaza Strip, the armed wing of Fatah during the First Intifada, after the signing of the DOP and the discovery of an Israeli hit list that targeted them, unveiled the new discourse that prevailed using the patrimonial networks of the PA/PLO: ‘Israel wants our sole representative, the PLO, to condemn terrorism, but it exercises terrorism against those who defend the agreement that was signed between Israel and the PLO.’8 This statement effectively embodied the role of the patrimonial networks of the PA/PLO as defenders and upholders of the newly-created status quo. The assassination of Ahmad Abu Rish, a local Fatah Hawks leader, after he was supposedly granted amnesty by the Occupation through the PA, highlighted the fragility of the state-building narrative. In addition, the 1996 torture and killing of prominent Nablus-based Fatah Hawks leader, Mahmoud Ejemayyel, in PA custody for his refusal to give up his arms, underscores the PA’s desire to guarantee total adherence to its statebuilding narrative – even at the expense of killing other Fatah leaders for disobedience.
In recent times, the PA’s role as the upholder of the Oslo status-quo was shaken by Hamas’s 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip and the growth of the resistance factions there. The PA, barely surviving the Second Intifada intact, aimed to contrast its supposed economic growth and tightened security grip with the Israeli-engineered institutionalised impoverishment9 of the Gaza Strip. In essence, both Israel and the PA were working with each other to demonise and criminalise resistance in the eyes of the population of the West Bank, while facilitating the influx of foreign investment in real estate and luxury projects. This carrot was accompanied by the stick: the torture of Palestinians detained in Jericho Prison has become notorious, as has the continued aggressions against and the increasingly cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip. This alliance to thwart the Palestinian Resistance is made even clearer in the recent statements of a PA official calling for the continued bombardment of the Palestinians in Gaza following the Al Aqsa Flood operation.
The types of discourse of which the PA, and by extension Fatah, used to demonise Hamas varied, but have mainly rested upon the Islamist nature of the movement. Fatah is juxtaposed as the more ‘rational’ actor when it comes to taking socio-political decisions. In addition, the PA used the alliance between Iran, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as alleged proof that both factions were simply Iranian ‘pawns’, disregarding its own infamous Dayton battalions10 and continued reliance on politically-motivated foreign donor aid. The ‘Iranian puppet’ card is malicious in how it props up the American and Gulf-sponsored demonisation campaign of resistance movements across the Arab World. A common talking point, for example, is to paint Hezbollah as taking orders directly from Tehran with no agency. It is also a projection by the PA: its elites and patrons cannot imagine genuine state allyship with any political project without Palestinians being at the weak end of the bargain.
These sentiments did not start with Iran. In the late 1960s, Ghassan Kanafani wrote an article under the pseudonym of Faris Faris criticising this very phenomenon: an Arab liberal attacked Gamal Abdel Nasser and accused him of being a Soviet puppet, describing the Fedayeen as ‘janissaries aligned with the Soviet Empire.’11 This removal of agency is also dehumanisation. Again, for the PA and the US, the ‘bad’ Palestinians are never rational actors acting in their own interests.
How does this tie into today? October 7th, and the rise of resistance groups in the West Bank before it, exposed the futility of the statebuilding process that the PA espouses. Settlements expand, settler attacks in the West Bank increase exponentially, hope for any political solution with the PA is crushed time and time again. In the heyday of Yasser Arafat and Salam Fayyad, increased securitisation and the PA’s role as a security proxy were justified on the basis of a political settlement: the Interim period, Camp David, and Annapolis.
Today, the PA lacks any political legitimacy to mask its role as a second South Lebanon Army12 for Israel. The continued theft of land and the denial of rights of the refugees of the Gaza Strip, as well as the rest of the Palestinians, bestowed a duty upon Hamas and the resistance factions to launch the attack to break the status-quo. Oslo failed to free the Palestinian prisoners as promised by PLO officials, and the right of return was similarly sidelined; the Great March of Return in 2018 was crushed by the kneecapping of protestors in their hundreds. The international community cheered on, hoping to trap both Gaza and the West Bank with its own standards of passive resistance, statebuilding, and individualist economic prosperity that hides itself behind the veil of a collective effort to produce the New Palestinian13 to the world.
The significance of the October 7th assault thus becomes clearer: it was an attack not only against Israeli settler colonialism, but also against the fundamental discourse that underlies the PA. It broke the taboo on centering Palestinian rights through the lens of decolonial and revolutionary armed struggle. More importantly, it scathed the colonial hubris of a nuclear-armed beast that boasts of its weaponry and supposed military superiority to the world when ‘mowing the lawn’ in Gaza. No wonder, then, why the international community is cheering on the destruction of Gaza and the elimination of resistance. Out of fear that Hamas would break the perpetual stalemate that the PLO signed on to in 1993, the US wants to quench the Zionist bloodthirst that ensued after October 7th through JDAMS,14 Delta Force squadrons, and a media clergy15 that parrots every Israeli army claim that demonises not only the Resistance, but the entire population of Gaza. The entire Israeli political spectrum is united around portraying Palestinians as Nazis, ISIS members, ‘children of darkness’, as well as human animals in order to manufacture worldwide consent for the continuous bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
It is already clear that October 7th will become a landmark moment in the history of Palestinian resistance against Zionism, its benefactors, and its local agents. The PA, US, and Europe are encouraging the massacre and total siege of the Gaza Strip, not only because of their inherent interest in the continued existence of Israel on Arab land, but also because of their frenzied desire to try and restore the status quo, an imagined reality that existed before October 7th. Attempts to soften Hamas’ position on liberation via the Quartet and Qatar never bore fruit, as evidenced by what has transpired since. The failure of the peace dividends to thwart the Palestinian people, the collapse of the political discourse that masks securitisation behind a national goal, and the continued will of the resistance groups in Gaza to fight despite an international siege and soft power tactics to entice them to stay silent – all of this will pave the way for a more revolutionary discourse with regards to liberation. The era of pseudo-statebuilding is finally behind us, and an age of liberation is coming.
1 Kottasová, Ivana. ‘As a Ground Incursion Looms, the Big Question Remains: What Is Israel’s Plan for Gaza?’ CNN, October 21, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/21/middleeast/israel-hamas-war-gaza-future-intl/index.html.
2 Haddad, Toufic. Palestine Ltd.: Neoliberalism and Nationalism in the Occupied Territory. (London: I.B. Taurus, 2018), p. 147
3 For a thorough explanation of de-development pre-Oslo: Roy, Sara. ‘The Gaza Strip: A Case of Economic De-Development.’ Journal of Palestine Studies 17, no. 1 (1987): 56–88. https://doi.org/10.2307/2536651. For an explanation on what de-development entailed Post-Oslo: Roy, Sara. ‘De-Development Revisited: Palestinian Economy and Society Since Oslo.’ Journal of Palestine Studies 28, no. 3 (1999): 64–82. https://doi.org/10.2307/2538308
4 For references to the Rawabi-Modi’in connection: Rabie, Kareem. Palestine is throwing a party and the whole world is invited: Capital and state building in the West Bank. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021), p. 60-62.
5 Rabie, Kareem. Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World is Invited: Capital and State Building in the West Bank. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021), p. 56
6 The Declaration of Principles was signed on September 13th, 1993, between the PLO and Israel in Washington, D.C. As per the agreement, the PLO recognised Israel’s existence. The Declaration of Principles laid the groundwork for future interim period agreements and institutionalised the Palestinian Authority’s existence.
7 The Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) is the largest faction that governs both the Palestine Liberation Organisation as well as the Palestinian Authority. It cemented its hegemony over the PLO after the resignation of Ahmad al-Shuqeiri, its founder, in 1969.
8 Mreish, Azmi. Quwwat al-Amn al-Watani al-Filastini: Al-Shurta al-Filastiniyya The Palestinian National Security Forces: the Palestinian Police. (Jerusalem: Abu Arafeh Publishing, 1993), p. 165
9 The term ‘institutionalized impoverishment’ was adopted by Trude Strand as a theoretical framework to describe Israel’s siege on Gaza since 2007. See: Strand, Trude. ‘Tightening the Noose: The Institutionalized Impoverishment of Gaza, 2005–2010.’ Journal of Palestine Studies 43, no. 2 (2014): 6–23. https://doi.org/10.1525/jps.2014.43.2.6
10 Dayton’s Battalions refer to the PA forces that were trained under the auspices of the United States Security Coordinator, Keith Dayton.
11 Kanafani, Ghassan. Faris Faris: Kitabat Sakhira Faris Faris: Satirical Writings. (Beirut: Dar al-Adab, 1996), p. 52-53
12 The South Lebanon Army (known locally in Lebanon as Lahd’s Army) was a proxy militia founded by Saad Haddad that governed parts of South Lebanon. Armed and trained by Israel, it protected Israel’s occupation of South Lebanon through brutal force. It saw its end with the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000 with Antoine Lahd, its leader, fleeing to Tel Aviv and living the last of his days in France.
13 Keith Dayton, the United States Security Coordinator responsible for training the forces of the PA after the Second Intifada infamously dubbed this term. See: ‘D2. U.S. Security Coordinator Keith Dayton, Address Detailing the Mission and Accomplishments of the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Washington, 7 May 2009 (Excerpts).’ Journal of Palestine Studies 38, no. 4 (2009): 223–29. https://doi.org/10.1525/jps.2009.38.4.223
14 JDAMS are kits designed to transform unguided fighter jet bombs into high-precision missiles. The US routinely supplies Israel with these kits.
15 Samir Amin dubbed the term ‘media clergy’ to describe the stranglehold that media has on Western society and its role as the sole arbiter of truth via its class character. See: Amin, Samir. The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013), p. 34-39
Ameed Faleh is a Palestinian student at al-Quds University.