No matter how many Israeli missiles and airstrikes hit their houses and workplaces, Palestinians do not wave a white flag to Israel. Here is why.
Israel has a strong army equipped with nuclear weapons and for most of its existence, the country has used its military power against Palestine, a nation that has been reduced to a few tiny, fragmented pieces of land where different armed groups have emerged to challenge the Israeli occupation at different times.
Palestinians have always been defiant, strong-willed and absolutely sure about fighting for a just cause, which is to defend their native lands against a brutal occupation.
While world history is filled with stories of occupations and assimilation of people under the rule of invaders, Palestinians have stayed loyal to their identity. They have an unwavering faith in their cause, which is to win back the right to live in their own native lands with freedom and dignity.
As a result, they formed various resistance movements to fight against the Israeli occupation. Even those who were forced to leave Palestine have fiercely defended their identity in exile. They all long for the day when they will return to their homeland.
“Central to the Palestinian diaspora experience is a paradox of existing in a past that despite its pain seems more secure than the precariousness of your present home. Life is a struggle to build a new home while preserving the memory of the one that was taken from you and desperately searching for a way to return to it,” Laila al Arian, an award-winning Palestinian-American journalist, wrote in The New York Times.
After their forceful migration from Palestine, Arian’s maternal grandfather and his family has moved from one country to another to find a safe refuge, she explained in her article. The family could not live in houses and apartments it bought due to both the Israeli invasion’s illegal measures and problematic refugee laws of countries like Egypt, where they lived after the 1967 war.
Despite facing hardships, the family never gave up resisting the Israeli occupation. Sami al Arian, Laila’s father, who now lives in Turkey, is one of the prominent voices on Palestine. He was born in Kuwait in 1958 as his parents had taken refuge there following the 1948 War which led to the creation of Israel.
“Over the years, Palestinians have internalized their struggle against the colonialist-settler nature of their invaders. They know that the Zionist movement and its aggressive state will not stop short of their total annihilation,” Arian tells TRT World.
A genuine native resistance
The Palestinian struggle has several striking aspects. It has evolved over the decades and Palestinians have surprised the world with their art of resistance, which ranged from leading two Intifadas in the early 1990s and 2000s, to witnessing the emergence of several armed resistance groups.
Fatah, a secularist nationalist movement, which has been the leading faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), was founded in 1959 by Palestinian students like Yasser Arafat and Salah Khalaf.
But when Fatah began losing its influence over Palestinians following the signing of the 1993 failed Oslo Accords, Hamas, a religiously-inspired movement, emerged in the early 1990s under the leadership of a modest cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who had several handicaps.
Palestinian popular rebellions, the First Intifada (1987-1991) and the Second Intifada (2000-2005), were also clear demonstrations of support ordinary people from children to elders have given to the liberation cause.
“They concluded that the alternative to their dispossession, exile, suffering, and total defeat is to continue to struggle until they gain their rights and attain justice. They have experienced many traumas and offered many sacrifices because they believe in their cause and are determined to liberate their country,” Arian recounts.
In the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli fighting, against the Israeli assaults, Hamas and its allies have fiercely defended Gaza, where Laila al Arian's grandfather and his family once lived and bought land for a house, which could not be built due to the 1967 War and Israeli occupation afterwards.
The recent Israeli attack marked another major military engagement of Tel Aviv for the control of Gaza, which has solely been under Hamas since 2007. Hamas and its allies have fought back against three full-scale Israeli ground invasions in 2006, 2008-09 and 2014.
During those battles, which were also the scene of the Israeli execution of civilians in Gaza’s dense neighbourhoods, thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Zionist state. In the most recent escalation, 232 Palestinians including 65 children were killed by Israelis while at least 72,000 of them were forcibly displaced.
“The alternative to victory, liberation, and return is not defeat but Shahada, or martyrdom,” says Arian, referring to Islamic religious conviction that if the faithful die for a just cause, their death can not be regarded as a mere loss of life.
According to Islam, that kind of death has been considered as shahada, an Arabic word, whose root word means witness. By sacrificing his/her lives for the defense of Palestine, martyrs become the witnesses of their noble cause to Palestinian thinking. Most Palestinians are Muslims, but Christian Palestinians are also fierce defenders of liberation from Israel.
“Any people who are willing to die in dignity over living in servitude or humiliation will achieve victory. No amount of power or oppression could defeat such a spirit,” says Arian.
Even after 11 days of constant bombing and destruction of their residences and lives, Palestinians in Gaza were jubilant after a midnight ceasefire declared on Friday, celebrating their defiance against Israel one more time in the rubbles of their beloved city.
"The cessation of violence between Hamas and Israel is welcomed. Israel was surprised by the ferocity and depth of Hamas rockets, seemingly ill-prepared and unable to stop rockets from Gaza landing across vast parts of Israel,” Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, author and film-maker who was based in East Jerusalem 2016-2020, tells TRT World.
In order to respond to Israeli airstrikes and missiles, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israel, aiming at key locations like Tel Aviv International Airport, which has led to cancellations of flights.
"The Palestinian people’s objective is to rise in unity, resist and inspire global solidarity around their cause; they have done so with flying colours," says Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian author and political analyst.
"Israel had no other objective but to carry out another episode of grisly murder and wanton destruction, thinking that this time, too, the war crimes will go largely unnoticed," Baroud tells TRT World.
While Palestinians have fiercely opposed the Israeli occupation from the very beginning, they have also been supported by countries like Turkey, Iran and some Arab states. Middle Eastern states like Egypt, Syria and Jordan had fought with Israel in different times, but their disorganised political nature has cost much to the liberation of Palestine.
“All revolutions conceived in Palestine have been aborted in the Arab capitals,” said famously Salah Khalaf, one of the founders of Fatah, referring to the Arab failure to back the Palestinian cause in a consistent and strategic manner.
Palestinians have also been backed by different groups like Catholic Irish political organisations and important figures like Richard Falk, a Jewish-American international law professor and a former UN expert.
“Our people are determined to live on their land as dignified, free, and liberated. That's what the world respects and supports,” says Arian. The professor thinks that Western public opinion has steadily shifted towards recognising the genuine nature of the Palestinian resistance.
He thinks that global public opinion gives not much credit to the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority’s passive stances, which he defines as a “defeated approach.
“On the other hand, the path of Resistance and willingness to stand up to the Zionist brutal military machine brought renewed feelings of self-respect, victory, and possibility of total liberation. The support of this approach worldwide is unmistakably clear,” he says.
Tens of thousands of people, from the US to the UK, France, Germany and New Zealand have protested Israeli attacks; some American Democratic lawmakers have urged US President Joe Biden to force Israel to stop its latest aggression.
"Palestine has gained more international solidarity than ever recorded in its modern history; even mainstream media voices are now openly daring to say that 'Palestine has the right to defend itself,'" says Baroud.
"This historic shift in narratives will have massive consequences for Palestinian freedom in the future," he adds.
Under immense international pressure, Israel’s embattled hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to accept a ceasefire last night.
“Palestinians and the millions who support their struggle will dismantle the Israeli Apartheid regime in Palestine. Palestinians inside and outside Palestine believe more than ever that freedom from occupation, return to their historical land, and dismantlement of the Israeli Apartheid system will be realized,” Arian concludes.
Despite the Israeli occupation, Laila al Arian’s grandfather, Abdul Kareem, who became an American citizen in the 2000s, returned to Gaza in 2004. While having all kinds of difficulties - from food shortage to Israeli harassment - he lived in Gaza and died there in 2019.