Senior Political Analyst, Aijaz Ahmad analyses the events unfolding in Gaza. He argues that Israel’s main aim is mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza as well as greater annexation of the West Bank, and terms the current situation in Gaza as the beginning of a “new Nakba”. Calling the Palestinian people as “the great heroes of our time”, he says that their resistance and the global scale of anti-Israel protests will win the war in their favour.
Prabir Purkayastha (PP): Hello and welcome to Newsclick. Today we have with us Prof. Aijaz Ahmad to discuss the brutal bombing and continued invasion of Gaza which Israel is continuing even after it supposedly has called for a cease fire. As we talk, the cease fire has been broken by Israel; the seventy two hours cease fire that they had announced. Gaza is brutal at the moment; killings that are going on are unbelievable. But why is the world, or what you call the United Nations Security Council, why are they not taking any action? What's happening to our institutions of global governance?
Prof: Aijaz Ahmad (AA): The two countries that always have been sheltered by the Un Security Council have been the United States and Israel. There is a kind of impunity. No other country in the Middle East can defy the United Nations. In the name of United Nations they go and bomb countries so on and so forth because there is a UN resolution. These are the two countries that have complete impunity. They have complete impunity because the state system of the entire western world is behind Israel. I believe that the Europeans even have accepted Israel's apartheid project, in the real proper sense a project into the future. They all know what Gaza is about. What is very astounding to me and very disheartening to me is that Russia, China, emerging powers- BRICS so to speak, have not taken a strong position. The only states that have taken strong positions are in a sense the ones that do not matter to the international system such as Bolivia and so on. I must say that it was Bolivian initiative actually which forced the hands of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and Navi Pillay and so on because they went with a… Evo Morales sent a request to them to establish a commission of inquiry into the war crimes of Israel in Gaza and then they acted on it to a certain extent. We will see what happens now. UNRWA the UN agency most involved in Palestine has actually gone and spoken from the floor of the security council, telling them what is going on; how this UN agency itself gave them precise information not once, not twice but seventeen times about the premise where they were sheltering some refugees and the Israelis came and bombed the shelter.
PP: Aijaz, we’re not going to really discuss about the bombings and the slaughter that is going on because, as you know, Newsclick has been covering it in detail. It is there all over and this is the first time we must accept that the complete control over the visual narrative that Israel was able to build earlier this time is broken. For the alternative media, for Twitter, Facebook and all these things but primarily that monopoly of visual coverage which was always controlled by Israel and the United States, that is broken. Even when the NBC called back its correspondent from Gaza because of the furore it created they had to send him back. So that details have come out quite clearly. But let’s look at the other questions. What is the long term project that Israel has with respect to Gaza? What is it that it is really trying to do?
AA: I think Ilan Pappe's term, “incremental genocide”, applies. My sense is that one of the basic projects Israel has at the moment- it’s a transitional project- is to greatly minimize even the numbers of people occupying what is now called Palestine which is to say Gaza and the West Bank. Right now, you have a situation in which about half of the population in Gaza may be completely homeless, having to live in either shelters or under the open sky. They want to create a situation in which life becomes impossible and people in large numbers begin to leave. They will not allow Gazans to travel one by one, a family here a family there. That blockade continues. But to create a situation in which there is a mass exodus. That is to say I actually believe that what is now happening may be the beginning of a new Nakba. Really a new, big level of strangulation of the population of Gaza in such a way that, let's say, over the next two or three or four years large numbers of people either die or leave.
PP: So what the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset has said- ‘let them go to Sinai or we bomb them because they are there.’
AA: Absolutely. Members of the Knesset are saying- “let the sons die and their mothers follow them into hell”. So I mean genocide is being propagated from inside that parliament.
PP: You know I don't think we have seen such expressions where senior leaders of ruling parties… Avigdor Lieberman is the other one and there are various others. Two members of Knesset have openly talked about genocide. The Deputy Speaker of the Knesset who talked about either they go to Sinai or they should all be killed. This kind of legitimization of mass ethnic violence by people in power, in government or in government institutions, is completely alien to what we have seen and no world condemnation.
AA: Absolutely, one side is that there is no world condemnation which you are emphasizing very rightly. But they also represent that country. In a poll that was taken just a few days ago, 86.5 percent of the Israeli population is saying there must be no cease fire until Hamas is eliminated. Now how do you eliminate Hamas from Gaza? How do you know who is Hamas and who is not, in Gaza? So you are basically again saying that we’ll just go on killing and killing and killing till we decide that Hamas is gone. But Hamas will not be gone. So there is a now national consensus for genocide.
PP: In societal terms, a country’s more than 86% people asking for genocide, now that is extraordinary. It is an extraordinary psyche of a country and 86 percent, of course, of the Jewish population. 20 percent of the Arabs...
AA: Which means 86.5 percent of the population means virtually 100 percent of the Jewish population.
PP: I think they haven’t polled the Arab population. My suspicion is that the polling was probably only Jewish population.
AA: You know connected with that, this has been now going on for well over two weeks.
PP: In fact, it’s the 25th day today.
AA: 25th day. Almost a month. Demonstration of 5000 in Tel Aviv. 4000 of whom are Palestinians. So less than a 1000 Jews. In Haifa, a total demonstration of 700-800, 5oo or so of them Palestinians. Twenty five days, less than 2000 Israelis out demonstrating. For its Jewish population, Israel is a very democratic country. Any Jew could have come out and protested. Less than 2000 so far in 25 days. Hundred thousand in London.
PP: Gideon Levy is the most hated person in Israel by the Jews for advocating peace.
PP: This is the pathology of a country. We can write tracts about why it has happened, how it has happened, irrelevant. The net result is that Israel continues its attack on Gaza. Now, they have two options: at some point withdraw or completely reoccupy Gaza. Both militarily, does not seem to me, to have long term prospects unless they believe what you are saying that such a process will force a mass exodus. Do you think that really the only objective is mass exodus and no other military objective?
AA: Well, look, genocide is the solution to the fact that they cannot occupy. So they must just kill and kill and kill and create a situation of that kind. My sense is that it is also related to what they wish to do now. I think this may be a beginning of a much bigger process in which… Before they started bombing, they actually in June carried out mass arrests of Hamas people in the West Bank and there were a lot of disturbance in the West Bank at that time. And there also appears to be plans… You have come to a point when for Israel even Mahmoud Abbas is not good enough and there are Israeli and Gulf plans to bring people like Dahlan back to take over now the Palestine authority. My sense is that one of the motivations behind this, parallel with what we are talking about, is to speed up the process of annexation of more and more West Bank over next year or two or three. So it is greater territorial annexation on one side which they know means enormous amount of violence on the West bank as well.
PP: So making people immune to violence on a mass scale. That could be their agenda.
AA: Yes, I think they may have come to a point, this is my speculation, where they believe that the Arab World, the situation in the Arab world could not be more favourable to them than it is now. So now is the time to move on with the Zionist project of creating, of taking over more and more of Palestine and depopulating it of the Palestinian population. Two prong thing. Now, how well they will succeed, how many people will leave, we don't know.
PP: Aijaz, two things. You must have also been to Palestine. I have been there. I think, people there have decided that they will die but they will not leave. That seems to be what you get in Gaza and that's what you get in West Bank when you talk, I talked to a women leader of one of the villages. She’s lost her husband and her elder son is in jail. She said we are never going to leave this land. We’ll see, we’ll outlast them on in this land. That seems to be the determination that comes through in various ways. To me it seems to be a project of depopulating which just cannot succeed. But, of course we have to see where it goes.
AA: Well, look I think Palestinian people, not their leaders, are the great heroes of our time. Nothing like that has been known. Even the Vietnamese were not put into this kind of situation. That said, what you have in Gaza now is that 90 percent of the water resources are so deeply contaminated that you cannot drink it without getting ill. You are getting diseases so complicated that it is very difficult to diagnose even the combination of diseases that come out of drinking that water. The United Nations says that in another five – seven years it will be uninhabitable. When Palestinians have said historically we will not leave; You can bomb us, you can kill us, we will not leave. They had I think, no idea that Israelis will create a situation where they will not have a glass of water. And dying would mean that.
PP: We have to see how far they succeed and how much the world opinion allows them to do so. I will come to that in a moment. It brings out the question that yes, the Western governments, the BRICS, the G77, all of them have been complicit in various degrees. Even the Government of India which is continuously trying to equate Hamas with Israel. This is going on. But at the same time, one thing I think is important to note, and you must have registered it as well, that because of the kind of visual narrative that we are now clearly getting, which cannot be suppressed, the people’s anger in different forms… You said hundred thousand demonstration in London, demonstrations in New York, the media’s campaign seems to have picked up quite a bit. Do you think that is a possible resistance to Israel on a world wide scale?
AA: I believe it is in the global arena that the Palestinian war will be won. It is a combination of the heroism of that population and the fight back from inside in terms of organising resistance outside the parameters even of their leaders and various authorities. That and combination of the world. No question. In that I think the Palestinian cause has made greater strides within the last five years than it did in the thirty forty years prior to that and that is unstoppable in my view and that is going to escalate. That is unstoppable. Now, there are large sections of the Jewish population in the Western world- especially in the country that matters the most, the United States- very influential people joining up in this and after what has happened in the last three weeks this will escalate. That is where the great hope lies. The question, which cannot be answered, but the question for us is can this be built faster than the rate at which the Israelis wish to. My view is that one of the reasons why Israelis have speeded up this process of extreme genocide, annexation, we don't care what international institutions do and so on. I think part of the reason of that escalation is precisely the thing that you were pointing at- the resistance at a mass level on a global scale, so that this particular contradiction where you have the entire world state system either coalescent or complicit whereas the population, articulate populations are turning. Where will that go? When will that balance tilt? Can the Israelis do it faster? That is I think the real question and that can only be answered in practice.
PP: As they say history will answer and I am convinced that in the 21st century an apartheid genocidal state has no future.
PP: But this is where you know we have to see whether the Palestinians will survive that ….
AA: How much suffering they will inflict. Palestinians may survive. 1.8 million in Gaza, 2.3 million in West Bank, 7 million outside the historic land of the Palestine, just as attached to their homeland as everyone else.
PP: 1.3 million inside what is called Israel.
AA: That's right. So in all, 12 to 14 million Palestinians. How many of them are you going to kill? So Palestinians will survive.
PP: So let’s say the genocidal state will not outlive the 21st century. It may outlive you or me but certainly will not outlive the 21st century. Thank you Aijaz for this discussion. We will, from Newsclick, continue to observe what's happening in Gaza. We make no bones about it that we are with the people in Palestine on their side. We are not objective on this question.
AA: It’s not possible.
PP: We’re quite willing to be partisan. Thank you very much.
AA: Thank you.