Contribution extérieure

Gaza-Palestine: The right to resist oppression

Palestinians celebrate the capture of an Israeli tank, near Khan Younès, after crossing the separation fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023. Said Khatib/AFP

It was also in October, just fifty years ago, in 1973. The Egyptian and Syrian armies crossed the ceasefire lines and inflicted heavy losses on the Israeli army. What a terrible shock in Tel Aviv! While its intelligence services had information about an imminent attack, the political leadership remained draped in its morgue: the Arabs, defeated in 1967, were incapable of fighting back; the occupation of Arab territories could continue with impunity and indefinitely.

« Is trying to set foot in your own home an assault? »

A number of commentators in Europe and the United States denounced this as « aggression ».
Egyptian-Syrian unjustifiable, immoral, unprovoked — a term that Israeli leaders love, because it allows them to hide the root of the conflict: occupation. Michel Jobert, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, displayed a lucidity that was a credit to his country: « Does trying to return home necessarily constitute aggression?(1) « It’s true that, at the time, the voice of Paris hovered a thousand leagues above the Western concert, proclaiming that recognition of the Palestinians’ national rights and evacuation of the Arab territories occupied in 1967 were the keys to peace.

If ending the occupation of Egypt’s Sinai and Syria’s Golan Heights in 1973 was legitimate, is the Palestinians’ desire to free themselves from Israeli occupation illegitimate fifty years later? As in October 1973, Tel Aviv was taken by surprise by the Palestinian action and suffered a military defeat of exceptional proportions. This time, too, the occupier’s arrogance, contempt for the Palestinians, and the conviction of this Jewish supremacist government that God is on its side have contributed to its success.

The attack, launched by the joint military command of most Palestinian organizations, under the leadership of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), was surprising not only for its timing, but also for its scale, organization and the military capabilities deployed, which enabled Israeli military bases to be swamped. It united all Palestinians and won widespread support in an Arab world whose leaders are nevertheless seeking to make a pact with Israel by sacrificing Palestine. Even Mahmoud Abbas, president of a demonetized Palestinian Authority whose main raison d’être is security cooperation with the Israeli army, felt obliged to declare that his people « have the right to defend themselves against the terror of the settlers and the occupation troops » and that « we must protect our people ».(2) « .

All terrorists!

Every time the Palestinians revolt, the West — so quick to glorify Ukrainian resistance — invokes terrorism. President Emmanuel Macron condemned « the terrorist attacks currently striking Israel in the strongest terms », but said nothing about the continuing occupation, which is the driving force behind the violence. The tenacious, fierce, stubborn resilience of the Palestinians still astonishes the occupiers and seems to shock many Westerners. As during the first Intifada in 1987 and the second in 2000, during armed actions in the West Bank or mobilizations in favor of Jerusalem, during confrontations around Gaza, which has been under siege since 2007 and has suffered six wars in 17 years (400 dead in 2006, 1,300 in 2008–2009, 160 in 2012, 2,100 in 2014, nearly 300 in 2021 and several dozen in the spring of 2023), Israeli officials denounce the « barbarity » of their adversaries, their disregard for human life — in a word, their « terrorism ».
The accusation allows us to wrap ourselves in the garb of the law and a clear conscience, while concealing the apartheid system of unprecedented brutality that oppresses the Palestinians on a daily basis.

Once again, we recall that many terrorist organizations, pilloried throughout history, have gone from being pariahs to legitimate interlocutors. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Algerian National Liberation Front (FNL), the African National Congress (ANC) and many others have all been referred to as « terrorists », a word designed to depoliticize their struggle and present it as a confrontation between Good and Evil. In the end, we had to negotiate with them. 

General de Gaulle had these prescient words to say after the Israeli aggression of June 1967: 

Israel is now organizing an occupation of the territories it has taken over, an occupation that cannot be achieved without oppression, repression and expulsion, and a resistance to it that it calls terrorism…(3)

Not an « unprovoked » attack

As Israeli journalist Haggai Matar notes: « Contrary to what many Israelis (…) claim, this was not a ‘unilateral’ or ‘unprovoked’ attack. The fear that Israelis are feeling right now, including me, is only a tiny fraction of what Palestinians are feeling every day under the decades-long military regime in the West Bank, as well as under the siege and repeated assaults on Gaza. The responses we hear from many Israelis — who call for « razing Gaza », who say that « these are savages, not people
with whom we can negotiate », « they murder whole families »; « there’s no room to talk with these people » — are exactly the ones I’ve heard countless times from Palestinians about Israelis(4).

As in any war, we can rightly deplore the death of civilians, but are there « good civilians » for whom we should shed tears and « bad civilians » like the Palestinians who are killed daily in the West Bank and whose deaths arouse so little indignation? There have already been 700 Israeli deaths (and over 400 on the Palestinian side), more than in the 1967 war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This will change the regional political and geopolitical landscape in ways that are difficult to assess at this stage. But what current events confirm, once again, is that occupation always unleashes a resistance whose only culprits are the occupiers. As proclaimed in Article 2 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of August 26, 1789, resistance to oppression is a fundamental right, a right that Palestinians can rightly claim.

Alain Gresh

A specialist in the Middle East, he is the author of several books, including De quoi la Palestine est-elle le nom? (Les Liens… (suite),6777

Source: https: //
Notes et références
  1. Cité dans Alain Gresh, Hélène Aldeguer, Un Chant d’amour. Israël-Palestine, une histoire française, Éditions Orient XXI-Libertalia, 2023.
  2. Agence WAFA, 7 octobre 2023.
  3. Un Chant d’amour, op.cit.
  4. « Gaza’s shock attack has terrified Israelis. It should also unveil the context », +972 Magazine, 7 octobre 2023.

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