Avi Melamed’s insights about “The daybreak attack by Hamas from Gaza into the south of Israel” were quoted in this article by Lindsey German.
The breakout dawn attack by Hamas from Gaza into the south of Israel has shocked the Israeli government, its army the IDF, and politicians around the world. The speed of the attack, the lack of advance awareness of it despite Israel’s highly sophisticated surveillance technology, the capture of Israeli soldiers, have all contributed to the surprise. This is a new development, not seen for many years inside Israel itself, and began on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, when armies from various Arab states launched an unforeseen attack timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday.
According to an Israeli intelligence analyst, Avi Melamed, quoted in the Financial Times, ‘This is definitely a pivotal moment and in any scenario Israel is coming out of it very badly.’ It is a major challenge to the most extreme right wing government Israel has experienced and we can be certain that its response will be ferocious. Already there have been bombing raids on Gaza and there is talk about a complete invasion and reoccupation of the enclave by Israel, with all the repression that will entail. The extreme right parties will lead calls for further attacks on the Palestinians and for much greater repression. Inevitably, tragically, there will be more Palestinian than Israeli deaths in this conflict, as in every previous conflict. That fact will be underreported at best, ignored at worst.
The outrage from western politicians is palpable, with British foreign secretary James Cleverly denouncing Hamas as terrorists and the US defence secretary Lloyd Austin pledging to ‘ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism.’ Yet surely we should all be asking, why is anyone surprised, given the history, given what the Palestinians have endured in recent months, given that they are being pushed further and further by those who want to drive them out of even what little territory they still control? Is it any wonder that they decide they have to fight back?
The BBC’s international editor, speaking on the Today programme on Saturday, said that he was surprised at the scale of the operation by Hamas, but not that it had happened. In particular he cited the repeated incursions into the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by right wing Jewish settlers under the protection of the Israeli security forces. Al Aqsa is the third most holy Muslim site after Mecca and Medina and this has caused uproar not only among Palestinians but among international Muslim opinion. The desecration of the site joins a very long list of grievances including the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, the vast increase in illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the removal of Palestinians from land they have lived on for generations, the increasingly repressive and racist laws aimed at resistance to occupation.
The signing of the Abraham Accords back in 2020 signalled that even what little support the Palestinians received from the various Arab states in the past could no longer be relied on. These diplomatic agreements between Israel and the Arab states signalled to the Israeli government that it could intensify its attacks on the Palestinians. So too did then US president Donald Trump, whose son in law brokered the accords, and who moved the US embassy to Jerusalem in a deliberately provocative move. This gave the green light for the illegal settlers. It coincided with moves to the right in Israeli politics which have now produced its most right-wing government in its history.
The present government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, contains extreme far right ministers and many of the settlers share their politics. The settlements are illegal under international law, but they are effectively ignored and condoned by the western powers.
They are overlaid on the history of Palestine – the Nakba in 1948 when the state of Israel was established, which drove many Palestinians from their land, the occupations of the West Bank and Gaza following the 1967 war, the repression and resistance round the first and second Intifadas, the failure of the Oslo accords and the ‘two state solution’, the siege of Gaza, and the repeated bombing campaigns there.
The scene is set therefore for a major conflict which, given Israel’s far superior military might, will be bloody. Already Israel is saying over 700 of their citizens have been killed, with around two-thirds of that number of Palestinians. Hamas is claiming it has a number of Israeli military and civilian captives. The wider situation also threatens to escalate. The Lebanese organisation Hezbollah has exchanged shots with Israel. It defeated Israel in the 2006 war and has much more powerful rockets than Hamas, so would present a bigger military challenge.
While the neighbouring states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia – which is engaged in getting diplomatic agreement with Israel – and Turkey are trying to urge de-escalation, there is little sign that this will happen any time soon. The Israeli right wing will urge ever more repression while the Palestinians will continue to fight back and will see this action as dealing a blow to those who have made them suffer for so long. While the Palestinian people are regularly designated as ‘terrorists’ they have the right to fight back against occupation, and it is this occupation over three quarters of a century, with its contemporary iterations, that has created the Palestinian resistance.
Only freedom for Palestine will end that. But there have been too many false dawns, and too many leaders prepared to compromise for less, over that time. Too many times have the corrupt rulers of the Arab states mouthed support for the Palestinians but done nothing to alter the set-up which embodies their plight. Because to create a genuinely democratic secular state of Palestine, where Muslims, Jews and Christians could live in equality, rather than the present state which is based on support for one religion, would be to challenge the whole basis on which the Middle East has been carved up. It would mean confronting the lie that Jews established a state in ‘a land without a people’. It would be to allow those Palestinians driven from their land the right of return. And it would mean exposing the role of the US and western powers in providing military and political support for a settler state which practices a form of apartheid.
In the meantime the solidarity movement internationally must support the right of the Palestinians for justice and equality, refuse to accept the designation of them as terrorists, and refuse too to accept that this involves two equal sides confronting one another, or that Israel is only responding or retaliating to attacks on it. The truth is very different. The tragedy is that both Palestinians and Israelis are suffering in this situation and will continue to do so until there is justice for the Palestinians. We can show solidarity with all those killed or injured in this conflict while recognising that it is Israel’s actions since 1948 that have led to the present situation. And it is the actions of the Palestinians themselves that have shown the world the scale of this inequality.
If you want to have a better understanding of the news and what really drives the unfolding events… Read the latest book of Avi Melamed,
INSIDE THE MIDDLE EAST | ENTERING A NEW ERA, available now >>>