Palestine’s Days of Glory

Just two months ago, no one could have predicted the earthquake of October 7, which was by no means a massacre, but a spectacular military operation that decimated the Gaza Brigade in less than 3 hours.

And after the deluge of iron and fire that fell on the besieged Palestinian people, in a real war of extermination waged by the fanatical, distraught and desperate Netanyahu government, eager to wash away Israel’s defeat in massive death and destruction, the very existence of the Palestinian cause was at stake. In an attempt to force the Gaza population into a new, final Nakba, Israel revealed to the world its hideous face: its insatiable bloodlust, its open contempt for the most elementary morality and the rule of law, the medieval blockade on drinking water, foodstuffs, electricity and fuel, its deliberate targeting of hospitals, women and children killed by the thousands, down to premature babies asphyxiated by the dozens as a result of their incubators being shut down, all part of an assumed plan to render the territory of Gaza uninhabitable and deport over two million Palestinians to the Sinai desert. Faced with such an apocalyptic scenario, who could have imagined that Hamas would be able to bring the enemy to heel in less than two months?

The prisoner exchange agreement that has just been signed is no more and no less than what Hamas proposed from the outset: a partial exchange (men for men, women for women and children for children), or a total exchange (all Palestinian prisoners for all Israeli prisoners). The people of Gaza, subjected to a savage assault unprecedented in modern history, pushed to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe of biblical proportions, abandoned by all (with the notable exception of the Axis of Resistance, in particular Hezbollah, Yemen and the Iraqi resistance), held firm and stayed the course despite unimaginable suffering. Once again, it was Israel, “more fragile than a spider’s web” in Nasrallah’s famous words at the Liberation of southern Lebanon in 2000, that had to bend, bogged down in the sands of Gaza in the face of epic urban guerrilla warfare, failing to achieve the slightest military feat: rockets have continued to reach Tel Aviv and beyond, no area of Gaza is safe for the occupying forces bled dry by constant attacks that have killed and wounded hundreds of soldiers (official Israeli casualty figures are only a fraction of the reality), no leading (or even second-tier) Resistance cadres have been killed, and the populations of Gaza evacuated to the south are returning en masse to the north, braving every danger and foiling the hopes of a new ethnic cleansing.

This is a truly historic achievement. The tiny Gaza Strip forced the occupier to yield in less than 50 days, whereas it took two years for a prisoner exchange to be concluded between Israel and Hezbollah in 2008, and more than 5 years for Hamas to release Gilad Shalit in 2011, in exchange for more than 1,000 prisoners (including Yahya Sinwar, the current Hamas leader in Gaza).

Israel’s humiliation could not be greater. And it’s not just Netanyahu, but the whole entity: government, army and society, closer than ever to collapse. Zionist leaders had promised never to agree to a ceasefire before they annihilate Hamas, but now they’re giving in to al-Qassam’s every whim. And, the icing on the cake, the Israeli prisoners were not being held in southern Gaza, but in the north, shelled, occupied and raked by the occupier, who was chasing the mirage of liberating its citizens by force, coercion and mass terrorism.

Since 1948, the massacres perpetrated by Israel have aimed to drive the Palestinian people to despair, division and renunciation, but they have only served to push them ever more resolutely onto the path of armed resistance. Hamas once again demonstrated the validity of this choice on October 7, and the unity of the Palestinian people and their cause despite geographical and political separation, by overexposing Gaza to come to the aid of Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel’s disproportionate reaction, motivated by rage, the quest for revenge and the will to impose collective punishment on the Palestinians in order to break them and set them against the Resistance, failed miserably and even led to the opposite result: far beyond Palestine, the monstrosity of the occupying army convinced more people than ever of the impossibility of peaceful coexistence. This prisoner exchange, snatched up in record time, will only strengthen the conviction of the Palestinian and Arab-Muslim peoples that the armed struggle is the only possible path to Liberation, and increase its appeal, strength and power tenfold.

The scenes of jubilation in Palestine, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, celebrating the release of Palestinian women and children imprisoned by Israel, will be remembered among the greatest days of triumph for Palestinian resistance. Only a people of indomitable character, truly a legendary people, could wrest such a victory from the occupier. In its impotent rage, Israel increased the number of raids on the homes of the families of the prisoners who were about to be released, banning the festivities and confiscating pastries and sweets, even threatening the freed children with recapture if they took part in any public gathering, but it was an effort as pitiful as it was futile. The Palestinian people are indomitable, and no threat could prevent them from celebrating this resounding victory of David over Goliath.

As for the freed Israelis, in view of the public relations disaster caused by 83-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz’s statements following her release by Hamas on humanitarian grounds, in which she praised the humanity of her captors whom she had gratefully shaken hands with, the only “festivities” planned are interrogation by the Shin Bet and a ban on speaking to the media, except to make statements pre-written by the Israeli propaganda machine. And already, the pictures of the new batch of Hamas hostages smiling and waving goodbye to their Hamas captors have already gone viral. While this will be a great relief for the families of the freed captives, it is a time of mourning for Israel.

One question remains: did the release of a few hundred, or even all, of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners (for already, this outcome seems inevitable) justify all these sacrifices? More than 20,000 dead, half of them women and children, Dantean destruction, untold suffering, and a veritable programmed annihilation of the Gaza Strip? The answer lies first and foremost with the Palestinian people. And there is no doubt about it. Yes, a thousand times yes.

How can we tell? When a Palestinian asked Hanane Barghouti, who had just been released, what message she had for the children of Gaza, and in particular for the thousands of them killed by Israeli bombardment, she replied: “O children of Gaza, we will meet again in paradise. We will meet again in paradise. And this victory is yours.

This has been the message of the people of Gaza since October 7. Martyrdom is not a curse, but a blessing for both the dead and the living in the eyes of the Palestinian people, whose faith in God, heavens, paradise and retribution is as deeply rooted. As the Quran says,

Think not of those who are slain in God’s way as dead. Nay they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. They rejoice in the bounty provided by God: and with regard to those left behind who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor shall they grieve. They glory in the Grace and the Bounty from God, and in the fact that God suffereth not the reward of the faithful to be lost (in the least). [III, 169-171]

This is by no way empty talk. There are countless videos of men, women and children emerging from the rubble, the sole survivors of their families, finding themselves alone in the world and deprived of everything, who praise God right away and pledge their loyalty to the Resistance. Even as they embrace the lifeless bodies of their children, Palestinians cry out that “As long as the Resistance is well, all is well.”

The scale of the massacres and suffering inflicted on the people of Gaza is beyond words; but their patience, resilience and unwavering attachment to their cause are even greater. As Khader Adnan, the martyred prisoner who repeatedly defeated the occupation from within the gaols through his hunger strikes, put it,

“Some fight for their daily bread, but others fight for something nobler, namely our freedom, dignity and honor. Dignity can’t be bought, it can’t be sold, but it can be snatched by force, by empty stomachs. They want to break our dignity and yours, but we defend our dignity and yours. Why are we abandoning Hisham [Abu Hawash, a Palestinian prisoner who spent 141 days on hunger strike before winning his case]? Who are we abandoning him to? To which dogs among the settlers? To [Naftali] Bennett? To [Benny] Gantz? When their bestiality is well known? Have we lost all dignity to let the occupation trample us like this? Have we lost all honor? Have we lost all our trump cards, to the point of letting the occupier kill our dignity by killing Hisham?”

Indeed, it’s not just a question of freeing prisoners: beyond this imperative ethical, humanitarian and national duty, it’s a question of reaffirming the dignity of an entire people, and reminding the world that its struggle is sacred and will only cease with martyrdom or victory. For rather than wait for illusory help from the international community or the Arab League, rather than let themselves be killed slowly and disappear in silence, the Palestinian people listened to Khader Adnan’s exhortations and preferred to take matters into their own hands to acquire their freedom, whatever the price.

At the end, it’s the struggle for the liberation of ALL Palestine that’s at stake. This prisoner-exchange agreement is a major milestone in this process, and has shattered all Netanyahu’s illusions: while he dreamed of definitively liquidating the Palestinian cause, he will probably go down in history as the main gravedigger of the usurping entity.

The colonial anachronism that is Israel, created at a time when the old empires were collapsing, will not disappear without much violence and bloodshed, because any struggle for decolonization and liberation requires immense sacrifices. In the eyes of the Palestinians, none will ever be too great for Al-Quds (Jerusalem), the Al-Aqsa mosque and the land of Palestine. Not to mention their priceless dignity.

Through their unrivalled courage, unyielding determination and heroic resistance, the Palestinian people have not only wrested their rights and dignity from Israel: they have commanded the respect and even admiration of the entire world, and put their struggle back at the forefront of international issues. Hamas, in particular, as revealed itself as the undisputed champion of the Palestinian struggle for Liberation.

This dazzling victory is only a prelude to others, far more spectacular.

Sayed Hasan writes on Middle Eastern geo-political events. Read other articles by Sayed, or visit Sayed's website.