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Palestine: the human flag.

By Meryem Belkaïd

Illustration Salim Zerrouki

Demanding that the people of Gaza and the Palestinians be protected, that the carnage stop, is a human demand.

Those who have refused to do so to date have lost both honor and reason.

Those who have waited until a hospital has been bombed to be moved have had their eyes wide shut since 1948.

And defenders of the Palestinian cause must continue to have the strength and rightness to say that violence perpetrated against civilians can only cause sadness and despair.

Defenders of the Palestinian cause do not have to submit to summonses from anyone when their cause is that of the human.

They who have had their eyes wide open for years are entitled to point out that Hamas was not born ex-nihilo, without being accused of apology for terrorism or some other crime, to silence them.

Hamas was born of colonialism and authoritarianism. You don't need an advanced degree in history to understand that it's the colonial situation, the daily physical and symbolic violence, the constant humiliations, the deprivation of the most basic human rights that Palestinians have suffered for more than seventy-five years that have encouraged the rise of Hamas. If you take the trouble to think and inform yourself, you'll learn that it was the State of Israel that instrumentalized the Islamist movement back in the late 1980s, with the clear aim of weakening Fatah. If you know anything about geopolitics, you'll easily recognize that it's the dictatorial Iranian regime that funds and supports Hamas. And it's clear that it's the cowardice of authoritarian Arab regimes and their selfish interests that have totally abandoned the Palestinian cause.

We must find the strength to say this, to refuse simplistic reductions, chronological falsifications and emotional one-upmanship. Not to bury the Palestinian cause, but to reaffirm and recall its justness.

The Palestinian cause cannot be thought of in terms of victory or defeat. Let's leave the bellicose vocabulary to the imperialists and their henchmen.

The Palestinian cause does not belong to any ideology, nor can it be monopolized by any movement.

It is the cause of the human. Of the earth we are born into. Of the sky we admire.

It is just because it is based on an ethic that is the antithesis of imperialist thinking.

It does not claim that Palestinians own the land of Palestine, but that they have their roots, their tales and their poems there. That entire generations have cherished the olive tree, preserved the water, worked the land and treasured its bounty. Weaving bonds that are admirably symbolized by the keffiyeh.

Attachment is not possession.

In this world, we don't possess anything that a storm, illness, drought, or famine can't take away in an instant.

It's the Western organization of the world that thinks of everything in terms of possession and exploitation. By dividing the world into colonized parcels and then into nation-states, this system has imposed a predatory relationship to land, drawn artificial borders and, following independence, transmuted colonial hierarchies into national hierarchies. It is to this system that we owe the displacement of entire populations, suicidal partitions, the cleansing of ethnic groups, the annihilation of languages and cultures, and the racism that has now become commonplace. By taking this colonial legacy at face value, the new nation-states have merely reproduced its mechanisms of predation, nationalism, and exploitation by the strongest to the detriment of the poorest.

It's high time we stopped thinking in terms of nation-states. In the face of the carnage unfolding in Gaza, in the face of a world that allows such a massacre to take place before our helpless eyes, in the face of international laws that we have known since the end of the Second World War never to apply to the strongest, we owe it to ourselves to take the risk of thinking beyond nationalities and flags. The two-state solution has long been buried, and a single colonial state, as Netanyahu and his political allies think and dream of, is not viable for either Palestinians or Israelis. Israeli voices are courageously saying so[1].

If those who believe they have a divine right to possess the entire land of Palestine suffer from delusions of grandeur, let's be even more delusional by claiming an infinite humility in the face of the land without which we are nothing. Let us no longer be the damned of the earth, but lovers of it. We are small things on the scale of the cosmos, and we are in danger today. We are well aware of this, as the threats to our planet are becoming more and more numerous and visible: wars, pandemics, ecological disasters, and so on. And what is happening in Palestine should make us even more aware of it.

Let's make Palestine the standard of humanity. Let's try to build a new, combative way of thinking that moves forward. A way of thinking that promotes the values of sobriety and perseverance. A way of thinking that redefines solidarity. Together, let's attempt a genuine epistemological turnaround, a new vision of the world.

By we, you'll have understood that I'm appealing to all "nationalities". By we, I don't mean those who only call for peace, a convenient position that dispenses with courageous commitment. I'm thinking of those who have at heart the only peace worth having, the peace born of justice and equality. Equality in life, equality in death, equality in joy and in mourning.

I don't yet know what new thought we can create, but we have everything to learn from this land if we look at it free from the ruts of triumphant imperialism and suicidal nationalism. To look Palestine in the eyes is not to look at Hamas, Fatah, the Arab world or the Ummah. It's about seeing an entire people experience the limits, and yet continue to promote life and love in the face of extreme deprivation. It's about learning to persevere in the face of injustice. It's about showing solidarity, regardless of nationality, ideology or religion.

We owe this new way of thinking to the people of Palestine. We owe it to what remains of our humanity.

[1] See for example Arielle Angel « We Cannot Cross Until We Carry Each Other », JewishCurrents, 12 octobre 2023,

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