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I know you feel powerless about what’s happening, but you aren’t

Supporters of the Palestinian cause, particularly those in the “West”, have had conflicting opinions regarding the Palestinian resistance’s October 7 counterattack against Israeli colonization. The settler colony’s genocidal response, however, has elicited a common response from all: Grief, anger, a couple of dozens of words (most of which don’t exist yet), and, in many cases: An excruciating feeling of powerlessness at stopping the genocide. A feeling of powerlessness that feels a special kind of bitter at the sight of —to quote Roger Waters— “the blind indifference of a merciless, unfeeling world”.

Yet, “the world” is not merciless. Your political systems are. You are not. And although you cannot physically stop the Israeli Genocidal Force, you can do something else that makes no less of a difference: You can challenge the Zionist narrative.

Oh, how the narrative matters

From capitalism’s “free economy” (why would anyone be against freedom?) to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Islam is the solution” (who would dare say it isn’t?) and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (which automatically labels us as anti-American if we don’t join the cult), there are literally 0 political movements in the world that did not start with a solid narrative and well-chosen words. Zionism is no exception, starting with its “land without a people for a people without a land” story (how sick would one have to be to deny them an empty land?), and up until today.

We can see the poisonous fruits of Israel’s recently reestablished Propaganda Ministry and of its worldwide efforts to claim the narrative in the way pro-Zionist media, also known as “the media”:

  • Chooses its questions: Do you condemn Hamas’ attack against innocent civilians?
  • Chooses its words to deflect blame from the settler colony, such as Reuters’ “mourning” the death of its reporter without mentioning Israel as the deliberate perpetrator, submitting to “international decisions” (sure, the “occupied territories” only refers to territories occupied in 1967, occupation was fine before that date—never mind the Nakba), reporting events outside their historical context (did you know history started on October 7, the day of the resistance’s “unprovoked attack”?), and other propaganda tactics (basically a pot-pourri of all the logical fallacies you can find online, plus some more that non-Zionists haven’t discovered yet).
  • Is focused on making sure any discourse, including “pro-Palestinian discourse”, falls outside the frame of the settler colonial project that is the root cause of everything that’s happening, from the Nakba to the Palestinian resistance’s counterattack to the colony’s daily hourly massacres.
The work of the Israeli Propaganda Ministry—which would be quite lol-worthy had the context not been genocide—extends well beyond the borders of Palestine

This affects popular opinion and imposes a certain cultural hegemony of what should or should not be said, or even what should and should not discussed. By manufacturing people’s consent to settler colonialism, this hegemony affects the stances of Arab and “Western” politicians, thus decreasing the political cost for Israel’s bloodthirst. Yes, the narrative matters. Which is why you’re not powerless. The more you challenge their narrative with ours, the more lives are saved. And happily, unlike them, we don’t need to hasbara. We just need to be aware of where we want the conversation to go.

You can challenge the Zionist narrative by using accurate language

Let’s discuss three examples: First, “Hamas’ attack” was not an attack. It came as a response to the 75-year old occupation and domination of Palestinians: it was a counterattack. Also, it was not Hamas’, as other groups like the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (which supports the establishment of a democratic state with full citizenship for Jews) are actively taking part in what’s happening. So no matter what anybody thinks of what happened, let’s call a cat a cat and speak of the Palestinian resistance’s counterattack.

Second, Zionism—like every other settler-colonial movement—conflates “civilian” with “innocent”. But the two are not the same. A civilian who breaks into my house is hardly innocent, and describing my use of force against him as ‘targeting a civilian’ is technically true but criminally misleading. This is particularly true in the case of settler colonialism, where, unlike military occupation, civilians play a crucial role: Most settlers are civilians, but settler colonization is a war crime according to “international law” and the moral standards of any sane person. This is not to say that no civilians are innocent; just that the two are not the same (as Israeli officials sometimes acknowledge). Conflating “civilian” with “innocent” also unwittingly implies that Israel has the right to target armed militants – which it doesn’t, for (again) the simple reason that colonisers have no right to settle on the land of the colonised, let alone kill them, while the occupied have the right to use force in self-defense and in order to recover territory unlawfully occupied. For all these reasons, the distinction should be made in our discourse.

Israeli civilians

This ties in with a third point, which is the danger of the “both sides” rhetoric, and its siblings, “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “Israel-Palestine issue”. Imagine telling a rapist and their victim that they should “both exercise restraint”, or speaking of the rape as a “man-woman issue” and “hoping the man-woman conflict resolves”! In no way can the oppressor be equated with the oppressed; and our discourse must reflect this assymetry between the colonizer and the colonized. In many cases this might include reframing discussions, such as switching from the abovementioned civilian-military paradigm to a colonizer-colonized one.

This exceptional article on cultural resistance against Zionism presents an outstanding analysis of other key expressions and concepts that are often used in the Palestinian liberation discourse.

Even when using accurate language, we need to be careful about what we’re discussing

The Palestinian resistance has been accused of much lies, such as beheading children, raping women or bombing their own hospital (to mention only those that have been debunked). Although it is good to debunk lies, or to show that Israel has actually been proven to be guilty of what they’re accusing Palestinians of, we mustn’t allow the enemy’s accusations to steer the conversation, for at least two reasons.

First of all, because we’re not the ones under trial here. I’m sure some Haitians, South Africans and Algerians were horrible persons—murderers, rapists, and whatnot. Does that delegitimize the liberation struggle of the Haitians, the South Africans or the Algerians in any way? Why, then, give importance to a discussion that is irrelevant to the reality of the oppression, and to the righteousness of the cause?

Second of all, because a discussion focused on “violence”, whether legitimate or not, also steers the discussion away from the root of violence: Settler colonialism. If all the talk is about two people beating each other up, then the conversation will naturally lead to something like “then let them stop beating each other up”.  Which is a good way to defuse a “both sides” situation—but quite horrible advice to people defending themselves against someone occupying their house (or worse). Let us not, then, acquiesce to the Zionists’ efforts to steer the discussion away from the root issue: The settler colonization of Palestine, with everything it has caused (including, incidentally, its psychological effect on the colonized, which will inevitably lead to crimes).

No both-siding at the colony’s core

Interestingly, focusing the discussion on the settler colonization of Palestine takes on a turn that is much more positive than defending the Palestinians’ right to resist. After all, our purpose is not to kill people—not even soldiers—but rather to right the historical wrong that has caused untold suffering to its primary victims, the natives, as well as its secondary victims, the foreigners Zionism has used to settle Palestine. A true solution for all thus involves way more than stopping the current aggression, ending the siege of Gaza, releasing prisoners, or ending the apartheid régime. It involves dismantling the settler colonial state that has led to all of these, and getting rid of its cornerstone: Its politicization of identity that “justifies” the establishment of a state exclusive to some, at the expense of others.

This, therefore, should be the core of our narrative: The transition from the state “exclusive to Jews” to its fundamental antithesis: Not a state that is “exclusive to non-Jews”, but a state that completely breaks with Zionism’s and colonialism’s politicizing of identity—a secular, democratic, Palestinian state. Instead of having us on the defensive, this radical vision for liberation (which, incidentally, has been the Palestinian vision up until Oslo, and is now being re-adopted by a growing number of Palestinians and Palestinian movements) puts the aggressor in front of a choice: Do you support a transition from Zionism to One Democratic State? Their answering in the negative delegitimizes their movement; their answering in the positive is even more beautiful as it switches them over to our side.

That is the question

You are not powerless. By challenging hasbara with ODS, you help tip the power balance back in favor of the colonized, thus saving Palestinian lives and getting us one step closer to liberation. Furthermore, the recently launched Palestinian One Democratic State Initiative is working to coordinate efforts to reclaim the narrative. If you think you might be interested in joining our efforts to reclaim the narrative in an organized manner, join us or contact us, and let’s talk about it.

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