Hazem Saghieh

On the Truce, Victory, and the Cause and Always on Humanity...

When Israel launched its war on the Gaza Strip, the physical violence was accompanied by an even more violent proposition: Israel would accept nothing less than the eradication of Hamas and the return of all hostages without any conditions, negotiations, or exchange. Benjamin Netanyahu would go on to call this "absolute victory," and an opponent crushed "absolutely" necessarily lies on the opposite end of this "absolute victory".

Earlier, the Al-Aqsa Flood operation was accompanied by anthems proclaiming, with absolute certainty, that the entirety of Palestine would be liberated. It would be free from the river to the sea, and the state of Israel would be totally wiped out. More realistic anthems recognize that Al-Aqsa Flood might not fully achieve this objective, but they present the operation as the first significant step towards achieving it. Moreover, that the prisons would be "wiped clean" was seen as a foregone conclusion, and some even called on Hamas to work on wiping the prisons in France and Latin America "clean."

It was clear that both of these "absolute" victories reflect an indifference to humans and politics. Those who resort to violence generally have little regard for human beings, as is evident from their lexicon: we offer martyrs, smile at death, and do not mind making sacrifices, neither for this, that, or the other... However, this most recent conflict has elevated the distinction between the humanitarian and the military to the level of a total rupture. It did so by executing politics and relative considerations, and by replacing war and peace with obliteration and annihilation.

The four-day truce was achieved only after domestic political battles in Israel that saw Netanyahu prevaricate and refuse to meet with the families of the hostages for weeks. Meanwhile, hardline ministers led by Ben-Gvir opposed any truce, arguing that it would be a gift to Hamas and allow its militants to regroup. For their part, the spokespeople for Hamas rarely showed concern for the residents emerging from under the rubble to get some air and receive food and medical supplies. Suffering is only worth paying attention to when it can be used as an additional argument against the "Zionist enemy."

It is indicative that the families of the hostages, those who are suffering directly, have exerted more pressure on Netanyahu than anyone else. On the Palestinian side, it was clear from the faces of those who were allowed to speak on television, who have a lot in common with the Israeli hostages and their families, that life and freedom are prioritized above any other concern, though these sentiments were sometimes accompanied with folkloric declarations of victory.

While the popular embrace of several wonderful doctors, especially Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, provided many with an outlet for expressing their desire for a world free of violence, we were bombarded with increasing numbers of lectures about the historical importance of violence, especially in our history. Through violence alone, we could immediately attain all of our rights, even if no one is left to receive these rights.

However, is this rhetoric and the behavior that accompanies it one thing and stances on humanity another, or are we dealing with two parallel lines that never intersect?

The ideology of both parties and their system of priorities place humanity in a lowly position. Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk reflected this view eloquently when he argued that protecting civilians in Gaza was the responsibility of the United Nations, not his organization, which has not built a single civilian bomb shelter since 2007. Meanwhile, he was promising, or rather threatening, civilians with the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine.

In turn, the Likud's version of Zionist nationalism sees the world as being in a perpetual state of war that leaves no room for "the weak," like victims and their families. For them the world is a stage for conflicts and shows of force. That is before getting into how the hero of this conflict personally needs war because his political and ethical behavior have been condemned, he failed to do his duty of ensuring security, and he will likely be tried and jailed as soon as stops being prime minister.

Such objectives, slogans, and "demands" close the door to politics, leaving only bodies and souls that either kill or are killed. Israeli generals speak of their apprehension regarding the truce because it could obscure victory or marginalize or slow down their retaliatory operations. On the other side, we see a perpetuation of the famous Arab tradition of declaring victory before the battles even begin, so that when the fog of war settles, a "divine" victory that does not account for any human costs is affirmed.

Human beings are creatures who fight and die, and in the meantime, they stand firm and defy. Meanwhile, politics, the only means for reducing pain and death, is excluded and rejected. However, whenever a cause is immense, self-sufficient, and grants us a sense of being part of something "bigger than ourselves and our lives," the value of human beings is dwarfed and they become vulnerable to being sacrificed at any moment. This applies to "our people" standing firm and then dying for the cause, as does to "their people," who ought to be pushed out or eliminated for the sake of the same cause. In the end, neither group of people is seen as human.

Those who see the world in such ways are terrifying if they are defeated, and they are even more terrifying if they are victorious.