Ghassan Charbel
Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Containing the Second Nakba

How difficult is Gaza! How cruel are the scenes coming from it! Deadly provocative images. Daggers that attack the eye and the soul. All expressions of anger, all cries, are wasted.

How difficult is Gaza! Fields that are designated for massacre. The corpses of its days are mixed with the dead bodies of its children. The world is watching with binoculars. Negotiations are arduous, as they say, and between one scenario and another, homes and families disappear.

How difficult is Gaza! Its loaf is baked in blood. Its days are burned with fire. Neither the roof protects nor does the wall deter. The house is a passing station waiting for its ruins. Families are likely to be dispersed and continue to emigrate with their remaining children.

Death does not tire. It strikes in the north, in the south, without forgetting the center. The sky that gave birth to stars and clouds changed its habits. It only sends drones. These are birds of scientific and technological progress. They monitor and strike. They eat children's meat with a fork and knife and the achievements of artificial intelligence.

How difficult is Gaza! Every inch is a graveyard project.

In recent decades, the Middle East has not been a lake of peace. Wars were raging throughout it. We saw bodies piling up at the borders and at other times in the capitals. But we have never witnessed such an intensity of killing. Such ingenuity in hunting down civilians, and in pushing large crowds into successive murderous migrations on a stage soaked in blood. An Israeli laboratory has released the killing virus on the residents of Gaza, and it is an intentional epidemic that is more dangerous than Covid-19.

Israel’s aggression is not something new. But the atrocity set records. We were under the illusion that the world would not allow a killing that would last for months. The world that is angry because of a Russian oppositionist. Or a Ukrainian inch. The world was mobilizing to support “color revolutions” here and there. It was appalled by what it called human rights violations.

Suddenly, the world started looking away. It became deaf and blind. It started repeating phrases to lift the blame, while the first duty was to stop the killing. Invoking practices that accompanied the October 7 attack does not cover the open massacre that followed. Moreover, this attack is the result of a long conflict and not its first spark. There is no excuse for the world and no fig leaf for its conscience.

The fire must be stopped quickly and permanently, so that the world can see the sea of rubble in Gaza. To remember that the number of new graves is equivalent to the population of a small city. To see the mothers who are waiting for children who will never return. To smell the scent of anger and despair and what heralds renewed cycles of revenge. Neither Gaza can die, nor can the people of Gaza be wiped out. History says that leaving the wounds of a catastrophe inflamed only promises new tragedies for the families of the perpetrators and the victims alike.

I was stopped by the sight of American planes throwing humanitarian aid to the residents of Gaza. The mere occurrence of this constitutes an acknowledgment of the extent of the calamity that befell the residents of the Gaza Strip, and the size of the crime committed by the Israeli army against them. There is no doubt that throwing aid is useful. But we are not talking here about Austria or Finland. We are talking about the United States. About the “single superpower” or something close to that. About the party that protects the Jewish state when it is exposed to dangers.

The scene of its president rushing to visit Israel after October 7 was striking. Likewise, fleets and airlifts arrived. This role in particular imposes a great responsibility on America. It is the responsibility to put a hand on this conflict, and stop the scenes of the new Nakba in a way that prevents its repetition.

Regardless of the objections to Washington’s policies, it is the only power capable of assuming a task of this magnitude. Neither Russia, which is preoccupied with Ukraine, is able to play this role, nor is China willing or capable of it. Europe also seemed lost in this conflict. It lost both the compass and its image.

There is no choice but to contain the new Nakba. The issue is much bigger than the survival of Hamas symbols in Gaza or the fate of Yahya Al-Sinwar. The matter concerns the future of a people and stability in the region.

A mere return to the past decades shows that the first Nakba was the main cause of destabilization in the region. The slogan of liberating Palestine was often raised to cover ambitions or justify policies. This is without forgetting that the massacres of the first Nakba were much smaller in magnitude than the current atrocities. All the projects that shook the region were based on the Palestinian cause.

The scenes of the first Nakba produced confrontations, wars in capitals, hijackings of planes, assassinations, and exchanges of strikes in multiple theaters. The assassination of Palestinian leaders has not succeeded in killing the Palestinian cause. The mission was inherited from generation to generation. The Palestinians maintained the flame of resistance under occupation and in remote camps. Some extremists sometimes used the injustice done to the Palestinian people to launch plans that put Palestinians and Arabs in conflict with the entire world.

The most dangerous thing that could happen is that the horrors of the new Nakba are not contained through a permanent and viable solution that opens the door for and guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The world will commit a great sin if it hastens to forget the horrors of the new Nakba and allows it to produce generations of extremism that will explode within societies and the world, similar to what we had witnessed previously, but this time more severely.

There is no choice but to contain the second Nakba. Containment begins with a permanent ceasefire, then by removing the architect of the second Nakba, whose name is Benjamin Netanyahu, from the scene and the decision. In parallel, adopting a binding political path that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state. We say the architect of the Nakba because he deserves to be named as such. In his first meeting with Yasser Arafat at the Erez crossing after assuming the premiership for the first time in 1996, Netanyahu was frank. He told Arafat that he was not concerned with the Oslo Accords and any similar references.

During his long reign, he launched waves of settlements and was busy weakening the Palestinian National Authority and spreading despair among the Palestinians, paving the way for the “flood.” The failure to contain the second Nakba heralds nothing but floods, confrontations, and arenas.