Sat 13-April-2024

How Gaza has changed the world and how to sustain the momentum it has created

Thursday 28-March-2024

Since October 2023, the entire world is clearly making its voice heard about Gaza, over and over again, and in many different ways. Wherever one looks around the world, one is likely to see people supporting Gaza, calling for a ceasefire, demanding aid flow into the Palestinian enclave, while Israel is being condemned for the war itself, for its disproportionate response and for the blatant lies its media machine keeps spreading through loyal media outlets, not only inside Israel itself, but far beyond in Washington, New York, London and Paris.

From Sydney to New York, Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and all the way to Sao Paolo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Johannesburg and back to Amsterdam, Madrid Liege and Barcelona. The same voice is heard clearly and loudly, but in a more mature way, and has become even more concentrated, demanding two things that sum up the public mood, literally, the world public opinion: one to end the Occupation, after stopping the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza and beyond. This is a new global movement that has been missing from the public domain for a pretty long time.

It is a case of mature, ordinary people power which would, in normal honest democracies, not only be heard but accommodated and acted upon. However, particularly during the first three weeks of the Israeli genocide war, almost all European governments, which usually side with Israel despite what it does, ignored their public’s outrage, while they encouraged similar outrage and acted upon it, in the case of Ukraine—a blatant and embarrassing double standard at the heart of the free world, be it in Washington or London.

As the Israeli terror campaign continued, aided by over-loyal media machines, the public disgust became more focused and started morphing, from national levels, into local levels where small towns and communities came together to make their voices heard, too, forcing many Western governments to start climbing down from the earlier unequivocal support they had granted to Israel, ignoring every call to end the war.

But the pressure on many governments became unbearable, forcing them to adopt political positions, where countries like France, for example, started to vent its frustration with ally, Israel, and how it is “indiscriminately” killing civilians in Gaza. Furthermore, many European governments even threatened Israel with certain measures like, for example, recognizing the State of Palestine. Belgium and Spain are leading here. Regardless of their own motives, this is a milestone in the history of the Palestinian people, who have been demanding their rights for the last seven decades since Israel was created on their land.

Maybe this is the first time since the Vietnam War that the world is experiencing such a global anti-war movement. This is also the first time the Western streets are so energized, so engaged and so focused than they ever were —the public pressure has never been so great, even during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. People today are so informed and so connected, thanks to social media, they can almost instantaneously organize demonstrations across boundaries, continents and time zones.

Most big demonstrations were spontaneous, impromptu, with little support from mainstream political organizations, politicians or public figures. They are the true grassroots movements that bring such a sea of humanity together in far apart places. It is the true voice and feelings of ordinary hard working people crossing all social class barriers—normal women, men and children marching for peace and demanding an end to colonialism, as brutally manifested by the apartheid Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Once enough momentum was built up in the streets, it found its way into more, if you like, exclusive sections of society, as manifested in the many celebrities, artists and the like who came out criticizing Israel, even if short of openly supporting the Palestinians.

Furthermore, as you might have noticed already, I did not mention any Arab or Muslim majority city or town that protested the Israeli genocide. This shows us the flipside of such public anger which speaks volumes about humanity in its finest, regardless of ethnicity, religion or geography. People who have no religious or ethnic connection to Gaza, let alone knowing where it is on the map, are adamant about one thing: let Palestine be free and end the Occupation, not tomorrow or in ten years’ time, but now.

As the war on Gaza enters six months, organizers and grassroots leaders of this global anti-war campaign should consider how best to preserve this movement and how to channel such floods of people into some organized form to be able to sustain this momentum.

The driving force we have witnessed since 7 October should not be lost, once the war ends, as it will one day. It should be channeled into new entities or, better still, be embedded into already existing well established movements such as the Palestinian owned and led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). BDS is well-positioned to widen its perspective and able to include the recently set up public movements that have sprung up in different countries, from the United States to the European Union and beyond.

The only way to sustain this global support for the just Palestinian cause is to make sure that people who want to express themselves beyond today and away from the mainstream media – which is unwelcoming, anyway – find the space to do so.

Once organized locally, all grassroots movements, wherever they might be, can support each other and learn from one another to help themselves act globally, while organizing locally. A good recent example is how George Galloway, a well-known British politician and anti-war activist, managed to sustain his rejection of Israeli genocide in Gaza into a political force, winning local election in a small British locality. As a member of the British Parliament, Mr. Galloway is very likely to sustain the pro-Gaza calls at the highest decision-making bodies in the United Kingdom—a veto power and well established power when it comes to the Palestinian issue, given its history in that land.

The same political success we have seen in the UK’s local elections is likely to be repeated in some European countries that are voting soon, like Belgium and also in European elections scheduled to take place in the summer.

Whatever possible should be done to sustain the anti-war movement and the condemnation of Israel and to keep the grassroots movements well connected together, to build more on their individual successes for the benefit of a worldwide movement.

-Mustafa Fetouri is a Libyan academic and freelance journalist. He is a recipient of the EU’s Freedom of the Press prize. His article appeared in MEMO.

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