With open support for genocide – is there a future for Israel?

The following article is based on an interview with Palestinian author and activist Susan Abulhawa by Frank Barat on Dec. 29. Their full conversation can be found at tinyurl.com/3e4bcu9y.

Susan Abulhawa speaking at a rally for Palestine in Philadelphia, November 2023. WW Photo: Joe Piette

Frank Barat: How do we build on the horrors that are happening [in Gaza], and how do we make sure this actually changes everything in terms of the way people think of Israel, of its supporters, of its backers? The numbers are horrifying — more than 29,000 Palestinian dead; at least 50,000 injured; over 100 journalists killed. Over 1.9 million people have been displaced; over 65,000 homes completely destroyed; 170,000 partially destroyed … 305 schools partially damaged and destroyed; 1,500 industrial facilities, 183 mosques, three churches — we can go on and on.

And even though horrifying, these numbers don’t reflect the true nature of what’s happening. Through your work, through social media, through your books, you’ve been one of the best persons in reframing the way we see Palestine and humanizing the way we see Palestinians. So, when I give you these numbers, what do they mean to you?

Susan Abulhawa: Honestly, I feel very emotional hearing even the numbers, because every day I scroll through the videos and the images, and I know the profound despair that underpins all of that. I also imagine this sort of industrialized terrorism is still ongoing with no end in sight.

Those numbers also grossly underestimate the true harm that has been done. We know that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who remain trapped under the rubble. We know there are people who died or are dying alone in the dark and the cold. Nobody is able to get to them. Nobody knows they’re there. And when you imagine the way that people have died so far, you know it’s not just killing people. It’s death in the most gruesome ways — people literally being buried alive.

I think there’s probably no more horrifying way to die than to be buried alive, to be crushed under the weight of walls and ceilings that once contained your memories and your family and your life. At some point, this will end. It must. But the extraordinary destruction puts a big question mark on the future. Where do people return to? What do they return to? What do they do in the meantime?

These are all things that we have to start thinking about and preparing for to ensure that Israel is not successful in its aims, even when its true aims are not what they declare officially. 

We know this is not about Hamas. It’s certainly not about the hostages.

This is about colonial conquest, as it has always been. That’s the essence of designs as a colonial, European, racist, supremacist movement initiated to violently colonize Palestine and steal everything from the Indigenous population, and they have been doing that for decades. But they have often lamented how inefficient they have been in this colonization, for several reasons.

Number one, the Palestinians who remain, who they could not get rid of, continue to live and reproduce, and Israel has not been able to kill them off quickly enough or contain them or expel them. All along they talked about creating conditions — I think [Former Israeli President] Shimon Peres said it — conditions that would invite the voluntary migration of Palestinians. That’s what they hoped all along, that they could make the Palestinians’ lives so miserable and desperate that people would just leave of their own accord.

Like all colonizers and all racists, they underestimate the humanity and the attachment of Indigenous people to their homes and their lands. And with that, they have often viewed Palestinian lives as demographic threats. You know, they have been, for the past 20 years or so, speaking openly about how worrisome it is that between the river and the sea, the number of Palestinians versus Israeli Jews could become equal or worse, even outnumber them. So, for years they have been planning genocidal actions like what we’re seeing, and they found an opportunity now to execute that.

We’re not surprised that it has reached this level, but it is shocking. It shocks the conscience. It shocks the mind and begs our belief. But it is not surprising, because with every massacre that Israel has committed with impunity, the next one was escalated. Every time it’s like they just keep pushing the envelope to see how much they can get away with.

When you’re able to act with such brutality and industrialized terrorism for so long, without any real consequences, of course you think you can get away with genocide, with outright genocide, and that’s what they’re doing.

This impunity has allowed Israelis to think that the things they’re saying are normal. It is a truly pathological society. It really is, because what has been allowed to proliferate in the public sphere is so racist, so appalling and really grotesque to most of us in the world, but it’s become normalized, I think for most Israelis. [For them] there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “Yeah, we should kill all the babies. The babies aren’t innocent,” or “Yeah, we need to turn Gaza into a parking lot. And yes, we need to wipe everybody out, and we need to starve them to death.”

These are all things that they have been saying — “We need to starve them; we need to make sure that there are conditions that would spread disease that would make our job easier.” These are all things [said] in the public sphere.

Even countries that want to do things like that may know better than to say this out loud. But Israelis do say it out loud, and they say it a lot, because it’s normal in that society.

I think when this is over — and when I say over, I mean when Israel is over, because this kind of profoundly racist regime cannot continue to thrive in the world — I think we will spend generations unpacking this. This pathology was allowed to continue, was nurtured by so-called Western “democracies” that love to preach to the rest of us about human rights and democracy and whatnot.

Barat: Do you think that this is the beginning of the end for Israel? Do you think Israel is going to self-destruct like a monster that has no sense anymore? And that goes into a rampage?

Abulhawa: I think they’ve been on a path to the end. Norman Finkelstein calls it a lunatic society and it really is. There are no moral restraints that are apparent to the rest of us. There are no limits. And it’s truly extraordinary that in the face of this just incredible, unfathomable brutality we are seeing on our screens, that there are people in the world who can look at that, and say, “we want more, we need to do more.” I think about this a lot.

Personally I have only rage and hatred towards Zionists. But even in my darkest hour, there is nothing in me that could ever celebrate something like that if it happened to them. It is hard for me to comprehend who these people are or what they’re made of.

To be so utterly devoid of a conscience — not even as an individual but as a collective. To go on social media and mock the pain of mothers whose babies have been murdered, to mock the pain of people, to mock their hunger, to mock their thirst. It’s just really not something that I am able to comprehend. 

And I don’t think most normal people, or the majority of humanity, can comprehend it, which is why this is part of Israel’s self-destruction. It’s not so much that they’re disrupting from within, although there is an element of that, but it is the exposure of who they really are. And that is one thing that is happening now.

Gaza has truly opened the curtains for a lot of things. Gaza has just blown the cover off. And there’s no hiding behind these lofty ideals that they’ve been peddling to the world for decades about democracy and whatever lunacy they peddle. And it has also blown the cover off the mighty Israeli military. It actually exposed their incredible weakness and their cowardice.

Israel thinks that they are showing strength by mass murdering civilians in the tens of thousands when, in fact, that is proof of their weakness. That is evidence of a moral vacuum and a material weakness. 

They’re getting pummeled in battle by a far weaker guerrilla force that has really nothing but homemade rockets and light armaments, and they’re decimating them in battle. In something that resembles a fair fight though it’s still not, they are no match for Palestinians, they are no match for Hamas. They were no match for Hezbollah. 

And so they take out their humiliation on children, on women, on fathers and grandfathers, and on churches and mosques and universities. They are destroying every bit of infrastructure that supports life and that’s the aim. That’s part of the genocide.

Simple Share Buttons

Share this
Simple Share Buttons