Israel lost the war in Gaza but the struggle for justice goes on

Palestinians gather in the streets of Gaza City in celebration of the announcement of a permanent ceasefire on 26 August.

Ezz al-Zanoun APA images

There is one clear reason to celebrate the ceasefire deal Israel and the Palestinian resistance reached today: 51 days and nights of relentless Israeli massacres and destruction have come to an end in Gaza.

With reports that Israel has agreed to reopen Gaza’s borders, Hamas announced victory and Palestinians, especially in Gaza, are celebrating. Among many Israelis, meanwhile, there is a feeling of bitterness and defeat.

“What Netanyahu and his colleagues have brought down on Israel, in a conflict between the region’s strongest army and an organization numbering 10,000, is not just a defeat. It’s a downfall,” wrote Haaretz’s Amir Oren in a stunning admission of how much Israel has been set back.

Some observers are treating the latest events with understandable caution.

“I do not feel in a rejoicing mood, only glad that no more people and children will die,” Gaza writer Omar Ghraieb wrote to me.

In addition to the more than 2,100 killed, “so many people got injured, houses got bombed, towers got leveled and life got deformed,” Ghraieb adds. “I would rather just watch closely what awaits Gaza.”

Indeed, Israel has a long history of violating almost every agreement it has ever signed with Palestinians, from the 1993 Oslo accords to previous ceasefires in Gaza.

Israel agreed to open the crossings as part of its November 2012 ceasefire deal with the Palestinian resistance, but reneged. This time Israel knows the stakes are much higher if it violates those terms again.

Ceasefire terms

The reported ceasefire terms “include opening all crossings to Gaza, allowing reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, allowing the entry of materials needed for reconstruction and permitting fishing for a distance of six to twelve nautical miles from shore.”

Opening the crossings – closed or severely restricted due to Israel’s nearly eight-year-long siege – was a key resistance demand supported across Palestinian civil society.

After a month, reports say, talks will resume to discuss additional Palestinian demands: the reopening of Gaza’s airport and seaport.

Palestinians gather in the streets of Gaza City in celebration of the announcement of a permanent ceasefire on 26 August.

Ezz al-Zanoun APA images

There are still details that are unclear: who will monitor the crossings and guarantee that Israel abides by the agreement to open them? What role will be played by forces loyal to the Israeli-allied de facto Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas?

It will also be critical for Gaza civil society to be vigilant and to ensure that reconstruction is not controlled by corrupt forces tied to the Abbas PA that have profiteered from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Israel lost

As I have noted before, if “victory” is measured in the number of civilians an army kills and injures, or the number of homes, hospitals, mosques or schools it destroys, Israel is the clear champion once again.

By that standard, the United States spectacularly “won” its wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

But in terms of the political and strategic balance sheet that will determine future relations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel suffered a clear loss on the battlefield and internationally.

At a basic level, Israel has made concessions to Palestinians that it was not even willing to discuss before its escalation and bombardment.

A month ago, I argued that Israel was being defeated in Gaza as it was in Lebanon in 2006.

That assessment stands. It’s an assessment that can now be found in Israel’s mainstream media. Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid was scathing, writing that Netanyahu “saw his chance to run away from Gaza, and he took it.”

“The Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel accepted on Tuesday did not deliver a single achievement,” Ravid wrote, and actually represented a “regression” from Israel’s position before the war.

Ravid explains: “That regression is encapsulated in the 69 Israeli fatalities, 2,000 Palestinian fatalities, the bulk of them innocent civilians, thousands of projectiles on the communities in the south, hundreds of missiles on the center of the country, deserted communities, the loss of trust in the IDF [Israeli army] and the government among the residents of the south, economic damage amounting to billions and diplomatic and PR damage that is impossible to quantify.”

Israel’s limited invasion of Gaza early on in its assault was met with fierce resistance.

Dozens of Israeli soldiers were killed in battles with well-prepared and courageous Palestinian fighters.

The heavy losses convinced Israeli military leaders that total reoccupation of Gaza would entail further losses it could not bear.

And after dropping the equivalent of an atomic bomb on Gaza, Israel was unable to stop Palestinian resistance groups from firing missiles at Israeli targets.

Since Israel’s ground invasion entered only a few hundred meters into Gaza, it is reasonable to assume that a significant part, if not the vast majority, of resistance assets remain intact and ready to use should Israel invade again.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon understood this and signed a ceasefire deal without putting it to a vote in an extremist and deeply split cabinet.

Justice minister Tzipi Livni, who was foreign minister during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza, supported the ceasefire but warned against allowing Hamas to have too many political achievements.

The heads of councils of Israel’s southern settlements that were within range of most of the resistance rockets also slammed the ceasefire deal.

“Any concession to Hamas is a surrender to terrorism,” Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni said, according to Haaretz..

“The residents of [the] south wanted to see this campaign resolved, but that will probably not happen,” Shimoni added.

He meant that they wanted the war to go on until victory was reached – an end to rocket fire from Gaza. But even the most hawkish and hard-headed Israeli analysts knew that such victory is a mirage.

Earlier this week, Ynet columnist Ron Ben-Yishai, who is close to Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, lamented that “What was supposed to be an operation or a military campaign has turned into a war of attrition.”

Such a “war of attrition is ultimately worse for Israel than for Hamas,” Ben-Yishai argued, “even though Hamas is drawing fire and suffering serious damage, at rates far, far higher than Israel.”

The reason, he claimed, is “Hamas plays the strengths of the weak, and as long as it can launch rockets and mortars, it puts on a façade of a fighting force that does not surrender.”

“It also doesn’t need much to inflict damage, losses and pain on Israel,” Ben-Yishai argued. “One mortar that kills a four-year-old boy is enough to deliver a hard emotional blow to Israelis. That’s how an asymmetrical war goes.”

There’s an element of racism in this – the idea that Israelis value life more and are therefore more sensitive to individual deaths.

If that were true, Israel would show its concern for life and set an example by not killing so many Palestinians, especially not so many Palestinian children.

But there is also a historic reality that in anti-colonial wars, the natives have had less to lose than their occupiers and far more to gain, and have been willing to make enormous sacrifices to achieve their liberation.

One can only stand in awe of how many people in Gaza said that despite the unbearable pain and losses, they just weren’t prepared to surrender.

“Surviving this aggression is a new life. Living through 51 days of continuous missiles and bombs is a victory,” Gaza writer Malaka Mohammed, currently a student in the UK, told me.

“Being forced to leave your home more than seven times and going back in the next day is a victory; staying strong and resilient after running over the corpses of your neighbors and friends as well as relatives is a victory,” Mohammed adds.

“Living in Gaza and being the first line of resistance against siege and aggression is nothing but a victory,” she said.

That resilience, born from a love of life and an unshakeable commitment to dignity and liberation, is indeed something Israel could not defeat even with its most horrifying weapons.

Writing just yesterday, Ben-Yishai observed:

It is absolutely clear that all parties now want a ceasefire as soon as possible. The problem is that Hamas cannot agree to a ceasefire without any achievements to present to its people and to the citizens of Gaza … Similarly, the Israeli government cannot justify the fighting and casualties if it agrees to give Hamas this achievement and if it cannot prove that Hamas will be unable to rebuild after the fighting ends.

The alternatives Ben-Yishai proposed were even more bombardment and total occupation of Gaza.

By signing the agreement, Netanyahu admitted there was not going to be an Israeli victory and conceding to key resistance demands was his only option.

Netanyahu also had to bring Israel’s aggression to an end, not least because of the mounting damage to the country’s economy. Among the worst hit sectors is tourism, with the number of visitors to Israel plunging to the lowest level since 2007.

But the internal political battles within Israel and Israel’s own predilection to inflict as much suffering as it can get away with on Palestinians means that it has a strong incentive to undermine whatever limited terms it has agreed to now.

The hardline commitment in Israel to keeping Gaza besieged and subjugated also means that the talks reportedly set to begin in a month will face enormous obstacles.

Battle for justice goes on

Refaat Alareer, the Gaza writer and educator who lost his brother in the Israeli attack, also sees today’s agreement as “a symbolic win over a barbaric colonial power – one step for Gaza and a giant leap for Palestine.”

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum is carried by Palestinians in Gaza City as they celebrate what they said was a victory over Israel following a ceasefire on 26 August.

Mohammed Talatene APA images

Alareer adds:

It is a victory because Gaza did not kneel, because Gaza proved Israel can be deterred and isolated, because Gaza exposed the hideous face of apartheid Israel and that of the US that never stopped sending weapons to Israel, and because more and more people are now uniting all over the world and are more determined to end this injustice by all effective means.

This is a victory because it united Palestinians and pro-Palestinians from all over the world to fight for Palestine. It’s a victory because the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is now more powerful and more effective.

It is a victory because a lot more people have decided to engage in the active support of Palestine, by being part of BDS, rather than only sending prayers and good wishes.

Alareer reminds us that as Palestinians in Gaza begin – hopefully – the arduous road to physical, emotional and mental recovery from the unspeakable horrors Israel has inflicted, the work of justice cannot take a break.

He reminds us too that Israel could not perpetrate such hideous atrocities without the support and complicity of so many governments, companies and other institutions around the world. The struggle to maintain Israeli occupation and racism is global, which is why the struggle to defeat them – especially BDS – must be global too.

A ceasefire is not enough. Rebuilding Gaza is not enough. Even ending the siege would not be enough. It would only be the start.

We have to say never again. Never again must Israel be allowed to massacre Palestinians as it has in Gaza in 2006, 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 – the years since it decided to turn Gaza into a giant open-air prison.

It is crucial to understand that such violence is the price of a “Jewish state” in Palestine.

The only way to stop the massacres is to escalate our work for justice.

An end to Israeli apartheid and colonization and the founding of a country for all its people – where refugees, no longer excluded by racist laws, return to their land – is the only monument worth building for so many people whose lives were violently stolen.




While I am overjoyed that the citizens that reside in Gaza have new privileges; There are indeed no victors at the end of this horrific event. Lets just all hope that this event will eventually lead Gaza into the days of Xanadu.


I loved the part about how an organization of 10k made the regions strongest army retreat. For those of us living outside Palestine, maintaining the BDS movement must remain strong and consistent. It's the BDS movement now that will put pressure on Israel to be sure all Palestinians live in freedom. Ali, well done. Your reporting has been stellar.


It is a no-brainer that the Zionist genocidal criminals failed in their war against mostly unarmed Gaza civilians. It also proves that the Zionists simply don't have the military or strategic mass to fight an indefinate war of attrition even against a lighly armed but highly motivated resistance movement like Hamas or Hezbollah. It is an omen of things to come as the resistance movements in the region get better. The Zionists have been strutting on US taxpayer funded 21st century weaponry to indiscriminately murder women and children in Occupied Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, but are too cowardly and casualty averse to fight the resistance on the ground in gruelling house to house combat. This conflict lasting over 40 days will prove to be a military milestone in the region as Hamas and other resistance forces learn from the lesson that Zionist airpower is mostly useless againt tunnels, deep bunker, heavy mortars and low level trajectory. The only reason the Zionist agreed to a cease fire is that the school session is about to start in the areas of Southern Occupied Palestine and half a million Zionists had fled the Hamas barrages. The Palestinians have paid a heavy price in destruction of infrastructure and human lives but have proved to be tenacious fighters with very high morale. There was time that combined Arab armies used to be defeated in a few days, but now even small and lighly armed resistance forces can inflict severe pain on the savage Zionist occupiers and hold out. The military message from this highly uneven conflict is that the Zionists have no stomach for a protatrated conflict and simply can't stay mobilized. Hamas and other resistance groups should now focus on tunnel warfare, heavy mortars, base bleed low trajectory artillery and anti-material sniper rifles to nuetralize Zionist air force. The Palestinians must make it mandatory for all buildings to have bomb shelters and very house must have a trench for civilians to shelter.


Exactly so, Ali! Spot on. A big win for Gazans, and for all Palestinians. Congratulations, and profound commiserations for all the deaths and the wilful destruction which you have suffered at the hands of the zio-criminals. Zio-Iz is doomed. Greater Palestine is coming, as soon as the slo-mo collapse which is now happening to the US enters its final sudden chute. Remember to be generous and compassionate to what will then be your jewish minority community, when that happens. Don't take the zionist route of contempt and oppression towards them; they've nowhere else to go, many of them, after the Israeli re-emigrants have all gone. Treat them as equal citizens in GP, and things will go well eventually.


"All or nothing"? Yes, I believe even psychopathic Israel would be forced to bend under the weight of that determination. The World would have to concede, do we stand by whilst Israel annihilates the whole Nation of Palestinians, the rightful residents of these ancient homelands, or do we finally intercede to kick Israel into the twenty first century.The World has been complicit in this struggle for too long, we have taken too many Israeli pieces of gold and shekels, and, to their everlasting shame, this includes all other Arab and Muslim States World wide. I for one would like to hear the protestations and arguments all other Arab and Muslim states will advance to explain or justify, their lack of action to support Palestinian justice; lets call upon them to speak and explain. Do not use the excuse relating to Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, that is irrelevant, especially if the World will unite against this Israeli oppression; will they "nuke" the whole world? Also tell me this, which Nation will they occupy next? and, where will they stop? Read their history of pronouncements over the last one hundred years; read their religious texts, they see themselves as the "chosen" race, and everyone else exists either to "serve" them or be dead. Now think where have you heard those teachings before. Israel must be brought down to Earth, so it must be "All or nothing"all Peace negotiations are a farce simply used to punctuate the periods of Palestinian death and destruction. Palestinians have nothing left to lose. Now is the time to keep Israel on the "defensive", the World will act to finally bring Israel to account for their evil actions; take courage and be defiant, your claims are just, you will win, and yes there will be Martyr's, Blessed be their names, but there is no better time and no better reason to give lives, than this cause. the Palestinians MUST keep up the pressure of their resistance, thus forcing the World to act


For the first time in a long time, Gaza has the world on its side. This marks the beginning of the end of the 'thing' that calls itself 'israel'.


Hola from Puerto Rico. My heart did a happy dance when, I awoke this morning to the good news. I had an ongoing battle on twitter with, Israel's supporters. I hope that families who lost loved ones can, eventually smile again. Thousands of Puerto Ricans stand with you! Blessings!!!


The truth is that despite a few bribed puppet dictatorships in Egypt and Jordan, not a single Muslim nation have ever recognized this Zionist monstrosity and not a single Arab or Muslim at the street level ever will. The so-called "Jewish State" is a British imperialist cancer in the heart of the Arab world to divide the Muslims and promote Zionist hegemony for the natural resources plunder of the Arab world. The 6 million Zionists that have Occupied Palestine illegally since 1948 have no roots in the land and are totally alien and have survived by lies, fabrications and unimaginable brutality and constant wars all sustained by unlimited US taxpayers money and weaponry. In a recent Congressional Report it was acknowledged that the US has funnelled over $100 billion in weaponry to the Zionists. The total direct and indirect "aid" to the Zionists has amounted to over a trillion dollars, both from US and EU nations. Despite such massive aid the Zionists still are insecure and not accepted by region's population. Building apartheid walls and bombing the owners of Palestine will neither bring security or peace. With every dead Palestinian child another 100 freedom fighters will emerge and that is the real lesson of history. Zionism in its present evil form as even acknowledged by Kissinger, simply can not survive. Old British dictum of divide and rule and now rampant US fanned Islamophobia is simply counter-productive and will fail as Arabs and Muslims are far better educated and politically aware now. Zionist brutality will only ensure its own destruction.


Stop supporting Israel's genocide. Palestinians deserve their freedom as does, the rest of the world. Why are you bowing to Israel? Exactly, why? They have become hate filled terrorists, killing children for their amusement. STOP SUPPORTING GENOCIDE!!!


Superb analysis and an eloquent call to action from Ali Abunimah. I mourn for the thousands of victims of Israeli genocide in Gaza while I celebrate the survival of those who still live (including friends of mine in Gaza whose houses were bombed but who lived to tell the tale). As an openly transgendered woman of Asian birth doing BDS and anti-apartheid work in the belly of the beast (viz., NYC), I'm struck by how this Gaza war has attracted more attention from LGBT people and people of color as well as the American 'mainstream' than any other, esp. on social media, which the Zionist machine cannot control, even if it attempts to manipulate such platforms as it has manipulated the mainstream US news media for decades. I'm hearing the term 'apartheid' applied to Israel more often now and 'genocide' used to describe its Gaza campaign, and to that extent, this 'operation' represents a real public relations disaster for the Israeli government and the Zionist machine. It's truly tragic that this tremendous symbolic victory has had to come at the cost of over 2,100 lives, but that was probably inevitable given the overwhelming military superiority of the IDF and the complete disregard for Palestinian lives of the war criminals in the Netanyahu government. But I think by provoking this war, Netanyahu overplayed his hand and has actually weakened his position within his own cabinet as well as his standing with the Israeli public. As they say, the devil is in the details, and we'll have to see what happens a month from now when negotiations on the longer-term agreement begin. And yes, in the meanwhile, we will have to keep up the pressure, esp. with BDS. #FreeGaza #FreePalestine


I find readers missing a very important point! Objective of zionist was to LIVE TEST WEAPONS SYSTEMS THAT ARE MADE BY WESTERN MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! New weapons were tested and assessment of their effectiveness is now being made without anybody noticing it


This reminds me of something said by Miko Peled, a former member of IDF Spec Ops, whose dad was an Israeli general and grandfather a signer of Israel’s declaration of independence. He's far from Anti Semitic or self-hating. He is something Israeli officials seem not to like - honest. Of IDF training he recalled, “As our training advanced, we began participating in simple security missions that included patrolling the streets of Palestinian towns like Ramallah, the Old City of Jerusalem and remote villages in the West Bank. Not once did I have a clue why we were there or what we were securing. All I ever saw were civilians going about their business. When we were in more remote areas, we saw nothing but the typical pastoral landscape of the West Bank, terraces with grape vines and olive groves.
“I remember once getting prepared before a patrol in Ramallah. We were given batons and handcuffs. In those days there was no uprisings, no protests to speak of, no Intifada. We were a small highly skilled infantry unit, specializing mostly in anti-tank warfare, and I remember thinking, Why are we in a city full of civilians, and what are we supposed to do with these batons and handcuffs?
“Our lieutenant briefed us before we were sent to Ramallah. He said we were to walk up and down the streets and if anyone so much as looked at us we were to beat them, or as he put it, ‘Break every bone in their body.’ This seemed pretty extreme: to break people’s bones just because they looked at us. How could anyone avoid looking at us? We were a platoon of fully armed soldiers in the middle of a city of civilians. I seriously did not get it.”
You're not a racist, anti-Semite or self-hating Jew to disagree with Israeli policy, just a person of conscience, morals and compassion.


Well said Ali; excellent article. As an American, I will mention that I have noted a profound parallel to the situation in Gaza and that (on a lesser scale, of course) of the residents of Ferguson, Missouri who protested in large numbers against the police shooting of a young unarmed black man. The militarily-equipped police department of St. Louis had actually been trained in Israel, and used tactics such as pointing assault weapons point-blank at innocent protesters, tossing tear-gas canisters into crowds, etc. I was pleased to note that West Bank Palestinians tweeted to them how to deal with tear gas! The protesters in Ferguson claimed solidarity with the Gazans, screaming at police: "Is this Gaza Strip? You gonna shoot us, too?"
So even here in Zionist-run America, eyes are being opened to Israel's atrocities, especially the eyes of the younger and more dispossessed among us. (They vote too.) Israel, as it now stands, has its days numbered. That number can't be small enough to suit me.


I WANT strongly to believe that you are right, Ali. But I just don't see it. HAARETZ is not "mainstream" Israeli press--it's the only major anti-occupation news outlet. It has a very small and decreasing readership. There was no functional protest movement in Israel against the war. Polls show only 6 percent of Israelis opposed it. Despite what "Gypsy" says in her comments, polling data here in the U.S. has barely moved. A slight majority of Americans think Israel was too easy on Gaza. Does anyone really believe that Israel will honor its commitments in the truce??? Rafah Gate is not fully opened yet, and in the next week or so Israelis will undoubtedly shoot at fishermen who go out beyond a couple of miles. There is NO WAY that the blockade of Gaza will end with Hamas still in power--multiple key American and Israeli figures have said that (including Shapiro). Gaza is as trapped as ever. Even worse, Abbas and his cronies in the PA are surviving this all. Abbas met with Netanyahu in Amman. He basically works for Israel, and his sidekicks are already indicating that they won't really go to the ICC. Even worse, PA police in the WB openly helped crush Palestinian protests this time.
I am not all gloom. I am encouraged that so many on the WB doubt the intentions of the PA, and that those numbers are sharply rising. I think an intifada against the PA is eventually coming--a (the) critical first step to true liberation, as it will finally end this whole "two state solution" farce. I certainly agree, too, that we must re-double our efforts. And, again, you might be right and I may be wrong. I still hope so.


You argue that " ... Israel was being defeated in Gaza as it was in Lebanon in 2006". Don't know why you think Israel was defeated in Lebanon. In 8 years since that war, there have been no attacks on Israel by Hezbollah despite strong rhetoric by Nassrallah in 2009, 2012 and 2014. Nassrallah has also been quoted as saying that had he known the nature and size of Israel's response in 2006, he would have never authorised the kidnapping of those Israeli soldiers. All Israel wanted is a quiet border and they achieved this so I don't see where they lost. You seem to think that more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths and more than 10,000 Palestinian injured in Gaza is a victory for Palestinians. No wonder there will never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians.


So.....Gaza is in ruins, no Airport, no seaport....not "12" nautical miles off the coast but 6 and even then fishing boats are being fired upon (which is what it was before the war), the tunnel system deeply crippled, thousands dead. Israel stealing another 4000 dunams and this is Victory? God protect us from another such "Victory"