Day 48 roundtable: What can we read into Gaza “pause”?

“Israel destroyed everything. It destroyed the neighborhoods, the houses of the families, it changed the features of the cities in [the] Gaza Strip,” writer and contributor to The Electronic Intifada Ahmed Abu Artema told us in a recorded voice message we played during Thursday’s livestream.

We aired the broadcast just before a four-day “pause” in the fighting and a prisoner exchange deal came into effect.

Ahmed’s 13-year-old son Abdullah was killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home in late October.

“[Israel] targeted the mosques, the hospitals, the churches in [the] Gaza Strip. It’s clear that Israel is targeting life itself in Gaza Strip. The Zionist problem is with life itself, is with the Palestinian existence itself. So it’s horrible that the world so far didn’t have enough ways to stop this Zionist genocide war in that 21st century,” Ahmed said.

He put the current war in a broader context, stressing that it cannot be seen in isolation from the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

“It’s very important that the world after this Israeli savage, barbaric war will not be the same world before this war. This war showed the new generations that the Nakba is not only a historic event, the Nakba is an Israeli continuous act.”

Ali Abunimah, Jon Elmer and I take a look at the terms of the negotiated truce deal and discuss the logistics involved in the prisoner exchange. We also talk about what could happen after the four-day “pause” is over.

“A halt to the bombing, even for a few days, will be a relief,” Ali said.

“People want to have a moment to collect themselves, a moment to just try to reconnect with family and loved ones who may be displaced in different areas, a chance to bury their dead, a chance to look for loved ones who may be missing or trapped under rubble, maybe lying dead under rubble.”

But there is also a sense for many of our colleagues in Gaza that, as Ali explained, “it’s like someone who’s being tortured, and the torturer pauses just to give their victim a sip of water before resuming the torture.”

“This deal as it has been described is something that Israel could have had six or seven weeks ago,” Ali said.

“Right at the start, Hamas said that they had no interest in holding on to these civilians. And it was probably more of a burden to them to have to try to keep them safe in Gaza under the horrifying conditions and the relentless Israeli bombardment.”

The tragedy for the families of the captured Israelis and other civilians who have been held in Gaza, Ali explained, “is that, according to Hamas, dozens of them have been killed in Israeli bombings. So those are people who will never go back to their families – and had Israel accepted what Hamas said earlier on, perhaps dozens of people who were killed by Israeli bombing would now be getting ready to go home to their families.”

Jon explained that Israeli forces won’t retreat from Gaza just yet.

“They’ll freeze in their position,” he said. “So Israel will remain very much in the Gaza Strip.”

“Historical achievement”

Jon analyzed the significance of the leadership shown by the Qassam Brigades – Hamas’s military wing – in negotiations and what it means for the Palestinian children who will be released from Israeli prisons.

“The Israelis always say, ‘we have no partner to talk to’ or whatever. The Qassam Brigades are actually the most legitimate partner that they could talk to in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. They have the most popular support. They have the most entrenched leadership, the most accountable leadership. So a deal like this – I think it’s very impressive.”

The moments before the ceasefire are always a dangerous time, Jon noted. “But I also think that this is an extraordinary, unprecedented moment where Israel needs to be part of this ceasefire, they need to free their people in a way that hasn’t happened in previous conflicts.”

“It’s dangerous for the resistance to move around,” he added. “The Israelis have violated these ceasefires in the past, of course, but again, I want us to just caution using history as an example, because I do believe that we’re in an unprecedented moment.”

The first stage of the prisoner release “is a historic achievement,” he said. “When I’m down in despair, I imagine the 12-year-old kid who has been in jail for two years, since he was 10. Having the jailer open his cell and say that the Palestinian resistance freed you from jail as their first priority – it’s a remarkable historical achievement. And I hope that this first stage holds, for the sacrifices that have been made by everybody to get to this stage.”

We also discuss new combat videos released by the Qassam Brigades and what they show in terms of the military capabilities of the Palestinian resistance, and compare them to the videos recorded and released by the Israeli army.

Palestinian armed groups, Ali remarked, “can get very close, they can observe the Israelis very closely without the Israelis apparently being aware of that, despite their drones constantly buzzing overhead, despite all that sophisticated technology – we see that the eyes of the resistance are absolutely everywhere.”

“And this is absolutely incredible, because [of] the courage it takes to do this,” Ali added.

Hatem Abudayyeh, director of the US Palestinian Community Network and a longtime organizer in Chicago, joined us to talk about the role of international civil society in organizing sustained, relentless protests across the US and across the world.

The protests, Hatem said, allow us “to talk about the political contradictions within the United States as well, because I think not only has Israel been exposed, and has been for a long time as the racist, white supremacist apartheid, Zionist state that it is, the criminal state that it is, but the United States government is clearly now exposed.”

Hatem explained why USPCN has been doggedly targeting local lawmakers who call themselves “progressive” while supporting Israel’s genocidal policies.

“Our coalition has pledged to continue to do this work, because we know now that the targets are these legislators who have been unequivocally supporting Israel, who are complicit in the slaughter, in the genocide, who have blood on their hands. And we’re going to take them to account – we have to, that’s our responsibility here. And the masses want it as well.”

Watch the entire broadcast above or listen via Soundcloud below.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).