What did 7 October achieve?

Crowds demonstrate with the Palestinian flag

Millions have come out around the world in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, here in Rome on 27 January. 

Marcello Valeri ZUMAPRESS

As we approach the fifth month of the Zionist aggression against our Palestinian people, it is perhaps useful to take a step back and evaluate both the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation and its aftermath.

Was 7 October legitimate? What did it achieve?

What have we learned from the Zionist reaction? What are the repercussions for all parties, inside or outside Palestine, for local, regional or global actors?

First, it is important to establish that everyone who communicated with the leadership of Hamas before 7 October, from politicians and diplomats to mediators and journalists, heard a clear, unequivocal message: An explosion was only a matter of time.

The reason? Israel was trying to transform what is a political conflict over a Palestinian state, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and self-determination for the Palestinian people, into a religious conflict pitting Judaism (and Christianity) against Islam.

These policies included Israel’s attempts to exert full control over al-Aqsa mosque, with a view to its eventual demolition; its decades-old attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, expelling Palestinians from their homes and lands; and its de facto annexation of the wider West Bank along with threats to formally annex its illegal settlements.

They also included the continued siege on Gaza, under which the coastal strip and its 2.3 million people were isolated and imprisoned. They included the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners, which accelerated under Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister.

And they finally included attempts at persuading, under American cover, Arab and Muslim countries to ignore Palestinian rights and normalize relations with the Zionist entity without resolving the Palestinian issue, rendering it a purely domestic Israeli concern.

Hamas leaders conveyed all of these issues to anyone who would listen, but no one took heed. Either they considered warnings of an explosion an empty threat; they had fully adopted the Zionist narrative that Hamas was “deterred” and primarily concerned with consolidating its rule in Gaza; or they were intoxicated by Zionist power.

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, led by Hamas and other resistance factions, was a response to what was a clear and imminent danger to our national cause, and a reaction to regional and international indifference to Palestine and its people.

Without the preemptive step of 7 October, the Palestinian cause could have been forgotten and erased entirely.

But did it achieve its desired goals?

Incredible resilience

There are two phases to discuss. The first began and ended on 7 October, and the second is what followed and continues to this day.

The goals of 7 October were fully achieved. Al-Aqsa Flood demolished the myth of Israel’s invincible army and all-seeing, all-knowing intelligence agencies, capable of striking in every corner of the region and the world.

All this was done with just a handful of men with simple, limited means but firm faith and fierce resolve.

In the second phase, the Palestinian people have paid a very steep price. But Palestinians have deep faith in their right to a free and dignified homeland.

Alongside a resourceful resistance that has surprised all observers, friends and foes alike, they have thwarted Israel’s plans to crush the resistance, deport Gaza’s population and recover its captives.

After four months, it is clear that the resistance leadership still firmly manages the battlefield with skill and ingenuity, continuing to inflict painful blows on the enemy military.

Despite all the horrors unleashed on our people – over 65,000 tons of explosives have been dropped on Gaza 2.3 million people since 7 October – Israel has failed to break people’s will and attachment to their land.

Our people, despite the pain and suffering, have shown incredible resilience, astonishing the world.

And despite all technological and intelligence efforts from the East and West to locate captives in Gaza, the enemy has failed at every attempt. The Israeli military has managed to kill some captives, along with those who came to their rescue, but no captive has returned to their families except under the conditions and timeline set by the resistance.

The core question is now: What next?

We are still in the middle of a fierce battle and it may be premature to draw conclusions. However, all indicators point in one direction: What comes next will not be the same as what had been before 7 October.

Al-Aqsa Flood and everything that has followed will alter the strategic terms of the conflict in favor of our Palestinian people and their just cause on the national, regional or international levels, as well as for the enemy and its future.

Change at the top

On the national level, our people have regained their vigor and confidence in their ability to overcome the shameful Oslo reality and its catastrophic consequences. Most importantly, the possibility of liberation, return and dismantling Israel’s occupation has become not only possible but very likely.

One of the consequences is that the leadership whose political project failed with the 1993 Oslo accords and brought national calamity cannot remain at the helm.

Opinion polls undertaken since the aggression began confirm this truth. We must turn a new page in our intra-national relations, to build on the battle’s outcomes and rebuild the Palestinian house democratically in light of the new realities established by this battle.

The most important step is to construct the Palestinian political institutions and the Palestinian national project to reflect the changes over the past decades to be truly representative of our people’s aspirations, sacrifices and political experience, especially the disastrous Oslo experience.

On the regional level, Al-Aqsa Flood has had fundamental and strategic repercussions. Most importantly, it disrupted the catastrophic “normalization” project, which would have certainly ended with the erasure of the Palestinian issue.

The 7 October operation demonstrated to those who looked to Israel for support and protection that the Zionist entity is fragile and too weak to even protect itself. The battle has opened a huge divide between the region and its people on one side, and Israel and the possibility of its integration on the other.

This turn of events has revived in people what had almost died due to lean years in the region – rekindling the great hope of return, liberation of holy sites and self-determination.

Gaza has presented an exceptional model of initiative and action despite enormous challenges and obstacles. If besieged Gaza can do this, why can’t we, throughout the Arab homeland, repeat the experience?

This in turn will undoubtedly have fundamental repercussions on how the peoples of the region view themselves and their capacity for action and change, regardless of their political orientations or geographic location.

We can thus expect a new cycle of the Arab Spring in the region since the official response to Gaza’s bloody confrontation has been far from the aspirations of the nation, its peoples and the historical responsibility of the Arab nation to the Palestinian cause.

End the aggression

On the international level, the breakthrough was significant, strategic and irreversible.

Firstly, the Palestinian issue, despite Zionist attempts to bury it, has become a personal cause for millions of people worldwide.

The world has directly witnessed the reality of this racist project, a stark contrast to its claims of representing the West and the values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. It has instead revealed itself as a bloody predator, playing the role of victim and extorting humanity for decades.

The significance of this narrative shift lies in Israel’s reliance on two main pillars of support for its survival: its material strength (military and economic) and international acceptance of its legitimacy.

Our people and their resistance have dealt with the first factor. The second has collapsed dramatically in the aftermath of 7 October.

On the official international level, the battle is still in its early stages. Those who founded this malicious project, built and nurtured it for decades within the framework of mutual interests between the Zionist movement and imperialist powers, have rushed to its rescue when it nearly collapsed.

However, we can at least observe important transformations. Many countries have realized that erasing the Palestinian issue and bypassing the Palestinian people is simply not possible.

No one will enjoy security and stability in the region or beyond without resolving this conflict and meeting the inherent rights of the Palestinian people.

As for the Zionist enemy, the battle and its repercussions have deepened severe internal divisions, be they political, social or ideological. One of the main reasons why this battle is continuing is the Israeli leadership’s attempts to escape the consequences of their actions, fearing the day after and the threat of collapse.

Most importantly, 7 October landed a strategic blow to the Israeli public’s faith in its political, security, and military leaderships and their ability to lead, provide security or protect their citizens.

The resistance and its leadership still firmly hold the reins. On the field, there is still ground to cover in defeating the enemy, forcing it to stop the aggression and withdraw from our beloved Gaza.

At the same time, efforts are ongoing to relieve our people and alleviate this humanitarian disaster.

On the national political level, some are trying to revert us to the political context prior to 7 October, but it should be clear that neither the resistance nor our people will accept the status quo ante or any outcome that does not honor our people’s enormous sacrifices.

Here it may be useful to point out that the two priorities of the resistance at this stage – which it communicates to states and mediators – are to immediately and comprehensively end the aggression and secure the withdrawal of all occupation forces from the entirety of the Gaza Strip, and address the humanitarian catastrophe created by the aggression.

Any proposals that do not immediately achieve these two goals as a first step will not be accepted and will not be successful.

Political process

A medium and long-term political process can begin only later, starting with a prisoner exchange, the lifting of the siege and rebuilding what the occupation has destroyed.

This should then be followed by a reorganization of the Palestinian body politic on foundations that restore the credibility of the original national project, culminating in a political process to end the Zionist occupation, uphold the Palestinian right to self-determination, establish an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and secure the return of refugees in accordance with relevant international resolutions.

Al-Aqsa Flood marked a defining moment and a strategic opportunity, not only for our people but for our Arab and Islamic nations, to regain the initiative in civilization, presenting a different model for managing human affairs.

The West, its leaderships and systems, have failed to protect humanity from fascism, racism and their catastrophic impacts on humanity.

This opportunity must not slip from our hands, or we may, God forbid, have to wait decades for a similar moment. This battle should become a launching pad for our people and their just cause, just as we see massive international transformations with the decline of the unipolar system to a multipolar, or multi-actor, system.

This would be marked by the advance of the Global South, of which we are part, to a position befitting its peoples after centuries of colonization, enslavement, resource plunder and marginalization.

Dr. Basem Naim is a former Palestinian minister of health and a member of the political bureau of Hamas. He has previously appeared and published in several media outlets, including Australia’s ABC network, the UK’s Sky News, The Guardian, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera and The Jewish Daily Forward.