The video is circulating around the world, moving across social media platforms and WhatsApp groups, pinging its way across Telegram and Signal. It opens with a sunrise, deep orange and yellow hues, low in the sky. In the foreground are silhouettes of men with large packs on their backs. Some appear to be carrying oversized propeller fans, which will soon be strapped onto two-seater trikes giving them flight.
The next frame is of men in camouflage fatigues stepping through a large gap cut into a mesh barrier. They are followed by a string of motorcycles, each carrying two men, automatic rifles fixed to their backs. A line of 4x4s is the last to travel through the gap in the notorious border fence that separates Gaza from Israel. In those few moments the Palestinian resistance had done the unthinkable – they were occupying the occupiers.
The abnormalities of the morning of Saturday 7th October in Gaza didn’t stop there. While the Palestinian Al-Qassam Brigade’s foot soldiers crossed the border at will, the first of a barrage of rockets were launched into Israel. By mid-day it was estimated approximately 5,000 rockets had been fired. Many were destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome, a missile defence system, but some found their targets. Reports were circulating of up to fifty Israeli prisoners of war being seized and transported to Gaza. At the time of writing gun battles between Al-Qassam and Israeli forces are being reported in the towns of Kfar Aza, Sderot, Sufa, Nahal Oz, Magen, Be’eri, and the Re’im military base, as well as at the Erez border crossing.
The audacity of Al-Qassam’s operations is a surprise. The act of Palestinian resistance – the need to remove the continual chokehold of occupation and oppression, the need to overturn the system of apartheid under which Palestinians exist, the need to fight for stolen, unceded lands – is no surprise. It’s human instinct.
By mid-morning Israel misleadingly declared ‘it was at war.’ The reality, often ignored and on occasion deliberately omitted, is that Israel has been at war with the Palestinians in one form or another for decades. Palestine has suffered the world’s second lengthiest occupation, after Tibet. This morning the difference was that this war spilled onto Israel’s streets and parks and into its homes. The awkwardness, the bewilderment and confusion felt by many is the realisation the war on Palestine changed from being asymmetrical to symmetrical. This shift is significant.
In the coming days the Israeli government and war apparatus will do what it always does – reprisal, retribution, and revenge, all done with a zeal that so often plagues settler-occupier states. The Global North, unable to shake off their own colonial traits, will continue to other and marginalise the Palestinians, to truncate history (Britain’s illegal partition of Palestine), deny facts (the arbitrary internment of Palestinians and their denial of basic human rights and on-going persecution), and narrow context (Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation). The Global South will stutter and submit to the church of colonialism – a learnt behaviour that has been [re]enforced through economic intimidation.
But what is unfolding now is bigger than Israel’s Netanyahu patchwork coalition government and their military complex. It’s bigger than the failed and failing Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and it will prove to be bigger than Hamas in Gaza, and ironically bigger than Al-Qassam. What is unfolding will overtake the United Nations emergency meeting called for Sunday, as well as overtake the dishonest Middle East normalisation process.
Over the past two years we have seen a new generation of Palestinian resistance – younger, uncompromising, and politically unburdened. They are realists about who will bring the occupation to an end, and how it will happen, and are free of the mental and emotional colonial imprints carried by previous generations. They operate in a de-centralised federation, with a hyper local presence. They can be found in Nablus’ Lions Den, or in Jenin’s Brigade and the Osh al-Dababir Battalion.
What these individuals, and their affiliate organisations have in common is the ability to share the burden of occupation between the occupied and occupier, between the oppressed and oppressor. This new code of resistance was applied by Al-Qassam at scale, and has permanently changed the trajectory of the occupation of Palestine and its associated resistance. A government founded on anger and that governs through alarm, and a military that acts like an enraged militia, have been breached, and a new generation resistance movement has been emboldened.
By evening of 7th October there were reports of approximately 100 Israelis killed and 545 injured, and 180 Palestinians killed with 1,600 injured. The newly found symmetry to the occupation is causing trauma on both sides. In the days ahead events will overtake us all – and there is no going back.
©2023 Sul Nowroz
Sul Nowroz is an immersive journalist and essayist giving voice to people and places resisting injustice and oppression. Key themes include colonial and settler occupation, protest and resistance, civil disobedience and direct action with a particular focus on the Mid-East and near Asia regions.