In order to recognise the reality that has unfolded over the past two weeks in Gaza, one has to do so with a decolonised mind, writes SANDEW HIRA.
The incursion of Hamas into Israel on 7 October is a sign of dangerous times. In my book Decolonizing The Mind I suggest that the next stage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be the last, in a World War III scenario. The US or Israel could use a nuclear bomb to ensure their survival. And Israel may cease to exist in coming decades
Through a western media lens we see a world in which democracy is attacked by ‘terrorists’ like Hamas. Israel is depicted as a beacon of western civilisation in the heart of the backward orient, and as a mighty nuclear power that can easily crush the ‘terrorists’ with the unwavering support of the west. In contrast, Palestinians are seen as a weak and isolated group.
In this framework, the only outcome of the current war is that Palestinians will pay a very high price for their resistance with thousands of casualties, and will eventually be vanquished.
This is the narrative of a colonised mind. In order to recognise the reality that has unfolded over the past two weeks, one has to do so with a decolonised mind. There are several instances that illustrate how the colonised mind had been deconstructed in history.
In 1914 the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg empires had existed for 600 years. The Russian empire had existed for 200 years. The German empire was united from 26 different territories into one vibrant centralised state. In 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm II seemed to stronger than ever. It was inconceivable that within eight years all these empires would cease to exist. Yet this is exactly what happened.
In half a century the world has changed dramatically. After two world wars, after much of the global south was politically colonised by the global north, the majority of the global south became politically independent by 1970. In our lifetime we have seen the dissolution of the German Democratic Republic in 1990 and the Soviet Union in 1991.
The economic power of the West had deteriorated to such an extent that the US is no longer the sole driver of technological innovation. And the international economic and political power that backs Israel has weakened.
Power blocs like BRICS are gaining influence. Regional powers are growing in western Asia, with Iran as a major power. South Africa is a leading power in Africa. This is the larger geopolitical context that awaits Israel, one in which it has little prospect for any significant influence.
The decolonisation of knowledge is now a global phenomenon, and the rise of knowledge from other civilisations are emerging in key institutions of learning like universities. Apartheid in South Africa came to an end thirty years ago. So too will the occupation of Palestine come to an end. The question is only when and how.
Palestinian resistance has gained momentum for over a hundred years, since the first revolt in 1920, soon after the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The growing influence of Hamas since its 2006 election victory shows that the Palestinian spirit of resistance remains unbroken, even at the great cost of human suffering. They are willing to pay the price, because the alternative is acceptance of sustained humiliation and oppression.
The invasion of Israel introduces the latest decolonial shattering of the western imagination. It is clear that Hamas has scored a major victory in the first two days, irrespective of the consequences in the days that followed. They shattered the myth that Israeli settlers are safe and that their army can always protect them.
The defeat of Israel will be a function of growing unity among all major factions in the resistance. Support for the armed resistance by Arabs inside Israel will spread, and so will international support from Lebanon, Iran and even Iraq. For the first time in the history of the occupation there is a real possibility that Israel can be defeated militarily.
This defeat can happen in two possible ways. The first is by military means. Fighters from Hizbollah and Iran may be joined by supporters from the West Bank and even Iraq. Israel’s military barracks and command control centres, airfields, the iron dome and nuclear stockpile are not beyond reach in a broader offensive. This colonial mindset impossibility may well be possible, given the realities that have unfolded in recent days.
The second way is the peaceful dissolution of the apartheid state of Israel. The people of Israel come to their senses after they have seen that it is impossible to live safely in a colonial state. They consider the possibility of a peaceful transition to a one-state solution.
Given the mindset of the west, I think the first option is more likely than the second.
- Sandew Hira is director of the International Institute for Scientific Research and coordinator of the Decolonial International Network. His website is sandewhira.com
This article was first published in the October 20, 2023 print edition of Muslim Views.