Commentary. Israel might manage to wipe out the Hamas militiamen responsible for the bloody October 7 massacre – but it’s hard to imagine that those terrified, dust-and-blood-stained children among the rubble of Gaza will be willing partners for dialogue in 10 years, forgetting their memory and their rage.

War crimes and Gaza in ruins: Israel’s victory without a future

Israeli PM Netanyahu, from his first ambiguous statements to those on Saturday, tells us what we can expect now: “It was a dark day,” he said, speaking to the nation about the October 7 Hamas attack. “This was a terrible failure. It’ll be thoroughly investigated, I promise. Not one stone will be left unturned. … After the war everyone will have to give answers to hard questions. That includes me. Right now, my task is to save the country.“ He reiterated: “Every Hamas member is a dead man.”

But what does this mean for the Israeli hostages in the hands of Hamas? Does the Israeli war government really intend to free them, or is it planning to wash its hands of the matter, adding them to the pile of casualties, as happened in Munich? Certainly, they might manage to wipe out the Hamas militiamen responsible for the bloody October 7 massacre – but it’s hard to imagine that those terrified, dust-and-blood-stained children among the rubble of Gaza will be willing partners for dialogue in 10 years, forgetting their memory and their rage.

After the recent announcement by the Israeli army that the invasion had been “postponed,” it seems to be confirmed that we won’t see 300,000 Israeli soldiers invade the Strip with 2,000 tanks and fight house to house in an urban war which would be an uncertain undertaking for any army – even as we are seeing the first assault of Netanyahu’s announced “revenge.”

This is because the “invasion” has already happened, and it’s happening every day: it is the war of air strikes that is killing and terrorizing the civilian population of more than two million people, wantonly ordered to move to areas that are said to be safe but then are inexorably targeted, while whole cities are being razed to the ground. Beit Hanoun no longer exists. And Gaza City is now a battlefield and a heap of ruins where hundreds of thousands of desperate families are wandering in search of food, water and medicine, now without communications and aid.

Who’s the one who said that “using food and water as a weapon of war is a crime”? It was none other than President Mattarella, who might yet end up like Guterres at some point. The carnage of the expected “invasion” is already before the eyes of the world: there have been 7,703 civilian casualties already, including 3,595 children. Are these the “proportional” and “appropriate measures” to respond to Hamas’s slaughter? How is it possible that we are getting closer to ten thousand civilian deaths in a climate of generalized passive silence and omertà?

We are at the stage of the targeted ground operation of special forces, while the bulk of the “revenge” for “victory” is already being accomplished by the bombings, with so many “collateral losses” – as Meloni herself commented, in the time-honored tradition of Giorgio Almirante. In breaking news, she announced that she had come to the European Council on Thursday to put forward no less of a groundbreaking idea than “two states for two peoples,” and that we must “give support to the PNA.” The only thing missing was the announcement of a “Mattei Plan” for Gaza.

We will continue to be at the mercy of those meaningless ritualistic words if we don’t point out that the “two states for two peoples” perspective of the Oslo Accords, already ambiguous back then, has been gradually erased and made impossible after the killing of Rabin by a Jewish extremist (not Hamas) and by the identitarian choices of Israeli governments, primarily made by Netanyahu himself with the support of the United States, which started a policy of isolation and boycott of the Strip at all levels after his 2006 election victory, both in Gaza and the West Bank – along with hundreds of colonial settlements in the West Bank, so many and so large that there’s no longer any possibility to achieve territorial continuity for a state.

It’s just as meaningless to call for “giving support to the PNA” if one is ignorant of how its authority and credibility have been ruined among Palestinians by its unresponsiveness, submissive attitude and, ultimately, corruption. More importantly, the more the slaughter in Gaza continues, the fewer moderate Palestinian interlocutors one is likely to find.

The collapse of the Oslo Accords must also lead us to take a look in the mirror: it is increasingly evident that even now, faced with pogroms and massacres, revenge and ruins, the issue is no longer about national security – neither for Israel, which already exists as a state and is among the most potent military and nuclear powers, nor for the Palestinians, without a state and nation. There is one small glimmer of light that emerges, starting from the concrete assessment that without Palestinian (and foreign) workers, Israel’s economy would collapse. This tells us that a perspective of class struggle is opening up, of a social struggle for equality and rights towards a substantive democracy that is only realized in open spaces, against borders and walls old and new – including those in the Middle East. And we must not forget that the movement for democracy in Israel is now bound to radicalize.

But in the meantime, the current Israeli war cabinet is hanging on solely on the mad principle of “revenge for victory,” in the face of a domestic public opinion that is already denouncing the share of the blame held by Netanyahu and the military. Those in the government know that sooner or later they will have to be held accountable – but only “after the war.” As a result, there is good reason to believe that the war will last for a long time. And indeed, on Saturday Netanyahu was clear in his address to the nation: “We are only at the beginning. The battle within the Gaza Strip will be difficult and long; this is our second war of independence … a fight between civilization and savagery, between decency and depravity, and between good and evil.”

However, in Israel it’s clear that Netanyahu will have to be held accountable for how he dealt with Hamas, and that the army must be held accountable for its negligence and acquiescence to the premier, who has been willing to move manpower and resources, as well as intelligence, to the occupied West Bank to protect illegal settlements, bowing to the wishes of the extreme right.

His ambiguous position, still supported by a national sentiment hurting from Hamas’ criminal attack, rests its credibility only on the ostentatious damage he is capable of inflicting on the enemy. That is, on the destruction of “sheer evil” – not even just Hamas, but Gaza itself; and on the siege of Palestinians, to be “removed” but with nowhere to go, since Egypt and Jordan are refusing to welcome any of them and it’s certain they will not return, as they no longer have homes to return to. A sheer horror.

The U.N. Assembly voted on a motion put forward by moderate Jordan, a signatory of the Abraham Accords, which called for a stable ceasefire at the very least. The U.S. and Israel, “isolated,” voted against; Europe was divided; and Tel Aviv’s ambassador was as enraged as ever. The nightmare of collective punishment continues. It’s a war crime, but it will continue to happen all the way to “victory.”

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