Abdullah Al-Arian is a Palestinian American associate professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar. He is the author of Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat’s Egypt and the editor of Football in the Middle East: State, Society, and the Beautiful Game. He is also the editor of the Critical Currents in Islam page on the Jadaliyya e-zine and a policy member of Al-Shabaka. In an interview with Diwan conducted via email in early December, Arian analyzed Israel’s ongoing and all-out military assault on the Gaza Strip.
Rayyan Al-Shawaf: We are now several weeks into the massive Israeli military response to the October 7 attack by Gaza-based Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on southern Israel. What are the people of Gaza facing?
Abdullah Al-Arian: Having already endured a debilitating blockade since 2007 and multiple Israeli military assaults since 2008, the 2.3 million Palestinian residents of Gaza are now suffering an unimaginable combination of the most destructive bombardment campaign of a civilian population in recent memory and the slow death that comes with imposed thirst, starvation, and the total decimation of the healthcare sector. To date, more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed by this combination of blockade and bombing, over 7,000 of them children. Nearly 50,000 people have been injured, with uncounted others still missing beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings. There is a growing consensus among scholars, legal experts, and human rights officials that Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to genocide.
Early indications, both in terms of the statements issued by members of the Israeli government as well as by the military’s actions on the ground, appeared to signal that Israel was pursuing a major ethnic cleansing campaign on the order of the Nakba of 1948, which resulted in the mass expulsion of an estimated 750,000 people—roughly 80–90 percent of Palestinians in the territory that would become Israel. Having failed to convince its American and European allies or any Arab state to accept the mass expulsion of Palestinians into Egypt as a matter of official policy, Israel now appears to be creating conditions whereby Gaza’s territory is significantly diminished through unprecedented destruction and a long-term military occupation.