A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was finally announced Thursday night after 11 days of devastating bombardment and indiscriminate rocket fire that killed over 240 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 12 people in Israel. As far as many observers are concerned, this deal — which, if it holds, will undoubtedly prevent countless more deaths, injuries, and wanton destruction — should finally put an end to the vicious saga.
This desperate return to “calm,” however, remains a fundamental part of the problem.
With their armed confrontations subsiding, Israel and Hamas are set to restore a “very violent” equilibrium that forces the Gaza Strip back “out of sight, out of mind,” warns Tareq Baconi, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group and author of “Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance.” That status quo ante — defined by a brutal siege, international indifference, and political and geographic fragmentation — is precisely what needs to be dismantled, he says.
In an interview with +972 the day before the ceasefire was announced, Baconi explained that Hamas had broken many Israeli assumptions when it decided to militarily intervene on the back of a popular movement that had emerged in Jerusalem this past month, which was mobilizing against the forcible expulsions of families in Sheikh Jarrah and Israeli attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Damascus Gate. Although these protests in the holy city were achieving minor Israeli concessions, in Hamas’ view, they were “never going to go to the next level without military power.”
While there is a deep debate among Palestinians about Hamas’ involvement, Baconi added, the same cannot be said about the international community. From what he sees, foreign governments remain “very much frozen” in their perceptions of the Islamist movement as “irrationally attacking Israel for some decontextualized, unknown reason.” Without a reckoning of these misconceptions, he said, the world will simply go back to normalizing the daily oppressive violence imposed by Israeli rule on all Palestinians, of which Gaza is an illustrative component, rather than an exception.
+972 spoke with Baconi about the effects of Hamas’ intervention on Palestinians politics, why Israeli officials were caught off guard by the move, and why the nascent Palestinian popular movement must be vigilant as it challenges both their foreign and national rulers in pursuit of liberation. The interview was edited for clarity.