[The following interview was conducted for the Italian publication Doppiozero on 21 May 2021. Click here to read the interview in Italian.]
Maria Nadotti (MN): What exactly is happening in Palestine? Western media, prisoners of a “prudent,” and to say the least, obsolete interpretative scheme, repeat clichés that do not shed light on the present or the future.
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay (AAA): There are better commentators than me on the situation, mainly Palestinians, among them Lana Tatour, Noura Erakat or Salman Abu Sitta. Palestinians are rebelling against the Zionist colonialism all over Palestine. They are struggling against the same oppressive and lethal colonial mechanisms by which they have been dispossessed and ruled for decades. What makes this moment different is the support Palestinians are receiving globally. This support illustrates cracks in the Israeli propaganda machine that for years imposed the terms with which its regime of violence could be discussed, namely with terms such as “two sides” or “conflict.” From 1948, Palestinians have struggled for their freedom and return to Palestine, and their requests now reiterate the same ones they put forward since they were expelled from their country and targeted by the violence of the Zionist state. The global support Palestinians are receiving now testifies to the way people around the world oppose their leaders’ continued support of the Zionist state. These were the Zionists who colonized Palestine, but we should not forget the support they received from different imperial powers, who were interested in pitting Zionists—at the time they were mainly European Jews—against the Arab and Muslim world.
MN: Is this perhaps the umpteenth chapter of a colonial-style conflict, in which, despite everything, the colonized does not give in and even allows itself not to give up defense in its entirety?
AAA: The colonized never gave up. For decades, millions of Palestinian refugees continued to transmit to their descendants their attachment to Palestine and their adherence to their Palestinian identity. Contrary to the expectations of colonizers everywhere, that the elders will die and the youth will forget, millions of Palestinians all over the world did not give in nor up.
MN: In which way, in your opinion, does the ongoing Palestinian uprising differ from the first and second Intifada, which began in 1987 and 2000 respectively, both following acts of provocation similar to those that triggered the current uprising?
AAA: Imperial imaginary and the violent technology of the archive lure us to participate in the fragmentation of any anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggle. Many were interested and invested in depicting Palestinian resistance, as if it started in 1987. Palestinian resistance, however, started in 1948, with the recurrent attempts of tens of thousands of Palestinians to return to their homes. Israel waged war against them, called them “infiltrators,” executed them at the border, and gained international support to “defend” “its” “borders.” I put each of these terms deliberately in quotation marks, to oppose the spatial and temporal imperial dividing lines implied in them, as they define the right of the imperial state to defends itself and the borders it imposed against Palestinians in order to keep them outside of their homeland. The scope and breadth of the current wave of resistance has spread a decolonial hope, but there is no reason to dissociate it from its previous manifestations during the last seventy-three years.
MN: Which will be the effects and repercussions of this uprising and what is happening, both in the Palestinian and Israeli camps? The political leaderships of both countries appear to be in agony, bypassed from the ground in both Israel and Gaza and the Occupied Territories.
AAA: Let me start by reminding you that there are not two countries; there are colonized and colonizers. The colonized understand their situation and struggle accordingly, guided by reparative justice. The colonizers are in a permanent state of denial, justifying their genocidal violence and structural dispossession of Palestinians with invented narratives about their precariousness vis-à-vis those whom they attack and dispossess. In the settlers' colony, Jewish children are raised to believe that they are “Israelis,” without knowing that this identity is part of a regime of violence against Palestinians, used by the regime that bestowed it on them. This is why, in response to Palestinians’ resistance against the colonizers, the majority of the Jewish citizens of the state—for decades captives of the settlers’ education and media system that generate and diffuse organized lies about the organized crime of the plunder of Palestine—are not taking to the streets like everywhere else in the world, to express support of Palestinians who are under attack. As being “Israeli” means existing in order to deny Palestinians’ their right to return, I stopped recognizing myself in the Israeli identity assigned to me at birth, and I reclaimed the identity of my ancestors in Palestine—Palestinian Jews. As a Palestinian Jew, there are no longer doubts what is the meaning of the current situation—a settler colonial regime that uses growing scale of violence to reproduce itself.
MN: In the current uprising there is a brand-new element: the solidarity of the Palestinians who live in Israel and who are citizens of the Jewish State. How do you interpret their revolt? Has their firm reaction to what is happening in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank have any chance to modify the current political balance?
AAA: This is not a new element. Palestinians never believed in the way that the Israeli state aimed to fragment them and bestow different identities on them. It is not easy to resist the organized violence of a colonial state, but even when Palestinians did not overtly resist, it does not mean they gave in or up. Before they took to the streets against the genocidal attack on Gaza, they protested against the eviction of families from Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem and against the invasion to al-Aqsa mosque.
MN: The so-called two-state solution is now absolutely impractical. Yet, in Europe and the United States, there are those who continue to support it, perhaps in order not to get out of the impasse and let things go on with the usual ferocity. What is your position in this regard today and what do you foresee for the future?
AAA: The “two states solution” has its origins in European imperial thinking and modes of ruling colonized peoples, namely through partition. Since the very beginning of the British mandate in Palestine (mandate being another imperial technology), the British crafted plans to partition Palestine and to “offer” to the Zionists lands that they were not in a capacity to offer since it did not belong to them. Even though the Zionist state emerged out of such a partition resolution, the reality created on the ground in seventy-three years of colonization is that of a one state condition. Supporting the “two states solution” means mainly one thing: stealing more time, life, lands and hopes from Palestinians. Palestine does not need more imperial solutions, surely not another vision of fragmentation. Palestinians are asking to be free. Palestine should be free from the colonizing regime. With every brutal attack on Gaza, like the current one, it is hard not to see in the Zionists the French colonizers in Algeria. While Algeria and France were territorially separated, what people tend not to understand regarding Palestine is that Palestine and Israel exist in the same territorial unit. Hence, to continue speaking about partitioning this unit into two states is keeping the imperial deception alive.
MN: You are currently living in the US. How do you feel about the foreign policy of the President Biden with regard to Palestine and Israel? Is there a”new” mood in the country with respect to the Middle Eastern scenario?
AAA: No. In Europe and in the US people do not understand the extent to which Biden’s support of the right of the Zionist state to defend itself is lethal. This imperial statement against Palestinians was used by the Israeli government as an unrestricted permission to exercise genocidal violence. People should be reminded that Gaza is the biggest open-air prison in the world and, as Salman Abu-Sitta wrote: “To bombard two million people in 360 km2 by air, land, and sea is Genocide.”