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Back to Palestine

Gaza and the Revolution of the Global South

By Ramzy Baroud

For years, prior to the Israeli war on Gaza, Palestine subsisted in the global consciousness as a regular news item associated with “violence.” The perception of that violence differed from one country to another – thus political priorities and agendas. However, all in all, the depiction of Palestine and its rightful struggle for justice and freedom was often placed within whichever self-serving agenda that suited mainstream media architects.

To advocate for Palestine, before the Israeli genocide in Gaza, meant to engage in a protracted, often futile exercise of defensiveness, in a desperate attempt to delineate the obvious, that Palestinians are not terrorists, that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, and the like. Even Palestine’s position within the framework of national liberation and anti-colonial struggles of the Global South was greatly compromised. This was, in part, the outcome of the disproportionate Palestinian focus on attempting to sway Western political elites, media, and academia to play a more “balanced” and conducive role in resolving the so-called conflict. On the other hand, the Global South was itself changing, where countries that have historically stood on the side of Palestine began to slowly, at times enthusiastically, normalize ties with Israel. In many of these political contexts, whether in the Global South or the Global North, justice for Palestinians, though existing as an intellectual and activism-driven notion, ceased to be a pressing factor that shaped politics, diplomacy, and even popular perceptions.

The revolution in the Global South outlook – culminating in South Africa’s case at the ICJ, and also the Nicaraguan lawsuit against Germany – indicates that the change is not the outcome of a collective emotional reaction. Instead, it is part and parcel of the shifting relationship between the Global South and the Global North. The Israeli brutality in Gaza, but also Palestinian sumud (resilience) and resistance, are inspiring the Global South to reclaim its centrality in anti-colonial liberation struggles.

The Israeli war on Gaza and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people changed much of that, centering Palestine back on the global agenda, not only in terms of politics, international law, and diplomacy, but socially, spiritually, and culturally as well. The drivers behind all this are the Palestinian people and peoples across the world who were unified through collective pain, hope, struggle, and historical experiences.

Namibia, Palestine  

Only a few of us would have estimated that in a matter of a few months following the start of the genocidal war, the southern African country of Namibia would be relevant in the global political discourse on Palestine.

Though the distance between Gaza and Namibia is measured in the thousands of kilometers, the historical distance is much closer. Due to this proximity, Namibia was one of the first countries to take a strong stance against the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Germany cracking down on pro-Palestinian demonstration.

Namibia was colonized by Germany in 1884, while the British colonized Palestine in the 1920s, handing the territory to the Zionist colonizers in 1948. Though the ethnic and religious fabric of both Palestine and Namibia are different, the historical experiences are similar.

It is easy, however, to assume that the history that unifies many countries in the Global South is only that of Western exploitation and victimization. It is also a history of collective struggle and resistance.

When the Germans colonized Namibia, giving it the name “German Southwest Africa,” they did what all other Western colonialists have done, from Palestine to South Africa, to Algeria, to virtually all Global South countries. They attempted to divide the people, exploit their resources, and butcher those who resisted.

Since the start of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, Namibia answered the call of solidarity with the Palestinians, along with many African and South American countries, including Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, South Africa, Brazil, China, and others. Though intersectionality is a much-celebrated notion in Western academia, no academic theory is needed for oppressed, colonized nations in the Global South to exhibit solidarity with one another.

German South-West Africa.

So when Namibia took a strong stance against Israel’s largest military supporter in Europe – Germany – it did so based on Namibia’s total awareness of its history.

The German genocide of the Nama and Herero people (1904–1907) is known as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza is the first genocide of the 21st century. The unity between Palestine and Namibia is now cemented through mutual suffering and resilience – sumud.

But it is not Namibia that has launched the legal case against Germany at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but, rather, Nicaragua, a Central American country that is also thousands of miles away from both Palestine and Namibia. The Nicaraguan case accuses Germany of violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It rightly sees Germany as a partner in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinians.

The German government’s support of the Israeli war on Gaza is not motivated by guilt – as some conveniently argue – but by a power paradigm that governs relations among colonial countries. Many countries in the Global South understand this logic very well, thus the growing solidarity with Palestine.

The Israeli brutality in Gaza, but also the Palestinian resilience and resistance, are inspiring the Global South to reclaim its centrality in anti-colonial liberation struggles. The revolution in the Global South’s outlook – culminating in South Africa’s case at the ICJ, and also the Nicaraguan lawsuit against Germany – indicates that the change is not the outcome of a collective emotional reaction. Instead, it is part and parcel of the shifting relationship between the South and the North.

Africa has been undergoing a process of geopolitical restructuring for years. The anti-French rebellions in West Africa, demanding true independence from the continent’s former colonial masters, in addition to the intense geopolitical competition – involving Russia, China, and others – are all signs of changing times. And, with this rapid rearrangement, a new political discourse and popular rhetoric are emerging, often expressed in the revolutionary language emanating from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and others.

But the shift is not happening on the rhetorical front only. The rise of BRICS as a powerful new platform for economic integration between Asia and the rest of the Global South has opened up the possibility that alternatives to Western financial institutions are very much possible. There is considerable political value to this, especially for Palestine, as four of the five founders of BRICS – all, save India – are strong and unapologetic supporters of the Palestinians.

Earth-Shattering 

Things are finally changing, and the new solidarity ignited in response to the worst killing campaign in the history of the Middle East has exceeded the confines of conditional solidarity, ideological solidarity, and symbolic solidarity, which, to some extent, had defined global solidarity with the Palestinians.

This solidarity is now expressing itself at the highest level of political discourse. In his testimony before the ICJ’s public hearings (February 19–26), China’s representative, Ma Xinmin, went as far as defending, while referencing international law, the Palestinian people’s right to armed struggle. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, called for sanctions on “those who obstruct humanitarian access to those in need.” European governments, such as Spain, Ireland, Norway, and Belgium, are using unprecedented language to describe Israel’s war crimes in Gaza while demanding real action.

Comparison: Global North vs. Global South.

The Global South is back at the forefront of championing the cause of Palestine as the world’s most inspiring national liberation struggle.

None of this was born in a vacuum. While the majority of global protests and rallies post-October 7 were related to Palestine and Israel, 86 percent of these protests were reportedly pro-Palestine. It is not only the frequency or size of current protests that matter but their nature as well. This includes a group of Italian youth trying to storm the US consulate in Pisa; Palestine activists taking over the Congress building, and an American soldier self-immolating out of sheer anger at the culpability of his government in the crimes underway in Gaza.

Nicaragua sues Germany.

This is truly earth-shattering.

Now that global dynamics are working in favor of Palestinians, it is time for the Palestinian struggle to return to the embrace of the Global South, where common histories will always serve as a foundation for meaningful solidarity. The critical mass for meaningful solidarity has finally been achieved, signaling that, once more, Palestinians have imposed themselves as the guardians of their own struggle, standing proudly at the front line of the global struggle for freedom and justice.

  • Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a syndicated columnist, the author of six books, and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Baroud has a PhD in Palestine studies from the University of Exeter. His books include My Father Was a Freedom Fighter and The Last Earth. His latest book, co-edited with Professor Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. Baroud is currently a non-resident senior research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA).

1 Comment

  1. Anne Habiby

    You Global South analysis will be the game changer for Palestine. I estimate 4 US election cycles at most until
    the Zionist stranglehold on US presidential decisions is broken – based on demographic and generational shifts.

    Reply

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