Despite its military might, Israel has failed to defeat Palestinian resistance for decades. Now, the recent Hamas attack has fundamentally changed the parameters of the occupation and the entire region, writes Charles Harb.

The 7th of October 2023 could be remembered as the day when the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” were truly recorded. This day marks a radical shift in the nature of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and could potentially be the last of the Arab Israeli wars.
For nearly a century, these wars have festered in the region, the aftermath of a misguided Zionist enterprise, conceived during colonial times, and brought into being through the dual horrors of the Holocaust and the Nakba.
In 1936, as Arabs across the region were fighting for independence from British and French colonial rule, Palestinians revolted against the Zionist project. But in 1948 the Nakba marked the loss of the battle for Palestine, when Palestinians were massacred, their villages destroyed and stolen, and more than 700,000 were ethnically cleansed from their homeland.

Israel’s six-day blitz in 1967 further traumatised Arab populations and their leaders for decades to come. In less than a week, Israel had seized Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan heights.
By 1973, it was clear that no Arab armies could win a conventional war against Israel. The humiliation was so complete that when Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and occupied its capital city 1982, barely a whisper was heard in the Arab region.
The People’s Resistance: Israel’s unequivocal supremacy over regional standing armies is a military fact. With no hope of an external intervention, the Palestinian and other Arab peoples living under Israel’s brutal occupations had no option but to fight for their survival with whatever meagre means they had available.
The First Intifada of 1987, which birthed Israel’s barbaric “broken bones” policy, and the resistance against Israel’s occupation forces in south Lebanon are but a few examples.

The “fragility of the spider’s web”: But while the Israeli military machine is designed and effective for classic warfare, it is not meant to fight uprisings, or win over guerrilla warfare.
Unlike the major wars of 1967, 1973, or 1982, Israel has consistently had trouble dealing with popular resistance movements.
From Operation Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1996, to the First and Second Intifadas, the Second Lebanon war in 2006, and countless assaults on Gaza since 2007, Israel has failed to meet its declared objectives to extinguish resistance.
And with every failure “to eradicate terrorist organisations”, with every passing year, resistance organisations grew stronger, more experienced, more mature, and more confident. These are also facts.
The Networks of Resistance: Connections between resistance groups, once difficult for ideological, geographical, and other reasons, have strengthened significantly over the past decade, and a “fertile crescent” of active resistance networks now stretches from Iraq to Palestine and beyond.
Hamas is no longer alone, and in a region where governments and states have been debilitated by wars and uprisings – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and more – non-state actors can operate and coordinate more freely and more efficiently than ever.  

“Correcting History”: On 7 October 2023, the parameters regulating dynamics in the Middle East recalibrated. For the first time, Hamas broke free from Gaza’s open-air prison – one of the most monitored and controlled spaces on earth – and struck at Goliath.
The slap was deafening and psychologically stunned oppressors and observers alike.
The events of 7 October 2023, psychologically speaking, “changed everything”. In a single day, they addressed the psychological traumas of the 1967 and 1973 wars combined.
The resistance started its operation on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 October war with an even larger surprise attack and tallied more war casualties and prisoners in a few hours than those Israel lost in the 1967 six-day war. The symbolism and parallelism are unmissable.

“No voice rises above the voice of battle”: In the coming days, armchair analysts thousands of miles away, “black skins in white masks” pundits, and psychologically defeated Arab commentators will pontificate about military objectives and the ethics of war, the moral principles of engagement and other matters of little consequence.
They will perch on fictitious moral high grounds and produce a slew of short, perishable lenticular analyses for media consumption.
These will have little to no effect on developments in the field, for actions carved in the battlefield will speak louder than words and will dictate the final narrative.
End of scene one: It is too early in the current cycle of violence to see clearly how this war will end, but the overall picture is starting to take shape.
Will the Israeli leadership and its foreign supporters quickly recognise the implications of these events, see the opportunity for all, and sit at a negotiation table by the end of this first scene?
Or will the Israeli leadership respond with hubris and extreme prejudice, and prolong the war and its suffering by ushering a second scene where the war escalates into a much wider and much more devastating regional war?

Towards a new Middle East?: Sooner or later the dust of war will settle, and negotiations will start. This will be an opportunity to right the wrongs of the “last colonial project on earth”, and rethink Israel’s function as a military outpost to further Western interests in the Arab region.
That fortress is cracked, the project faltering, and inexperienced zealots with dreams of a Masada are at its helm.
The Palestinians and the entire Arab region need a comprehensive and just peace that goes beyond the mirages of piecemeal Accords, the diktats of asymmetric power, and the confines of a two-state solution.

The New Arab Newspaper