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European Recognition Of Palestine Signals Major Shift In Discourse

Above photo: Irish citizens hold an emergency protest for Rafah outside Leinster House, on May 8, 2024, in Dublin, Ireland. Artur Widak / AP.

If one were to argue that a top Spanish government official would someday declare that “from the river to the sea, Palestine would be free,” the suggestion would have seemed ludicrous.

But this is precisely how Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, concluded a statement on May 23, a few days before Spain officially recognized Palestine as a state.

The Spanish, Norwegian, and Irish recognition of Palestine is the most important.

Western Europe is finally catching up with the rest of the world regarding the significance of a solid international position in support of the Palestinian people and rejection of Israel’s genocidal practices in occupied Palestine.

But equally important is the changing political discourse regarding both Palestine and Israel in Europe and all over the world.

Almost immediately after the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, some European countries imposed restrictions on pro-Palestinian protests, some even banning the Palestinian flag, which was perceived, through some twisted logic, as an antisemitic symbol.

With time, the unprecedented solidarity with Israel at the start of the war, however, turned into an outright political, legal and moral liability to the pro-Israel Western governments.

Thus, a slow shift began, leading to a near-complete transformation in some governments’ positions and a partial though clear change of the political discourse, among others.

The early ban on pro-Palestinian protests was impossible to maintain in the face of millions of angry European citizens who called on their governments to end their blind support for Tel Aviv.

On May 30, the mere fact that French private broadcaster TF1 hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to significant, though spontaneous, protests by French citizens, who called on their media to deny accused war criminals the chance to address the public.

Failing to push back against the pro-Palestine narrative, the French government has, on May 31, decided to disinvite Israeli military firms from participating in one of the world’s largest military expos, Eurosatory, scheduled for June 17-21.

Even countries like Canada and Germany, which supported the Israeli genocide against Palestinians until the later stages of the mass killings, began changing their language as well.

The change of language is also happening in Israel itself and among pro-Israeli intellectuals and journalists in mainstream media. In a widely read column, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman attacked Netanyahu late last March, accusing him of being the “worst leader in Jewish history, not just in Israeli history.”

Unpacking Friedman’s statement requires another column, for such language continues to feed on the persisting illusion, at least in the mind of Friedman, that Israel serves as a representation, not of its own citizens, but of Jewish people, past and present.

As for the language in Israel, it is merging into two major and competing discourses: one irrationally ruthless, represented by far-right Ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, in fact, by Netanyahu himself, and another, though equally militant and anti-Palestinian, which is more pragmatic.

While the first group would like to see Palestinians slaughtered in large numbers or wiped out through a nuclear bomb, the other realizes that a military option, at least for now, is no longer viable.

“The Israeli army does not have the ability to win this war against Hamas, and certainly not against Hezbollah,” Israeli Army Reserve Major General Yitzhak Brik said in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv on May 30.

Brik, one of Israel’s most respected military men, is but one of many such individuals who are now essentially repeating the same wisdom.

Strangely, when Israel’s Minister of Heritage Amihai Eliyahu suggested the “option” of dropping a nuclear bomb on the Strip, his words reeked of desperation, not confidence.

Before the war, the Israeli political discourse regarding Gaza revolved around a specific set of terminology: ‘deterrence,’ represented in the occasional one-sided war, often referred to as ‘mowing the lawn’ and ‘security,’ among others.

Billions of dollars have been generated throughout the years by war profiteers in Israel, the US and other European countries, all in the name of keeping Gaza besieged and subdued.

Now, this language has been relegated in favor of a grand discourse concerned with existential wars, the future of the Jewish people, and the possible end of Israel, if not Zionism itself.

While it is true that Netanyahu fears an end to the war will be a terrible conclusion to his supposedly triumphant legacy as the ‘protector’ of Israel, there is more to the story.

Suppose the war ends without Israel restoring its so-called deterrence and security. In that case, it will be forced to contend with the fact that the Palestinian people cannot be relegated and that their rights cannot be overlooked. For Israel, such a realization would be an end to its settler-colonial project, which began nearly a hundred years ago.

Additionally, the perception and language about Palestine and Israel are changing among ordinary people across the world. The misconception of the Palestinian ‘terrorist’ is being quickly replaced by the accurate depiction of the Israeli war criminal. This categorization is now consistent with the views of the world’s largest international legal institutions.

Israel now stands in near-complete isolation, due, in part, to its genocide in Gaza but also to the courage and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the global solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

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