Contempt and Mockery: The Other Israeli War on Palestine

When Zionist militias, using advanced Western arms, conquered historic Palestine in 1947-48, they expressed their victory through the deliberate humiliation of Palestinians.

Much of that humiliation targeted women, in particular, knowing how the dishonor of Palestinian females represents, according to Arab culture, a sense of dishonor to the whole community.

This strategy remains in use to this day.

When scores of Palestinian women were released following prisoner exchanges between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel, starting on November 24, there was very little room to hide the facts.

Unlike the 75-year-ago Palestinian community, this current generation no longer internalizes Israel’s intentional humiliation of women and men alike, as if an act of collective dishonor.

This has allowed many newly released female prisoners to speak openly, often on live TV, about the kind of humiliation that they were exposed to while in Israeli military detention.

The Israeli army, however, continues to act with the same old mindset, perceiving the humiliation of Palestinians as an expression of dominance, power and supremacy.

Over the years, Israel has perfected the politics of humiliation – a notion that is predicated on the psychological power of shaming whole collectives to emphasize the asymmetrical relationship between two groups of people: in this case, the occupier and the occupied.

This is precisely why, in the early days of the Israeli war on Gaza, Israel detained all Palestinian workers from the Strip who happened to be working inside Israel as cheap laborers at the time of the October 7 operation.

The dehumanization they experienced at the hands of Israeli soldiers demonstrated a growing trend among Israelis to degrade Palestinians for no reason whatsoever.

One of the worst documented episodes took place on October 12, when a group of Israeli soldiers and settlers assaulted three Palestinian activists in the West Bank. Israeli newspapers Haaretz and The Times of Israel described how the three were assaulted, stripped naked, bound, photographed, tortured and urinated upon.

Those images were still fresh in the minds of Palestinians when new images emerged from northern Gaza.

Photos and videos published in Israeli media showed men stripped down to their underwear, being placed in large numbers on the streets of Gaza, while surrounded by well-equipped and supposedly menacing Israeli soldiers.

The men were handcuffed, tied together, forced to hunch down and then, eventually, thrown into military trucks to be taken to an unknown location.

Some of the men were eventually released to tell horror stories, which often had bloody endings.

But why is Israel doing this?

Throughout its history – violent birth and equally violent existence – Israel has purposely humiliated Palestinians as an expression of its disproportionately greater military power over a hapless, confined and mostly refugee population.

This tactic was infused more during certain periods of history when Palestinians felt empowered as a way to break their collective spirit.

The First Intifada, 1987-93, was rife with this kind of humiliation. Children and men between the ages of 15 to 55 would be habitually dragged into schoolyards, stripped naked, forced to kneel down for endless hours, beaten, and insulted by Israeli soldiers using loudspeakers.

Those insults would cover everything that Palestinians hold dear – their religions, their God, their mothers, their holy places and more.

Then, boys and men would be forced to perform certain acts, for example spitting in each other’s faces, shouting certain profanities, slapping themselves or each other. Those who refused would be immediately overpowered, beaten and arrested.

These methods continue to be applied in Israeli prisons, especially during times of hunger strikes, but also during periods of interrogations. In the latter cases, men would be threatened with the rape of their wives or sisters; women would be threatened with sexual violence.

These episodes are often met with collective Palestinian defiance, which directly feeds into Palestinian popular resistance.

The image of the Palestinian fighter, dressed in military fatigue, brandishing an automatic rifle while proudly walking the streets of Nablus, Jenin, or Gaza, in itself does not serve an actual military purpose. It is, however, a direct response to the psychological impact of the kind of humiliation inflicted upon Palestinian society by the Israeli occupation army.

But what is the function of a Palestinian military parade? To answer this question, we must examine the sequence of the event.

When Israel arrests Palestinian activists, they attempt to create the perfect scenario of a humiliated and defeated community: the terror felt by the people when nightly raids begin, the beating of the family of the detained, the shouts of insults, and other well-choreographed horror scenes.

Hours later, Palestinian youth emerge on the streets of their neighborhoods, proudly parading with their guns amid the ululation of women and the excited looks of children. This is precisely how Palestinians respond to humiliation.

Palestinian armed Resistance has grown much stronger in recent years, with Gaza currently serving as a case in point.

As the Israeli military is failing to reoccupy Gaza and subdue its population, utilizing the politics of humiliation on a mass scale is simply impossible.

To the contrary, it is the Israelis who do feel humiliated, not only because of what has taken place on October 7, but everything else that has taken place since then.

Unable to operate freely in the heart of Gaza, Khan Yunis, Rafah or any other major population centers in the Strip, the Israeli army is forced to humiliate Palestinians in whatever little margins they can control, Beit Lahia, for example.

Frustrated by their military failure to deliver on their promises of subduing Gazans, ordinary Israelis have taken to social media to taunt Palestinians in their own way.

Israeli women, often along with their own children, would dress up in ways that would convey a racist representation of Arab women crying over the bodies of their dead children.

This type of social media mockery seems to have appealed to the imagination of Israeli society, which still insists on its sense of superiority even at a time when they are still paying the price of their own violence and political arrogance.

This time around, however, Israel’s politics of humiliation is proving ineffective because the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is on its way to being fundamentally altered.

One is only humiliated if he or she internalizes that humiliation as a sense of shame and disempowerment. But Palestinians, this time around, are experiencing no such feelings. On the contrary, their ongoing sumud (resilience) and unity have generated a sense of collective pride unequaled in history.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. This article appears through the kind courtesy of MintPress News.

The Untold Story of October 7th

The dramatic, earth-shattering events in Palestine starting on October 7 have taken many people by surprise. However, attentive observers were not among them.

Few expected that Palestinian fighters would be parachuting into southern Israel on October 7; that instead of capturing a single Israeli soldier—as done in 2006—hundreds of Israelis, including many soldiers and civilians, would find themselves captive in besieged Gaza.

The reason behind the ‘surprise,’ however, is the same reason that Israel is still reeling under collective shock, which is the tendency to pay close attention to political discourses and intelligence analyses of Israel and its supporters—while largely neglecting the Palestinian discourse.

For better comprehension, let us go back to the start.

The Spark

We entered 2023 with some depressing data and dark predictions about what was awaiting Palestinians in the new year.

Just before the year commenced, the United Nations Mideast envoy, Tor Wennesland, said 2022 was the most violent year since 2005. “Too many people, overwhelmingly Palestinian, have been killed and injured,” Wennesland told the UN Security Council.

This figure—171 killed and hundreds wounded in the West Bank alone—did not receive much coverage in Western media. The mounting number of Palestinian victims, however, registered among Palestinians and their Resistance movements.

As anger and calls for revenge grew among ordinary Palestinians, their leadership continued to play its same traditional role—of pacifying Palestinian calls for resistance while continuing with its ‘security coordination’ with Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 88, carried on rehashing the old language about a two-state solution and the ‘peace process’ while cracking down on Palestinians who dared protest his ineffectual leadership.

Defenseless in the face of a far-right Israeli government with an open agenda to crush Palestinians, to expand illegal settlements and to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, Palestinians were forced to develop their defensive strategies.

The Lions’ Den—a multi-factional Resistance group that first appeared in Nablus in August 2022—grew in power and appeal. Other groups, old and new, emerged on the scene throughout the northern West Bank, with the single objective of uniting Palestinians around a non-factional agenda and, ultimately, producing a new Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.

These developments sounded alarm bells in Israel. The Israeli occupation army moved quickly to crush the new armed rebellion, raiding Palestinian towns and refugee camps one after the other, with the hope of turning this nascent revolution into another failed attempt to challenge the status quo in occupied Palestine.

The bloodiest of the Israeli incursions occurred in Nablus on February 23, Jericho on August 15 and, most importantly, in the Jenin refugee camp.

The July 3 Israeli invasion of Jenin was reminiscent, in terms of casualties and degree of destruction, of the Israeli invasion of that very camp in April 2002.

The outcome, however, was not the same. Back then, Israel had invaded Jenin, along with other Palestinian towns and refugee camps, and succeeded in crushing armed resistance for years to come.

This time around, the Israeli invasion merely ignited a broader rebellion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, creating a further schism in the already deteriorating relationship between Palestinians, on the one hand, and Abbas and his PA, on the other.

Indeed, just days after Israel concluded its attack on the camp, Abbas emerged with thousands of his soldiers to warn the bereaved refugees that “the hand that will break the unity of the people .. will be cut off from its arm”.

Yet, as the popular rebellion continued to build momentum in the West Bank, Israeli intelligence reports started talking about a plan composed by the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Saleh Arouri, to ignite an armed Intifada.

The solution, according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, citing official Israeli sources, was to kill Arouri.

Indeed, Israel’s attention and counterstrategy were focused intently on the West Bank, as Hamas, in Gaza at the time, in Israel’s viewpoint, seemed disinterested in an all-out confrontation.

But why did Israel reach such a conclusion?


Several significant events, the kind that would have pushed Hamas to retaliate, have taken place without any severe armed response by the Resistance in Gaza.

Last December, Israel had sworn in its most right-wing government in history. Far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich arrived on the political scene with the declared objectives of annexing the West Bank, imposing military control over Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Palestinian Muslim and Christian holy sites and, in the case of Smotrich, denying the very existence of the Palestinian people.

Their pledges were quickly translated into action under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ben-Gvir was keen on sending a message to his constituency that the seizure of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israel had become imminent.

He repeatedly raided or ordered raids on Al-Aqsa at an unprecedented frequency. The most violent and humiliating of these raids occurred on April 4, when worshippers were beaten up by soldiers while praying inside the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

Resistance groups in Gaza threatened retaliation. Several rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel, merely serving as a symbolic reminder that Palestinians are united, regardless of where they are in the geographic map of historic Palestine.

Israel, however, ignored the message and used the Palestinian threats of retaliation and the occasional ‘lone-wolf attacks’—like that of Muhannad al-Mazaraa at the illegal Maale Adumim settlement—as political capital to ignite the religious fervor of Israeli society.

Not even the death of Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan on May 2 seemed to have shifted Hamas’ position. Some even suggested that there is a rift between Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad following Adnan’s death as a result of a hunger strike in the Ramleh Prison.

On the same day, the PIJ fired rockets into Israel, as Adnan was one of its most prominent members. Israel answered by attacking hundreds of targets inside Gaza, mostly civilian homes and infrastructure, which resulted in the death of 33 Palestinians and the wounding of 147 more.

A truce was declared on May 13, again with no direct Hamas participation, giving further reassurance to Israel that its bloody onslaught on the Strip had achieved more than a military purpose—often referred to as ‘mowing the lawn’—but a political one, as well.

Israel’s strategic estimation, however, proved to be wrong, as attested by Hamas’ well-coordinated October 7 attacks in southern Israel, targeting numerous military bases, settlements and other strategic positions.

But was Hamas being deceptive? Hiding its actual strategic objectives in anticipation of that significant event?

“Roaring Flood”

A quick examination of Hamas’ recent statements and political discourse demonstrates that the Palestinian group was hardly secretive about its future actions.

Two weeks before 2023 commenced, at a Gaza rally on December 14, Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, had a message for Israel: “We will come to you in a roaring flood. We will come to you with endless rockets; we will come to you in a limitless flood of soldiers … like the repeating tide.”

The immediate response to the Hamas’ attack was the predictable US-Western solidarity with Israel, calls for revenge, the destruction and annihilation of Gaza and the revitalized plans of displacing Palestinians out of Gaza into Egypt—in fact, out of the West Bank as well, into Jordan.

The Israeli war on the Strip, also starting on October 7, has resulted in unprecedented casualties compared to all Israeli wars on Gaza, in fact, on Palestinians during any time in modern history.

Quickly, the term ‘genocide’ was being used, initially by intellectuals and activists and eventually by international law experts.

“Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza is quite explicit, open, and unashamed,” associate professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton University, Raz Segal, wrote on October 13 in an article entitled ‘A Textbook Case of Genocide.’

Despite this, the UN could do nothing. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on November 8 that the UN has “neither money nor power” to prevent a potential genocide in Gaza.

In essence, this effectively meant the disabling of the international legal and political systems, as every attempt by the Security Council to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire has been blocked by the US and Israel’s other Western allies.

As the death toll mounted among a starving population in Gaza—all food deprived per the November 28 estimation of the World Food Program—Palestinians resisted throughout the Gaza Strip.

Their resistance was not only confined to attacking or ambushing invading Israeli soldiers but was predicated on the legendary steadfastness of a population that refused to be weakened or displaced.


This sumud (steadfast perseverance) continued, even when Israel began to systematically attack hospitals, schools, and every place that, in times of war, is seen as ‘safe places’ for a beleaguered civilian population.

Indeed, on December 3, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said that “there is no safe place in Gaza.” This phrase was repeated often by other UN officials, along with other phrases such as “Gaza has become a graveyard for children,” as first noted by UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder on October 31. This left Guterres with no other option but to, on December 6, invoke article 99, which allows the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Israeli violence and Palestinian sumud also extended to the West Bank as well. Aware of the potential for armed resistance in the West Bank, the Israeli army quickly launched major, deadly raids on countless Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps, killing hundreds, injuring thousands, and arresting thousands more.

But Gaza remained the epicenter of the Israeli genocide. Aside from a brief humanitarian truce from November 24 to December 1, coupled with few prisoner exchanges, the battle for Gaza -for the future of Palestine and the Palestinian people—continues at an unparalleled price of death and destruction.

Palestinians know full well that the current fight will either mean a new Nakba, like the ethnic cleansing of 1948, or the beginning of the reversal of that very Nakba—as in the process of liberating the Palestinian people from the yoke of Israeli colonialism.

While Israel is determined to end Palestinian Resistance once and for all, it is evident that the Palestinian people’s determination to win their freedom in the coming years is far greater.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out. This article appears through the kind courtesy of MintPress News.