Harry Fear: «Palestinians are never going to give up»

Harry Fear is an independent British journalist who has been reporting all the dramatic events around the Gaza War. He reported for established media and through live streams on his webblog HarryFear.com. «Palestinians are not going to give up because they have decided that they are going to manifest a spirit of resistance», he said.

Interviewer: Daniel Lencina

Photo by Dina Adel

Haz click aquí si prefieres la versión en Español.

– You have been in Gaza on many occasions before, in 2012, in 2014. What’s the difference between what is happening there nowadays and what was in the past?

– There’s such a sad context that we’re meeting with the ongoing genocide happening in Gaza at full speed. I first went to Gaza in 2012, more than a decade ago. I’ve been there several times and lived there for a period of time, and I reported for different news outlets as a freelance journalist. But most of my contribution was really as an independent reporter there, particularly during 2012, when social media was still very nascent and live streaming was a really new thing. And so live streaming from a war zone on Ustream.tv is something that went viral and shuddered many people to hear the sounds of drones and bombs from this English bloke in Gaza city.

But that really is a paradigm away from what’s happening in Gaza today. Now, I still have friends in Gaza, colleagues in Gaza. I haven’t, and I say this out of pure selfishness, yet lost anyone I closely know. Every time I dare to check the news I just hesitate in the hope that I’m not reading about someone I know who’s being killed because Israel is going after everyone that it can in a short period of time, sort of dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza. That’s what’s happening right now, and that’s why people are calling it a genocide, with every Israeli operation, every barrage of rocket attack, for example.

Israel uses this as a justification for unleashing as much brutality on the people of Gaza as it can. Now, with October 7th and what we think of as happened, Israel has, in a sense, the biggest carte blanche that it’s ever had to unleash. What people think of, and I have to be very careful with language here, almost as a final act towards Gaza, clearing it up for good in the Israeli language and mentality.

And that’s what we’re seeing now. We’re seeing the use of October 7th in order to get rid of Hamas. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not about Hamas. Hamas is a teenager in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It’s about resistance, it’s about will, it’s about the spirit and it’s also about civilization. And Israel is doing what it can to wipe out the resistance, the will, the spirit, and the civilization in Gaza. And if it can succeed to get thinking Palestinians in Gaza to leave because being alive is more important than being martyred in Gaza, then it will have succeeded in its aims at this time.

– What is this war in Gaza showing to the world, what is being put into evidence?

– I think the word «evidence» is really interesting because when the war started in 2012, that only lasted a very short period of time in comparison to this ongoing war. It was the war that started on Twitter. The Israelis announced it on Twitter, and this was a whole thing. It’s 2024 now and we have TikTok, and there are what? Hundreds, thousands of videos from Israeli soldiers themselves in Gaza acting like teenagers, making these videos, humiliating Palestinians in broad daylight, proudly celebrating the war crimes and the civilizational crimes that they’re committing against the Palestinian people. So when we talk about evidence, we’re talking about an extraordinary situation.

Just think about it and compare it for a second to the British and Americans, who are usually very fast and loose with war crimes themselves. Think of Iraq and Afghanistan, all the rest of it. Just think of how difficult it was to expose the death squads in Afghanistan that, let’s say, the Australians had been going in and killing the so-called Taliban at night. And really it was just kids with, teenagers. And they planted the weapons afterwards, and all the rest of it took several years for this to be exposed, although it happened quite a lot.

Just think now of the Israelis in Gaza. They are literally celebrating the war crimes. Politicians in the Israeli Knesset are celebrating the war crimes. In the media they talk about the war crimes, they threaten more. So, when we talk about evidence, Israel has lost the plot when it comes to this. It’s showing itself up as a fascistic regime. 

The words don’t even really begin to capture it because there’s no shame. This is one of the key components, there’s no shame. And so Israel actually part of its usual message is to project this terror on its neighbors, to keep them in line, to keep the Lebanese Hezbollah in line, to keep the Jordanians and the Egyptians in line, all the rest of it.

So part of the evidential record is to terrorize, to project power, in the military lingo, privilege and deterrence.

Now Israel has obviously succeeded in doing that. But the question is, of course, has it also succeeded to break its own image as a state of any repute that any of its allies are able to continue on providing not just diplomatic and ideological cover, but even the weapons and all the rest of it? And unfortunately, so far, because the media has been so controlled, that hasn’t been broken, and so the support basically continues. I mean, there’s sort of a 1% chink in this armor.

But just this morning before we recorded this, I was listening to a report from Russia and from Ukraine, and I almost smashed the radio up because to hear the way they talk about Russian war crimes, and the Russian-Ukraine context is how the Israel-Palestine conflict should be reported for any normal thinking person. But instead they suppressed the facets of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the tenants of the reality in Gaza. So it’s sanitized away, and so the exceptionalization of what the Israelis are doing isn’t really fully conveyed. Therefore, the political implications that would normally follow are not allowed to be normally fulfilled.

– Beyond all this dramatic show, do all these victims really matter for the world and for power? And if not, what counts?

– I get very triggered when I hear about the international community at times because people say, «oh, the international community is allowing this to happen». There is no international community. You know, the Americans spied on the UN, they stole DNA samples from UN delegates. The Americans exert enormous control on the mechanics of the UN. It’s just another fora for it to exert its power and influence. So when we talk about the international community, it’s really just a Western propaganda construct, it’s just us and our mates.

So when we talk about the victims mattering, ordinary English, British people care very much about Palestinian civilians and in fact, the torrent of solidarity that we’ve seen since October 8th for Palestinians and the obvious scale of wrongness being done against the Palestinians is evident across populations across the world. Humans are humans, you know. The problem is that we’re not having really functioning fruiting democracies where these opinions are being respected and held because we often don’t have ethical foreign policies.

And unfortunately, a lot of our politics is disconnected from the way the world really works. The way the world really works is that, you know, it’s kind of a cute idea to think about victims mattering. So, we have our secure, flourishing economies in the West, in Europe, for example. But in a way, the dark side of maintaining our borders, our economic advantage, our military prowess is that other people are oppressed, dispossessed, slaughtered, tortured, and all the rest of it.

Yes, ordinary people do care about this. Ordinary people don’t want this to be our foreign policy, don’t want this to be the way the world works. But unfortunately, it is. And there is basically a kind of implicit conspiracy where the way the world really works is not allowed to be shown to people. They’re not allowed to think for themselves and to put it in a sentence. Foreign policy is off limits.

– What are the power interests that are currently competing, clashing there in Gaza?

– I think we’ve got this whole thing with Joe Biden after state of the Union address, of announcing this temporary pier that he’s building, which is going to take a month or two and hundreds of thousands of American troops to compose. This is a really striking chapter in the Gaza War. But it does speak to a power interest because you’ve got to remember that Gaza has been under military siege. Sort of an airtight siege in many ways from Egypt and Israel. Egypt’s really just under Israel’s thumb for decades now, and so the Americans suddenly used their prowess to come in and tell the Israelis, telling Benjamin Netanyahu, «we’re doing this pier. We’re going to deliver the aid, and we’re going to do it in a dramatic way. We understand you’re not going to open the land border. We’ve tried asking you to, but you’re not going to do it. So we’re just going to do something which looks good for us. And it’ll look good for you as well». It’ll be politically acceptable for the Israeli domestic context. It’ll be good for the American domestic context in an election year in the US. And so, it’s a power interest.

I think it’s important because it does illuminate the extent to which even the Americans haven’t been able to exert influence on the Israelis. They haven’t been able to get the Israelis to open the land borders to allow aid to go in so that the Israelis are starving Gaza. And so even with these airdrops, they’re still starving Gaza; people are dying.

So I think it is a striking moment, and it’s almost surreal to see the Americans feeling unable, or the active American administration feeling unable to actually exert leverage against the Israelis to say, «look, we’re going to pull support unless you open the Rafah crossing for aid full time». They haven’t done that. So whether that is because Joe Biden has such an affinity with the Jewish state, who knows? But they haven’t been able to exert the control, they don’t feel they can exert the control. Would Barack Obama have played it differently? We don’t know how things really work behind the scenes, though. We don’t know what the real conversations are. We don’t know what the real political efforts are. So it’s hard to say, but the Americans supply the Israelis with weapons. If the Americans withdrew support, which they haven’t, it would cascade and change everything.

Gaza: Still alive

«Gaza: Still alive», Harry Fear’s report for RT.

Okay, let’s talk about regional interests. So, yes, they say that Hamas and the other fighting groups in Gaza have their strings pulled by Iran, for example. Well, obviously there is some link between Hamas and Iran, between Hezbollah and Iran. But you have to remember that there is an Islamic sectarian divide in spite of that connection. And so the idea that they’re purely puppets of Iran is wrong, not just least because of the sectarian thing, but that’s just a symbolic representation of that difference. So there’s Hamas itself. There are other fighting groups, there are other Palestinian factions that have their own military wings. And at war time, they all come together and do the thing pretty much in coordination. Although going back historically, it’s more interesting to look at it with a higher resolution of detail than that.

But there are fighting groups in Gaza, and then of course, there are the regional actors. So there’s Egypt, who is very reticent to allow Palestinians to seek refuge in Egypt, especially en masse. And so that’s been a red line for the Egyptians. I think that’s noteworthy because the Egyptians have put down a red line in that respect, and the Israelis have had to go through with it. Now, that’s very difficult; is that purely Egyptian power or is that also the EU saying «we won’t tolerate any Palestinians being en masse, displaced into Sinai»? It’s difficult to say.

But what we do know, on the other hand, is that the Egyptians have started building an overflow concentration camp in the Sinai in case of large displacement numbers. So it’s difficult to know; is Egypt just pretending to enforce this red line?, or is it actually behind the scenes willing to go along with Israel’s grander plans? But it’s just saving face on the outside for now. We don’t know yet.

I think China and Russia, in this multi-polar world, have obviously acted to restrain the Americans by speaking out against in terms of international law and all the rest of it.

So that’s sort of us living on the planet have heard other powerful large states speak normally about the situation. And then there’s just the rest of the world who just every year vote for the Palestinians to be given a say for the end of the Israeli occupation, and they’re kind of in line with ordinary people.

– Do you think that there is some kind of connection between these events and what is happening in other regions of the world such as Ukraine, Latin America, Venezuela, Colombia, etc.?

– I suppose the sort of metaphysical level that they are all conflicts, they are all theaters in which great powers are trying to exert control. If we compare them, for me the resonance is that the imperialist touch is present in all these cases. And when it comes to the military campaigns, they’re trying to break the indigenous national resistance movements, so they’re trying to break the indigenous national resistance movement in Palestine.

You could say they’re trying to do the same in Ukraine, although you could argue it’s a bit different because of the presence of some of the Nazi groups in the Ukrainian defence forces.

But for me the resonance is that these are all theatres in which great powers are trying to exert their neighbourhood influence, and the expectation of doing things a different way cannot be allowed to occur.

So, you know, the Americans wanted elections in Palestine, and Hamas won. Within weeks, it was all over for Hamas, the siege was in place; «sorry, you’re allowed democracy, but not that choice». Yes, like the Russian election at the moment.

I think it’s the same in Latin America, where the Americans feel they have to uphold those red lines themselves. Coups will follow if they don’t like what’s happening. If an example to the world is being given that they don’t want to have upheld.

Going back to the Middle East context specifically, and going back to the dream state that was Egypt after the first revolution, when we had Mohammed Morsi in the elections. It’s almost a fantasy looking back now because the situation is so bad, it has regressed even worse, further more poorly than it was under [Hosni] Mubarak originally.

And so the populations are in a state of learned helplessness with it, really. It’s like you try and try to get freedom, attain some representation, but now you’ve learned the lesson and don’t try again. So it’s the same thumb of brutality falling down on people’s heads as we see in Gaza. «Don’t try to rise up. Otherwise we’ll take out your entire family. We’ll take out your entire neighborhood. And in the 2023-2024 Gaza war, we’ll take out the entire civilization».

So it’s that kind of trying to break the spirit of people for trying to live with their own democratic representation, with their own choices, with their own system. And that might be because of a different economic model, or that may just be because of a different contender ideologically in the way the world should work.

– Can we expect then that the current and future world will be characterized by this kind of conflict without any other possibility, with no possible escape at all?

– I am not so hopeless about the broader situation. I can’t say that I’m objectively hopeful about the Gaza situation, although I think because of what’s happened in Gaza, what’s left of it, the Israeli image has been really destroyed for a generation. And so this may now mean that the propensity for an anti-apartheid campaign against Israel is now likely to happen in the next 5 or 10 years. So that might be something positive on the horizon.

But broadly speaking, forgetting the Palestine conflict for a moment, if we’re talking about a future world, these sorts of conflicts, yes.

There is, for instance, the problem with climate change, climate injustice. I was in Malawi a few years ago, made a documentary in that terribly poor country, one of the world’s poorest countries and disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change. In other words, in terms of climate justice, if I can use that term in this context, this is a case of enormous climate injustice because Malawi hasn’t even developed yet, and it’s now having all of the effects of our pollution. So that’s just an extreme example, but anyone with their eyes open can see that the wars that will come in the next decades because of climate change make the Gaza situation look like a cottage industry.

And I’m talking about the scale of the war. I’m also talking about the ability at which conflicts will be sanitized and normalized so that we won’t even think about them happening.

It’s like Obama’s drone wars that succeeded to allow the war to continue in Afghanistan and Pakistan without any human cost to the Americans, and therefore basically there was no reporting on it.

And I’m sure that’s the way that it will work with a lot of the climate wars, that a lot of them will exist and we won’t even know they’re happening because they’re using private militias or because they’re using drones, and these rapid response forces that they can almost keep off the pages.

So in this sense, I’m not hopeful about the future situation. But, in terms of the Israeli military footprint in Gaza, it is in a way unique, as I say, in its evidential context, the shamelessness of it. I don’t think even the British and Americans have that level of shamelessness when they took out ISIS in Raqqa, for example, by destroying Islamic State as a civilization.

But, to be honest, the Israeli military footprint in Gaza is not that qualitatively different from what the Americans and British did in Raqqa. In some cases it’s worse, but it’s really because Gaza is so small scale, and in the Israeli context there’s always this ticking time of how long the Israelis have got to pummel an area before the Americans tell them to stop. And there’s always this time restraint on the Israelis.

I think that’s another differentiating factor. Whereas in getting rid of ISIS the US led coalition felt any restraint because there was almost very little reporting on it, the Israelis are not, in terms of military operations, uniquely evil in this response. I think it’s the context that makes people and the way it plays out and the ideology around it, the story around it, that makes people feel the Israelis are doing something uniquely evil. 

It’s the ongoing occupation, dispossession that I think is the wider story that makes people feel that this is something really uniquely horrendous. But the actual military thing, I’m not sure how different that really is.

– Is there any possible positive outcome not only for this situation in Gaza, but for the world? Any hope? And if yes, what is it?

– On the Israel-Palestine conflict, I think there is hope because I think the Israelis have hung their own noose, lace their own noose with the way that they’ve acted and exposed themselves. Although to a large extent that has been sanitized in the West, the question is to what extent has Israel’s image been tarnished that now an anti Israeli apartheid campaign can be furnished? That’s the question. So that’s one potential light on the horizon. Otherwise Palestinians are more dispossessed than ever, they’ve just lost a whole territory, they’ve just had an enormous brain drain from Gaza, either because people who’ve got the money and are well educated are able to leave, or because they’ve been wiped out. Israel has targeted engineers, universities, schools, basically anything civilizational. So you can’t say it’s going well.

Ditto climate change. I don’t see any reason to be objectively hopeful about that. Even if we all suddenly wake up in the southwestern states and really decarbonize as if it’s the emergency that it is, we’ve still baked in enough warming that we’re going to have climate wars. We’re still going to have obscene outcomes.

I think within that image of knowing things are going to get worse climatically and politically as the far right grows as a response to the lack of success of the democratic representation, the growth of the far right as things get worse economically and in terms of climate and everything. If we accept that wider image of things getting worse, which I think we have to objectively and with our eyes open, we can then start to say, «well, okay, there could be positive silver linings within it. There could be positive chapters within it, where there was a restraint of that process, where there was symbolic resistance against that wider gloom».

But that’s the only way we’re going to find any meaningful positive, the glamour, because I think the wider trend that we can all see here is that humans have lost the plot. The so-called international community has lost the plot. The way power reigns in the world has lost the plot at the moment.

This whole situation in Gaza is happening because the Americans allow the Israelis to do this in plain sight, in broad daylight. And so the idea of «don’t worry, the adults are in charge. Don’t worry that we have a multi-polar world with the UN» is all just a joke. It’s all a sick joke, really. And so as long as we look for positive outcomes at this level. 

We’re going to be very sorely disappointed if we really care about the way the world is really working and as the facts are really laid out. So we have to look for the silver linings, the active resistance, the chinks in the wider image of of gloom, I’m afraid to say.

But I can end on a positive note and say that the Palestinians in Gaza are never going to give up. I mean, you may succeed to really traumatize people for generations by associating Gaza with a civilizational loss; «you’re not just going to lose your neighbors buildings and you’re going to lose the entire family». But now the level of trauma has been translated to be even deeper, that’s been established pretty well. But Palestinians are not going to give up because they have decided in their culture and in their approach to their dispossession and the occupation of their land, that they are going to manifest a spirit of resistance. And so it’s not about success. It’s not about when they get recognition of their rights. It’s about the  active resistance. It’s about holding on to the meaning. It’s about, brutally, tuning out some of the objective hopelessness and tuning up some of the subjective hope.

And that coping mechanism has obviously served the Palestinians very well over decades. Otherwise, why everyone would have just left Gaza a long time ago if they could have and they didn’t? I have friends who’ve moved back to Gaza, several friends who’ve moved back to Gaza because they would rather be in Gaza. Not now, but pre-October 7th, 8th. They’d rather go back to this besieged war zone because of the spirit of resistance to put it in one turn. And so I think there is a lesson for us more widely in that: it’s not about the objective hopelessness, it’s about the subjective hope and the spirit of resistance against the situation of glue.

– Thanks a lot Harry.

– You’re most welcome.

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