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Israel's Strategic Defeat and the Resurgence of the Palestinian Narrative

By Adham Abu Selmiya

April 16, 2024

46 Palestinians were killed, 65 were injured on Day 183 of the Israeli genocidal war on Gaza Strip, file, April 6, 2024

A Palestinian father crying and grieving the death of his children, who were killed by Israeli genocidal air strikes and bombardment on Gaza Strip, April 7, 2024


 Israel’s strategic defeat and the resurgence of the Palestinian narrative

In the early hours of 7 October, a day now engraved in the annals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the status quo was shattered. Much like the American experience in Vietnam, where the Tet Offensive marked a turning point, Israel finds itself in a peculiar quandary — it controls most of the Gaza Strip on the ground but falters in the war of narratives and moral standing. Following the killing of seven -mainly foreign – aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization and the subsequent call between Netanyahu and Biden, with the latter demanding an immediate halt to the war in Gaza and hinting at a change in the United States’ policy regarding the current situation, the most pressing question about Israel’s strategic loss in this war resurfaces: to what extent have the events of 7 October and their aftermath placed Israel in front of a new global reality where it is more exposed and isolated, while the Palestinian right is stronger and clearer?

Israel’s strategic defeat today is not about losing land, but about losing narrative and international legitimacy. Israel’s existence has been dependent on its ability to convince the international community, especially Western nations, of its right to establish a homeland on Palestinian land. This was pursued mainly in two ways:

The first was through immense propaganda, focusing on the notion that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and that establishing a homeland for Jews was the only means of protecting them as a race following the Holocaust.

The second path involved wielding the “anti-Semitism” accusation to stifle any criticism of Israel, prosecuting all those who reject its occupation under this guise. However, the reality following 7 October appears drastically different. In the face of horrific Israeli massacres and live broadcasts of killings, the Israeli narrative has lost its persuasiveness. Western countries are no longer able to deploy the anti-Semitism law against those who denounce genocide.

Western governments face extreme contradictions; on the one hand they seek to support Israel and ensure its survival, while on the other, they are witnessing their liberal Western values being put to a rigorous test.

Recent history, where various nations faced different forms of occupation, make it evident that victory in battle means little when the war for hearts and minds is lost. Similarly, despite its military strength, Israel stands at a crossroads, its image tarnished and its moral standing being questioned internationally. Western support for Israel has become timid, while polls in the United States indicate that the new generation is questioning Israel’s right to establish a homeland at the expense of the Palestinian people.

7 October was not just another day of conflict but a revelation of Israel’s vulnerabilities — both military and moral. With over 110,000 casualties, including 34,000 dead, predominantly women and children, the world’s gaze has turned critical. Israel, once seen as a group of Holocaust survivors seeking refuge and safety, now stands before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accused of committing genocide and atrocities that have drawn condemnation even from its staunch ally, the United States, which now finds itself unable to publicly defend its actions. America went as far as abstaining from voting or using its veto power at the Security Council to block calls for a ceasefire, which many in Israel see as “another strategic defeat” and a significant shift in international dynamics, reminiscent of the isolation faced by America during the latter stages of the Vietnam War.

Historically, Israel’s narrative was built on the promise of a safe haven for Jews, justified through narratives of suffering and survival. Yet, the events of 7 October and their aftermath have exposed a stark moral vacuum at the heart of Israel’s policies and military actions, bringing to mind once again the early days of the Palestinian Nakba 76 years ago, when Zionist gangs like the Haganah, Irgun, Lehi carried out operations of extermination and ethnic cleansing, forcing nearly a million Palestinians to flee their homes, while tens of thousands were killed and injured. But the irony is that those scenes took place away from the media, whereas the current extermination is witnessed and seen live by the world.

This also highlights the failure of the current Israeli path of overwhelming force in addressing the root issues of the conflict, marking another strategic defeat for Israel.

The echoes of the past resonate loudly, with instances like the battle of Algiers, where the French military’s victory couldn’t translate into a political win due to the moral and international implications of their actions. Israel finds itself in a similar predicament, where its tactical successes are overshadowed by the strategic blunders of failing to foresee the erosion of its moral high ground and the unity of global condemnation.

There is no evidence of a real change at the level of official international positions, but the reality six months after the Israeli war on Gaza is better for the Palestinian cause in the short and medium terms, and more difficult and complex for the Israeli decision-maker. The flow of international support for Palestine confirms that a global consensus against oppression is beginning to form under the pressure of the streets and the influences of activists and eye witnesses on social media platforms that have succeeded in breaking the stereotypical image in the Western media towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The widespread condemnation of Israel, alongside calls for a Palestinian state, reflect the shift in global attitudes towards the colonial and oppressive regime in Israel. The international community’s stance, once wavering, now firmly aligns with the principles of self-determination and human rights, signaling a significant shift in the narrative tide in favor of the Palestinian cause.

Israel’s strategic defeat is encapsulated not by the loss of a single battle but by the crumbling of its moral foundation and the narrative it has long disseminated. As in Vietnam, where the American spirit was broken not by defeat but by the realization of the moral implications of their actions, Israel stands at a crossroads. It must choose between continuing down a path of moral isolation or embracing a new chapter that acknowledges the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Both options seem beyond the readiness of the Israeli decision-maker after the surprise of 7 October. Continuing the war of extermination and ethnic cleansing will not be acceptable internationally with growing concern about the expansion of the conflict, and on the other hand, granting Palestinians their rights clashes with the desires of the extreme Israeli right, which controls decision-making circles.

For Palestinians, 7 October transcends direct hardships, pain and anger from Israeli massacres; it emerges as a defining moment where the balance of conflict tipped in their favor, representing a significant shift towards justice, self-determination and pushing the world to recognize their rights as a step on the path to the comprehensive liberation of Palestinian land.

-Adham Abu Selmiya is a Palestinian writer and activist. His article appeared in MEMO

Israel’s strategic defeat and the resurgence of the Palestinian narrative (






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