It can be difficult to consider or hypothesise about the long-term impact of what has been happening in Gaza, because the immediate situation is so pressing. The killing needs to stop. Last week, the Times of Israel reported that Eli Cohen, Israel’s foreign minister, estimated that there was a “diplomatic window” of two to three weeks until international pressure begins to really ramp up. He characterised the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza as a “central tool” in Israel’s bombardment of the strip and the murder of thousands of civilians. I felt bile rise in my stomach reading this report. The callousness is astounding. Every day, the cruelty and dehumanisation can be hard to take.
So to wax on about what this all means in broader terms, what the impact of this horrific chapter in 21st-century history will be, feels distant and academic. There are lives to be saved. But let’s just say, besides everything else – besides the war that’s not really a war but a horrific terrorist attack met a relentless bombardment, besides the propaganda, besides the European Union tying itself in knots, besides the US president being a right-on anti-colonialist when he steps foot in Ireland yet oversees gifts of weaponry to Israel, besides the incursions on the freedom of expression and assembly in multiple jurisdictions, besides the lies told by the cosplaying fascistic cartoon characters who call themselves Tories, besides the images of dead children killed by bombs, the shivering babies riddled with shock, the wailing in ICU units, besides the colour of this horror (grey; grey for dust; grey for concrete; grey for the shade between black and white; grey for rubble; grey for rockets; grey for shells; grey for the wheels of tanks; grey for the bomb-made clouds forming in slow motion on the skyline; grey for the pallor of death) – besides all that, there is something else happening.
What’s happening is a global movement of solidarity and peace that is operating in reality, and a political sphere of “leadership” that is operating in a denial of reality. So, what do we do with this? When I hear the words of many global leaders, it feels as though the room is tilting to fit their Orwellian remarks, and yet the truth slides down the walls. It cannot stick. Very clearly, many other people feel the same because they are anchored in reality. Many, many people – those marching, fundraising, refuting the propaganda, begging for the world to be anchored in the basic tenet of peace – are saying they have had enough. What is happening in Gaza, and how it was met by world leaders and governments compounding the dehumanisation of Palestinians by offering what amounted to a permission slip for a rolling massacre, will reverberate for a long, long time.
A key part of this is down to generational change. It feels ridiculous to talk about a global generation, but we can talk about a global online generation in some ways. This seemingly disparate, broad generation that represents a shift rather than a demographic, and moves from mid-to-late teens, into 20s and 30s, will be dealing with the extreme reality of the climate emergency in ways their parents will not. This is a broad, connected generation for whom capitalism is failing, across everything from housing to job security to student debt to the cost of living. This is a generation that protests. This is a generation that developed a critique of capitalism which is now totally mainstream. This is a generation that thinks about colonialism and imperialism – mainstream framing now. This is a generation honed by racial justice movements, reproductive rights movements, LGBTQ+ rights movements. This is a generation that understands more deeply the rights and oppression of indigenous people. This is a generation that is capable of connecting the dots between the climate crisis, capitalism, colonialism, state violence, human rights, freedom of expression and collapsing media narratives.
There is an urgency running through their discourse. There is a grounding of fundamentals; violence begets violence, you can’t bomb your way to peace, everyone deserves to live a free and safe life, structures of supremacy need to fall, we need new models of being, living, helping, thriving and of safety. , I’m not convinced many proponents of these ideals will be wasting their time arguing the points with those who scoff at such basic ideals. There’s more important stuff to be done. The idea of protest, for example, is not just about trying to change things externally, it’s about declaring one’s moral standard, and connecting with others who feel the same. When enough people do it, it creates an undeniable energy that inspires and reverberates.
In this current horror, there is a resonance around solidarity, care and a shared humanity that does matter and will matter. It can be hard to point to exact things that will effect – elections, for example – but the reality that many people have totally lost trust in the actions of their governments on Gaza, and are appalled by Israel’s actions and the attitudes of their far-right politicians, will, very obviously, change things. How and where that change continues to manifest is anyone’s guess.