Gaza as a Paradigm

Today, the paradigm that sheds a sheen of light on our shared political present carries the name of “Gaza.”

Human rights was a lie. Free speech was a lie. 

Democracy was a lie. We live in a time of monsters.

George Galloway

In times of historical upheaval, single events sometimes gain the status of a paradigm. Without ceasing to be part of history, they begin to function at the same time as a model for understanding other events and even the entire historical process. They reveal the conditions of possibility that mark the horizon of the present, and subsequently become a tool for understanding and explaining the past. 

Giorgio Agamben, presenting the thesis that the camp is the paradigm for understanding modernity – and its hidden biopolitical matrix – tried to define this paradigmatic element not according to the internal rules of its functioning, but from the side of its historical and political conditions of possibility. “Instead of deducing the definition of the camp from the events that took place there, we will ask: What is a camp, what is its juridico-political structure, that such event could take place there? This will lead us to regard the camp not as a historical fact and an anomaly belonging to the past (even if still verifiable) but in some way as the hidden matrix and nomos of the political space in which we are still living”[1] – he wrote.

Turning a historical fact into a paradigm also changes its functioning in language. The names of these particular events cease to refer only to the specific context of their occurrence, and begin to function as the proper names of history, themselves transformed into a context for its study. This was the case with Auschwitz, Yalta or Sarajevo. It is not necessary to explain to anyone what these names mean, and at the same time their semantic scope is remarkably expanded and radiates sometimes to entire epochs. Paradigmatic events help make history comprehensible even though sometimes they also lock it up in inevitable simplifications. That is why ideological clashes over the past always start and finish on the battlefield of those paradigmatic names.

Today, the paradigm that sheds a sheen of light on our shared political present carries the name of “Gaza.”

The Paradigm of Despair

Gaza is first and foremost a figure encapsulating in its name the grim and tragic fate of the inhabitants of one of the most densely populated areas in the world. More than two million people live there trapped, bombarded by the Israeli military for a month, cut off from supplies of fuel, food, drinkable water. Every day, entire families disappear from the face of the earth, sometimes leaving their individual members mired in grief that is difficult to imagine and disturbed by yet another atrocity. In one month, Israel killed more children in Gaza than are killed annually in all conflicts around the world. At the same time, more civilians have died under the rubble of bombs than in more than a year and a half of war in Ukraine. 

Gaza is thus the name of something that can lead to the ultimate loss of hope. Indeed, the residents of the place are caught in a deadlock. If they stay, they will be doomed to further genocidal attacks. At the same time, they cannot leave the territory, because for years it has been under a blockade by Israel, which controls not only the movement of the population, but also almost entirely controls the supply of vital goods. Besides, Palestinians do not want to leave it, as they consider it their native land. They know that if Israel moves them away there will be no turning back. This is their historical experience since 1948. When Gazans protested peacefully against their fate – as in 2018, when they organized the Great March of Return – they die under the bullets of snipers, who killed more than two hundred people then and wounded – thirty-six thousand! When the people of Gaza – or rather, a part of them – take up arms against the illegal occupation, as international treaties give them the right to do, the repression is even more ruthless. The Hamas attack on October 7 can be understood as the eruption of this vicious circle of violence. It is a brutality in which decades of humiliation accumulate, returning to Israeli society and its innocent victims with full ruthlessness.

When one looks at the world’s reactions to the event, one is struck by the repetition of one motive. It felt doubtless that the Israeli military’s response would consist of another armed assault on Gaza, as if this kind of automatism of violence constituted business as usual. It is this seemingly obvious conclusion that is worth dwelling on, because it shows the secretive rules that have prevailed in this conflict for years. Israeli politicians stress the unprecedented nature of the October 7 massacre, even comparing it to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. These statements, however, miss the fact that the exact opposite is true. Israeli response to the Hamas attack is strictly “precedented”. Insofar as precedent means in law a judgment preceding a given proceeding, outlining the general framework of a pending trial, it can be said that everything that is happening today in Gaza precedes a death sentence against the Palestinians that was previously issued, and today is even repeated with pride by many Israeli politicians.  And based on it, the Israeli army has been operating for decades not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. No matter what the Palestinians do, they will be subjected to a policy that Ilan Pappé called “incremental genocide”[2], a genocide spread out over time. Today in Gaza, that time has simply condensed.

The Paradigm of Occupation

Gazans are residents without citizenship, citizens without rights. When one looks at the role in which they appear in the statements of Israeli politicians, one gets the impression that they are an entity of something ephemeral, expendable. Actually, they don’t exist, because according to the words of President Herzog, “there is no such thing as civilians in Gaza,” if they do exist, it’s only as a tool, human shields used by terrorists., an accessory to Hamas. This kind of construction primarily betrays the hidden beliefs and prejudices of the authors of these statements, who seem to believe that they are dealing, in the words of the Israeli defense minister, with “human animals.”[3] According to this logic, Gazans do not and cannot have political agency – which would require granting them the right to their own state – but they can be held responsible for supporting Hamas. In this way, every time Israeli politicians say “Hamas” they mean all Palestinians, to whom they apply the strictly criminal rule of collective responsibility, but as soon as someone demands justice for civilians, then they switch back to Hamas creating both a perfect pretext for mass murder and a rhetorical ploy to exonerate its perpetrators from responsibility.

            If one were to seriously read the Israeli government’s intentions from these statements, one would have to conclude that Palestinians should become refugees among refugees, and in a double sense. First, because they themselves are already mostly refugees, descendants of people displaced from their homes in 1948. Now they should be exiled once again, and preferably go to Sinai, where they will lead a life as biopolitical hostages of humanitarian aid. This latest plan to displace their neighbors into the desert dreamed up by politicians constantly referring to the Bible has the additional symptomatic aspect of making the Palestinians a kind of chosen people à rebours. Secondly, however, within the Diaspora itself, they are not allowed to remember where they came from, since Palestine as a political entity is a taboo subject for Israel’s contemporary political consciousness.

            Gaza today shows that Palestine can only act as a ghost state that exists only to disappear, and when it disappears it must erase all traces of its past existence. As Giora Eiland of the National Institute for Security Studies in Israel stated, “Gaza will become a place where no human being can live, and I see this as a means rather than an end.”[4] But these kinds of statements, and there are unfortunately more of them, reveal not only a future plan for the people of Gaza, but also a historical matrix of behavior toward the Palestinians. After all, the ideal scenario from the point of view of Zionist ideology, the realization of which is being heralded by Israeli bulldozers already operating in Gaza, is to recognize that Palestine was terra nullius, which was only civilized by settlers from Europe. This is a pattern of colonial thinking, whose political complement must be, and is, the decades-long apartheid regime.

            What does the ongoing Gaza massacre change? The masks, that for years acted as a smokescreen for apartheid policies, are falling. Today, members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government openly admit to it. He himself, in a speech on October 28, compared Hamas to the biblical Amalekites, about whom one can read in the 1st Book of Samuel: “’Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” Until now, calling policies toward the Palestinians apartheid was the domain of Israel’s external or internal critics and the conclusion of humanitarian reports, which politicians on the ground denied. Today they openly admit their genocidal intentions without betraying any sense of shame.

            The light shed retrospectively by today’s events in Gaza reveals the entire history of the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” as a masquerade in which diplomatic rhetoric and the pretense of a political process concealed the brutal truth of the desire to cleanse Palestine of all Palestinians, especially those who feel any attachment to the state autonomy. What is happening now in the West Bank, where non-Jewish residents are being terrorized and displaced despite the absence of a threat from Hamas, is another example. Also, this brutal repression is surrounded by the collusion of Western politicians, who have only empty words hiding their full agreement and willing complicity with Israeli policy.[5]

The Paradigm of Forever War

            Today’s Gaza massacre and all that is going on around it also provides a better understanding of the real stakes of the war in Ukraine. This is because the Western mainstream media is using exactly the same script they used after February 24, 2022. Anyone who is disturbed by the mass killing of civilians is surely a Hamas supporter, just as moments ago – when the spotlights aimed at our eastern neighbors were not turned off – anyone who did not feel the lofty historical mission of the Ukrainian army fighting eastern barbarism must have been a Putin lover.

            Observing this automatism governing mainstream media coverage, it is hard not to wonder if it is possible that CNN or AP were telling the truth about the war in Ukraine, when here they can engage in such clumsy propaganda. In Poland, some circles, however, have stood up for freedom of speech and journalistic standards, observing the daily misrepresentation and disinformation by the corporate media. Interestingly, there is still no willingness to uphold the same values when it comes to reporting on Ukraine and Russia. Meanwhile, it seems that the bias of the Polish press with regard to the conflict across the eastern border is still unmatched even by echoes of hasbara. Perhaps we are too close to it to afford any objectivity or uphold the standards we are eager to demand immediately with regard to events on another continent.

Especially on the part of the Left, there is a need to look for analogies between the two conflicts, which seems to indicate the limitations of paradigmatic thinking, for which analogy is a natural tool for organizing the world. I consider it pure fantasy to equate the fate of Palestine with Ukraine, a fantasy that falsifies reality and introduces the moralizing characteristic of our current public debate in place of real alliances, dependencies and affiliations. Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelensky has never made a secret of the fact that the model for Ukraine’s future development for him is Israel, which also seems to be confirmed by the geopolitical puzzle of the two conflicts.[6] Indeed, Ukraine is an Eastern European Israel in the sense that just as Israel is needed by the U.S. to destabilize the Middle East (led by Iran), Ukraine is needed to destabilize Russia (and hold Europe in check). That is why US politicians fund the armies of both countries abundantly and provide them with political and diplomatic immunity. Their insensitivity to the plight of the Palestinians of Gaza proves best that in Ukraine they are not fighting Putin because he is an autocrat, but because he is an autocrat they cannot control. The morality of his behavior is completely irrelevant here just as irrelevant to the alliance with Israel will be each additional hundred civilians slaughtered in Gaza.

Speaking of analogies, it is also worth noting that in both cases the US uses the citizens of both these allied countries as hostages. And just as Ukrainians are dying by the thousands in vain because the U.S. is not interested in diplomacy with Russia,[7] so too may Israelis become victims of their government’s international allies in the near future. As Jaroslaw Pietrzak recently wrote, Europeans will pay their price for both disasters.[8] By the way, you can already arm your attention for the upcoming US war with China, the flashpoint of which will be Taiwan or the Philippines. We will probably observe yet another repeat of the war spectacle, and maybe then – at least in our country, because it is really far away – we will finally, or too late, be able to see through it.

The Paradigm of Zombie

            Gaza should also be a name that signifies the ultimate discrediting of Western countries as a bloc that in any way represents the ideals of democracy and human rights. The European Union and the United States will not stop talking about themselves this way, but I really do not know who they want to convince any longer. Here, however, there is a problem that perhaps the drastic nature of the Palestinian plight will better illuminate. Well, talking about the collapse of the West would make any sense if this West had not already scored similar collapses in the past. Meanwhile, as far as the eye can see, its history is a string of such debacles. And this in no way changes either the pretensions of Western politicians to represent the better part of humanity, or their reflexive lecturing of everyone around them on ethics and democracy. One could even say that the impression of collapse is only possible from the perspective of the earlier rhetorical ascent, that is, the West’s discourse on its own. In other words, we pass “decline” only in our own eyes; externally, no one has had any illusions about us for a long time.

            It is time to admit openly that politically the West today simply resembles a zombie, which is alive and functioning despite the fact that its demise has been repeatedly recorded. When we look at the Europe represented by Ursula von der Leyen or Olaf Scholz, it is hard not to get the impression that we are moving among living fossils whose political skills are comparable to those of mummies locked in museum display cases. What deeper conclusion can be drawn from the fact that countries in our part of the world have already entered the condition of being impossible to discredit anymore? What does this undiscreditability of the West indicate? I am afraid George Galloway, one of Britain’s more brilliant politicians and commentators, is right when he states that “we live in a time of monsters.” Perhaps instead of pointing out politicians’ lies and hypocrisy, we need to start building shelters. We are on our own and nothing will change that now.

The Paradigm of Politicide

            The situation in the Middle East also reveals a deep crisis in politics itself, which has virtually disappeared from view. One is reminded of the notion of “politicide” coined by Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, author of the famous statement, now recalled by some, that Gaza is “the largest concentration camp that ever existed.”[9] Killing politics means ruling out in advance any prospect of a nonviolent solution to the conflicts, which again characterizes not only Israel’s current response to the events of October 7th, but its deep attitude toward the issue, as evidenced by the method of “facts on the ground” by which the state has torpedoed the possibility of a two-state solution for years. In this perspective, the Palestinians are an object of biopolitical operations, not a discussion partner or even a political rival.

            The twilight of politics, however, concerns not only Gaza itself, but through it shows the condition of our times the entire modern era. First, there is a complete discrediting of international law and the institutions that represent it. It turns out that realists of the type of John Maersheimer, who proclaimed that in the final analysis “might is right”, were right. This means that under the protection of the U.S. and its own military force, Israel can virtually drive a million people out of their homes overnight and face absolutely no diplomatic affront for doing so. The actions of some countries breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel or recalling its ambassadors are only very few exceptions that confirm the rule. So is the interesting trend of returning to the UN as a platform for building possible international cooperation. Still, a veto by one of the permanent members of the Security Council and the power of military blackmail will be stronger than any attempt to normalize the situation politically.

            Secondly, there is a decline in diplomacy, especially in the West. The United States, at its own request and led by the vanity induced by its power, simply has no interest in diplomacy and thus voluntarily turns itself into a large warehouse of weapons supplied to selected participants in conflicts that they fomented themselves in the past. For the war in Ukraine, the U.S. only adds the fuel to the fire and limits its diplomacy to photo ops with Zelensky and torpedoing any peace negotiations with Russia. In the case of Palestine, U.S. politicians repeat like a jammed record that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” which, given the extent of their reliance on arms industry sponsorship, should rather be translated as “we have the right to make money from this war as well.”

            It is worth noting in passing that the fate of Europe today – and this is the third aspect of the assassination of politics – is also marked by the quiet but profound and perhaps irreversible collapse of the public sphere. The space of the mainstream media is already basically an official “psychological operation” (psy-op), in which the security services model our heads according to the requirements of the current stage of the information war. Double standards in reporting on war events have reached such intensity in Gaza that they have become almost comical.  For those who are still unable to tap into collectively generated emotions, there is still a range of old and new forms of repression and censorship. Here, perhaps still, the most momentous gesture was to cut off Europeans’ access to RT channels as if watching a television station would be equivalent to supporting its principals. Western corporations should be deeply concerned about this decision, because once this equation is cemented in their audiences, they themselves could fall victim to it. But the very fact that, in supposedly democratic societies, officials have top-down decided what the people of the continent should think about a certain subject is very telling.

            Today, organizations supporting the Palestinians, as well as a number of independent journalists scattered across Youtube or Twitter feeds, are experiencing first-hand that talk of freedom of speech has now become little more than a trumped-up joke. And the criminalization of certain phrases such as Free Palestine or the (so far ineffective) ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France or Germany mark the direction towards which the Old Continent is moving inexorably. And in this metaphorical sense, when our rights are no longer upheld by international institutions, our political representatives, or even access to democratic public space, we all slowly begin to turn into Palestinians.

The Paradigm of Historical Disaster

Many today wonder why exactly the fate of Gaza generates such widespread interest around the world. Why has no one taken a similar interest in the civil war in Yemen or Ethiopia? It is hard not to see in these opinions an attempt to divert attention from an uncomfortable topic. The uneven distribution of attention certainly also echoes the widespread ignorance on international affairs that we all, as children raised by the systematic psy-ops of our media, share to some extent. There are also individual and collective inclinations that cannot be helped, since everyone is more concerned with what concerns him – literally or metaphorically – more directly.

But there is something more. For in Palestine, two great historical formations meet and intersect, two great historical paradigms, whose coexistence, as it turns out, creates a series of tragic collisions rather than a constellation of a new international order based on peace. These are, of course, the Holocaust and colonization. The heir to one line is Israel, the heir to the other is Palestine. Only that both are reviewing each other’s histories and competing with each other for their primacy by taking part in a curious historical psychomachy. Since the State of Israel, as its official doctrine proclaims, was created to give refuge to a people who were victims of such a horrible crime as the genocide of European Jewry by Nazi Germany, its right to exist cannot be denied. However, since, as Palestinians claim, it was created as a colonial project out of hand depriving millions of indigenous Palestinians of their rights to their own land, its existence is not an absolute, and may even be a formation that should be abolished as soon as possible. Palestinians who recognize themselves as victims of Nakba, thus live alongside Israelis who recognize themselves as descendants of victims of the Shoah. On the other hand, if Israel means the possibility of a safe asylum for Jews in the world, will not the struggle for the liberation of Palestine always appear in the minds of at least a sizable portion of this society as a prelude to another extermination?

This knot of historical catastrophes has another important drive that perhaps accounts for the conflict’s “popularity” around the world. The point is that Shoah and colonialism represent two of the most shameful elements of European history, two unresolved and never fully repaired guilt. And Europe seems to have only one solution to this: displacing the problem. In this perspective, the creation of Israel, described as an expression of a “Never Again” policy, actually marked the beginning of one that should be described as “Never Again For Us.” The Nazis’ extermination practices ultimately constituted, as many authors led by Hannah Arendt argue, a transfer of the methods used in the colonies to the interior of the European continent. After the Shoah, the response of the European colonial authorities (i.e., Britain) was to establish a new colonial state in Palestine as if in this way it could exorcise the nightmare of the recent war and Europe’s responsibility for the fate of the Jews. 

Today, with genocide taking place on the fringes of the Old Continent, will the mechanisms of colonial violence have to return to their source again, and will Europeans once again be the victims? One can forecast such a dark scenario as well. The turning of violence inward is already observed in Israel itself,[10] where repression is meted out to all opponents of the government. In Europe, which has completely lost its legitimacy, only violence can keep the population in check. In this sense, Gaza is the paradigm and laboratory for a new stage of European fascism, which will come to us not from outside or from the margins, but from the very core of what American politicians, representing yet another country sitting on a post-colonial time bomb, call “rules-based order” and all the prestigious institutions that seemed to guard us against its return. The dark future facing us, unfortunately, means something quite different: the suspension of all the rules to which our political world supposedly adhered. Since even the semblance of this order is already collapsing – and the rhetoric of Israeli politicians shows that they no longer care about preserving it – this means that in a short while anything can be done to us and no one will call it out for what it is. Look at Gaza today and weep, because you may be looking at your near future and this is “the last call” to weep over it as well.

[1] Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Translated by D. Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, Stanford 1998, p. 166.

[2] Ilan Pappé, Ten Myths About Israel, Verso Books, London & New York 2017, ebook version.

[3] Emanuel Fabian, Defense minister announces ‚complete siege’ of Gaza: no power, no food or fuel’, accessed November 11th 2023.

[4] Giora Eiland, It’s Time to Rip Off the Hamas Band-Aid, accessed Movember 11th 2023.

[5] See Rashid Khalili, The U.S. Should Think Twice About Israel’s Plan for Gaza, „New York Times”, 15 października 2023,, accessed November 11th 2023.

[6] Daniel B. Shapiro, Zelensky wants Ukraine to be ‚a big Israel’. Here’s a road map, accessed November 11th 2023.

[7] See, accessed November 11th 2023. I refer to my other text on the blog: Kto nie chciał pokoju w Ukrainie [Who Did not Want Peace in Ukraine],, accessed March 3rd 2024

[8] See Jarosław Pietrzak, Europa znowu zapłaci, accessed November 11th 2023.

[9] Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians, Verso Book, London & New York 2020, s. 169.

[10] See Isaac KD, Ronit Kory, Oren Schweitzer, Israel Is Cracking Down on Internal Dissent, accessed November 11th 2023.

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