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How do ordinary Palestinians view the Iranian attack on Israel?

April 18, 2024 at 4:18 pm

Missiles are seen in the skies of Gaza City following the attack from Iran, in Gaza on April 14, 2024 [Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu Agency]

On the night of 14 April, Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel after it vowed to avenge the bloody attack on its Consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The Iranian attack is the first direct attack against Israel from Iranian territory.

The Iranian attack coincided not only with the ongoing bloody Israeli war on the Gaza Strip which has been going on for more than six months, but also with the height of the settlers’ attacks on the Palestinian villages located between the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus. Hundreds of terrorist Israeli settlers, protected by the Israeli army, attacked the Palestinian villages on 13 and 14 April, where they killed and injured dozens of Palestinians, burned dozens of homes and vehicles and blocked the main road linking the West Bank cities of Nablus and Ramallah, hindering the movement of Palestinians.

The Iranian attack brings to mind the missiles launched by Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, at Israel in early 1991 during the First Gulf War. But, in contrast to the near-unanimous support for the missiles of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein more than three decades ago, despite their limited impact, the Palestinians were divided in their view of the Iranian attack on Israel. Part of them saw the attack as a real and unprecedented act of support of the Palestinian people while others saw it as just a farce, nothing more than an agreed-upon show between Iran and Israel.

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This difference in opinion among the Palestinians reflects the political division between those who support the so-called “resistance axis” led by Iran and its Palestinian allies, mainly the Hamas Movement and the Palestinian left parties, and the so-called Arab “moderation axis” which is led by some Arab countries and expressed by the official position of the Palestinian Authority. Followers of the first position celebrated the attack, as they see it as of great practical support for the Palestinian Resistance, especially since it was launched, for the first time, from the Iranian territory. In their eyes, it justifies the great political and symbolic implications that confirm that the Palestinians are not alone in this battle against the Israeli Occupation. This Iranian response is considered the only military action carried out by any country against Israel since its aggression against Gaza. Supporters of this opinion say that even if these Iranian missiles do not cause real and significant harm to Israel, they deter the Jewish state and send a big message that resistance is the only way to liberate Palestine and achieve freedom. They believe that Iran is much better than most of the Arab countries which did not prevent the Israeli genocide in Gaza and did not even punish Israel politically, but rather contributed to shooting down Iranian missiles and drones heading towards Israel.

On the other hand, the other camp believes that the Iranian strikes were part of an agreed-upon scenario between Israel and Iran. It believes that Iran is not a real enemy of Israel, but rather serves Israel’s interests as a justification and “scarecrow” to intimidate the Arabs. This has the supposed purpose of dominating the Arab world and protecting it from the “Persian and Shia” influence and expansionism. This attack is also seen as just a show aimed at winning over the Palestinian and Islamic public opinion by portraying Iran as a strong and hostile rival of Israel. Supporters of this opinion believe that the path to liberating Palestine does not pass through Iran, but through a political process that leads to the establishment of the Palestinian State, gaining freedom in cooperation with our Arab brothers, Western friends and the United States, in particular.

Although the two declared positions mentioned above represent the two sides of the Palestinian political division that has existed for nearly two decades, the silent majority of the Palestinian people does not support either camp. The overwhelming majority of Palestinians do not see themselves as a party to this political tension. Rather, they see it as a futile argument. What really matters to them is stopping the Israeli aggression, achieving freedom and ending the Occupation. They support any party that achieves this goal or brings them closer to it.

It is true that Palestinians, as a whole, stayed up late into the night to watch the Iranian missiles and a large part of them celebrated their arrival and felt – even if only for a moment – the joy and hope of liberation they have long been waiting for. This spontaneous position is a natural reaction to celebrating any real and visible action against the Occupying State, which has always subjected them to bitter suffering and torment, which is ongoing. It is especially felt since these attacks came at the height of the Israeli war against the Palestinian people in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

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At the time when the Iranian missiles crossed the sky of the West Bank, they passed over the Israeli settlements perched upon the chests of the Palestinian people. Perhaps these missiles were able to detect the smoke rising from the homes that the settlers burned during that long night in the villages of Al-Mughayir, Turmusaya, Al-Sawiya, Qusra, Aqraba, Beteen, Silwad and others. Some Iranian missiles succeeded in reaching their goals behind the repugnant apartheid wall that Israel built on Palestinian lands to prevent them from entering their stolen homeland that they had always dreamed of. While Iranian missiles flew in the sky of the occupied city of Jerusalem, Palestinians were unable to reach their holy city and their promised capital. They were not allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque during the fasting month of Ramadan, which passed a few days ago, and they certainly will not be able to reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Easter expected a few days later.

For the ordinary Palestinians, perhaps the most prominent and direct impact of the momentary Iranian attack was that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stopped in the few minutes that the Iranian missiles passed through the sky of Palestine. It forced the settlers, who were at the height of their attack on Palestinian villages, burning homes, to rush to shelters immediately upon hearing sirens blaring in their settlements. Also, the missiles that crossed the atmosphere of the West Bank, watched by the Palestinians from their rooftops, made them forget – for a few minutes – their suffering on the ground when their eyes turned with joy to the sky as if they were watching a fireworks display.

At the same time, Palestinians suffering from the aggressive Israeli war, which is the fiercest of the current century, are watching with astonishment the Western countries, led by the United States and even some Arab countries, defend Israel. These countries repelled Iranian missiles and drones, and shot down most of them before they reached their goals deep inside Israel. They also provide political, economic and military support to Israel in the face of what they describe as “Iranian aggression”, while they have been ignoring the Israeli aggression against Gaza for more than six months.

Palestinians do not understand how the West can justify this strange paradox of rushing to the rescue of a country that has the largest military arsenal in the region and is currently engaged in the genocide of another people. They volunteer to fight for Israel, and provide it with the necessary weapons and funds, but are unable to pressure it to allow medical aid and food into the besieged Gaza Strip, let alone to stop the aggression. How can Arab countries dare to justify participating in repelling Iranian attacks against Israel, while these countries do nothing to repel the Israeli missiles being dropped on the Palestinian people over the past six months?

The defenceless Palestinian people feel that they are orphans and left alone in the face of the most powerful military power in the region, supported by the first military power in the world. While the Arab brothers abandoned their oppressed brothers in order to ensure their interests and save themselves, the West mobilised to defend its ally, the real aggressor. Only the countries of the South, such as Nicaragua and South Africa, in addition to the free peoples of the world, represent the only hope left for the Palestinian people to regain their rights to freedom and dignity.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.