Blog post

Standing with the Palestinian resistance: A response to Matan Kaminer

Continuing the debate sparked by his essay, 'The Destruction of Palestine is the Destruction of the Earth', Andreas Malm responds to Matan Kaminer's recent critique of his position on supporting the Palestinian resistance.

Andreas Malm28 May 2024

Standing with the Palestinian resistance: A response to Matan Kaminer

Image credit: White phosphorus #3, Acrylic on Canvas, by Rafat Asad. Rafat is a Palestinian artist based in Ramallah.


I appreciate Matan Kaminer’s comradely critique of my essay, ‘The Destruction of Palestine Is the Destruction of the Earth’. He has no quibbles with the historical analysis presented there, but a few with the support for the Palestinian resistance, which, admittedly, was only roughly sketched. In the spirit of comradely critique, I shall here respond to his objections, and take the opportunity to elaborate on a few points. But let me begin with some first principles and personal points of departure.


If people identify as Marxists, what ought they to do if they were in Gaza? They ought to join Marxists fighting on the ground there. And if they are unable to enter the besieged and destroyed and occupied and burning ghetto? Then they should stand in solidarity with their comrades inside. These are not entirely hypothetical matters. It so happens that there are Marxists fighting on the ground, namely the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP): from the earliest morning hours of Toufan al-Aqsa to the battles raging yesterday, they have participated in the guerilla war against the genocidal occupation. They have conquered towers, taken prisoners, fired rockets, laid ambushes, shot down drones, blown up tanks, confronted soldiers in close combat in the alleys of the refugee camps and retreated into the tunnels and persevered throughout all these months of unfathomable horror. They have lost fighters, cadres, elected representatives in action and in targeted bombings of civilian homes.

The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of the PFLP have been active from mukhayam Jenin to mukhayam Jabaliya, Ramallah to Rafah. But a remarkable aspect of Toufan al-Aqsa has been the rise of the Omar al-Qassem Forces of the DFLP: we don’t have reliable statistics, but the stream of resistance operation reports suggests that they have vied for third place among the armed forces in Gaza. If these two Marxist guerillas are grouped together – and if the al-Asifah Forces and the Jihad Jibril Brigades are added to their mix – the left bloc would make up the second largest on the ground, after the bloc consisting of the Izz el-Din Qassam Brigades of Hamas and the al-Quds Brigades of Jihad. And – of course, self-evidently, naturally – all of these factions fight together. They fire rockets in shared operations and coordinate manoeuvres and slip back into the same underground bases. This is as it should be. There is a time for sharp debates about what a liberated Palestine should look like. There is a time for unity in action. If ever there was a time for the latter, that time is now: and the resistance has indeed been perfectly united from day one into the ongoing eighth month.

How shall we assess the presence of the left here? Kaminer laments ‘the fact that the resistance is not being led by a secular, democratic force such as the PFLP’. This is true, of course. The resistance has never been led by the PFLP or the DFLP; these have always been the left currents of the movement. Granted, the PFLP is, for a number of reasons, far weaker today than it was during the golden age of armed struggle in the diaspora, 1968–73, and the heydays of the first intifada, 1988–90. But even at these points, Fateh was the dominant force. Today it is Hamas and Jihad. The weakness of the left compared to its older peaks can hardly be a reason not to stand in solidarity with its struggle. ‘No reader of the Verso Blog needs yet another reminder of the cataclysmic defeat the left has suffered across the globe since the 1970s; but there it is, yet again, in all its depressing ugliness.’ Well, this video gives a glimpse of the strength and beauty of the PFLP in Gaza one year before Toufan al-Aqsa.

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Precisely the dismal status of the left across the globe should make us value this one all the more. Here we have it, an actual organised left, present on the frontlines of the central battle against empire in this historical moment. One could compare with the fate of the left in Iran or Egypt: neither the Fedaiyan e-Khalq nor the Revolutionary Socialists exist any longer (and not because the tyrannies they fought have vanished). That should be extra reason to appreciate this exception to the rule. But the left in the global North has followed events since October 7 by paying little if any attention to the left that is there – as if it forgot about the PFLP and the DFLP once the Oslo accords were signed, or became so used to the idea that progressive forces no longer wage armed struggle that it doesn’t care about those that do. I find this annoying. The least any honourable Marxist can do at home is to follow the steady stream of communiques and analyses from the two Fronts, through, for instance, the Resistance News Network, the invaluable Telegram channel – to pick just one, here is Jamil Mezher, deputy general secretary of the PFLP, on May 12:


The Palestinian resistance in Gaza, with its military wings, is engaging in the greatest epic of this modern era. Despite its modest means, its joint operations in the field and surprise tactics have managed to defeat the strongest military force in the region, heavily armed with all types of American-made weapons, and permanently undermine its deterrence and military superiority. The Zionist entity has failed in marketing its colonial project and its claim as the only democratic state in the East, revealing its racist identity and ugly face to the entire world during the eight months of the Al-Aqsa Flood battle. We witnessed the victory of the Palestinian right, the historical narrative, and the legitimacy of our resistance.


Don’t fall for the luxury of ignoring or sneering at this left. I advise comrades to tune in to it – not as part of a ‘rushing to proclaim that we “stand with the resistance”’ (Kaminer), but as part of a commitment forged long ago and enduring until the day of victory or defeat. This is a matter of muqawama wa thawra haya al-tahrir wa al-awda, as in the headline of the latest edition of The New York War Crimes, the newspaper produced by the Palestine solidarity movement in this city. Or, generation after generation until total liberation – no rushing, no trendy fashion: a covenant for the ages.

Allow me to insert a personal note here. Since I first travelled and lived in occupied Palestine in the late 1990s and established contact with it, the PFLP has always been my favourite faction. For me, solidarity with the Palestinian resistance in general and its left in particular began long before October 7 and will continue long after; it is my deepest political conviction (alongside maybe two or three others). I wrote my first book (in Swedish) in 2002, based on my experiences during the month of April of that year. An American comrade and myself happened to be the first outsiders to enter mukhayam Jenin while the battle was still raging. We moved among the decomposed corpses, the pulverised buildings, the refugees who had their camp destroyed on top of their heads: the Palestinian ur-scene, eternally extrapolated on ever-larger scales, today in Jenin again – this endlessly tortured camp – but to an incomparably greater extent in Gaza. We tried to do what little we could to get some aid in. We also stumbled upon the severely wounded third leader of Jihad in his hiding place and brought him out for medical treatment. Sometimes I think that is the single most meaningful act I have performed in the realm of politics: obviously the life of a Jihad leader in mukhayam Jenin is worth more than one thousand texts. This is where I come from; this is who I am; climate, for me, came later. One reason I was so struck by that problem was that it appeared to me as a planetary version of the nakba. Here it is not one homeland that is being destroyed, but an entire liveable planet. It was something of this fractal pattern I sought to capture in my essay.

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So, personally, I came to climate through Palestine, and if I have sometimes called for the climate struggle to get real and militant, it is because Palestinians taught me the meaning of resistance. This emphatically does not mean that the climate movement should copy the tactics of the armed struggle – firing rockets or sniping soldiers or any other kind of targeting of human bodies – for a host of manifest reasons, one of them being that fossil capital is not a settler-colonial project. But there is one thing that should be emulated, and that is the spirit of resistance, the readiness to fight as though ones existential dignity hinges on it. If that spirit could be mobilised for a homeland, it should, one would think, also be possible to have something like it for the Earth. In any case, I have come to think that the meaning of life is to never give up – no matter if it’s too late to prevent catastrophe; no matter how many disasters pile up; no matter how overwhelmingly powerful the enemy is. And there is no force in the world today that practises this meaning like the Palestinian resistance.

If I lived in Gaza, I would, I imagine, be a long-standing member of the PFLP. (If I were a woman, I would have joined the women’s brigades of the DFLP). I imagine that if Marxists were able to enter Gaza, some would have gone there and enlisted with either Front, much like some went to Rojava to fight Daesh. Again, this is not an entirely hypothetical matter. I know of comrades who have tried to make it into Gaza, in the best tradition of internationalism, to join the struggle. Suffice it to say that the way the Sisi regime collaborates in the destruction of Gaza makes it impossible for volunteers to enter. Had these comrades succeeded, they would, of course, have stood shoulder to shoulder with fighters from al-Qassam and al-Quds and accepted their tactical leadership on the battlefield. What could be the objections to that?


Kaminer takes the climate connection as seriously as it should be taken and retorts that the resistance is itself soaked in fossil fuels, if only indirectly, via Iran and Qatar. He is right, in a manner of speaking. The ruling class of Iran is utterly based on profits from constantly expanded oil and gas extraction (I have written about this here and here). Qatar presents the same picture. Should we therefore part with the resistance, on climate grounds? Marxists tend to be fond of historical analogies, and I too shall fall for the temptation: consider the case of the Holocaust. It was a genocide executed by means of coal, by a Nazi regime in love with every fossil-fuelled machine of domination, as we argue in White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism. The destruction of the European Jews was also a moment in the destruction of the Earth. Complicating things, however, is the circumstance that the Third Reich was crushed by the Soviet Union, partly because the Stalinist regime had so much more oil and fossil-fuelled machinery at its disposal. It also deployed and supported partisans across Europe during the war. Here, fossil fuels were mobilised for survival and liberation. This does not diminish the radiative forcing of the allied emissions – nor the severity of the post-war boom in fossil fuel production in both East and West – but I don’t think we can really regret this mobilisation.

Put it this way: because all modern economies have been totally predicated on fossil fuels, even a few good things that have happened in modern history have been sullied with them. We should be thankful for the Stalinist regime using its reserves the way it did between 1941 and 1945. We should also be grateful for the support it gave, from its fossil-fuelled pockets, to the National Liberation Front (NLF and the African National Congress (ANC) and the PFLP and the other anti-colonial liberation movements of the Cold War era, even as it maintained its suffocating and sclerotic tyranny at home. Mutatis mutandis, I don’t see how we could wish for the funding of the resistance to be severed. I would rather have oil profits from the Middle East being recycled into it or into al-Jazeera – that single source of sustained sanity in the global media landscape: how would we live without it? – than into the IDF or the Sisi regime.

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Which is not to say, of course, that fossil fuel production in Iran or Qatar can go on longer than anywhere else. All of it must stop. If a Palestinian state were to ever become a reality, extraction of the gas in its waters would have to be ended too. But yes, as Kaminer points out, there is no reason to believe that Hamas – or the PFLP or the DFLP or any other Palestinian faction – would, in its current iteration, elect to forego that source of revenue. Before the bombing began in October, Gaza was probably the part of the world most fully dependent on solar-power, but this was a function of it being denied access to other sources of electricity; any Gazan would jump at the opportunity to burn gas or coal. The government of the Strip has no visible climate policy.

This is part of the tragedy: it is easy to demonstrate that the destruction of the Earth is bound up with various localised forms of destruction, but much harder to point to movements that rise up against the former. The Palestinian resistance is evidently not a climate movement. Similarly, one could show that the destruction of Yemen is part of the generalised biospheric process, but there is no discernible agent of climate rebellion in that country. We are grappling with a structural deficit of climate subjectivity, and a structural surplus of objective forces of destruction; and perhaps the imbalance is nowhere as extreme as in the Middle East. (Latin America is far richer on the subjective side.) Those of us who care for or work on or live in this region have an enormous task ahead of us. If some climate awareness might have been budding in Palestine over the past few years, part of the tragedy is, I suspect, that the ongoing genocide will drive it down on the agenda. But I fail to see why any of this should prompt us to take a distance from the resistance. Injecting climate consciousness into Palestinian and other struggles in the Middle East is a necessary historical mission, but it cannot deflect from the immediate defence of the existence and rights of the Palestinian people.


Two objections remain regarding the events on October 7 and the nature of Hamas. On the first, we were recently blessed with a brilliant analysis from an Israeli comrade. We have seen the fabricated stories about what happened methodically debunked. We could go on discussing the details of what took place for years, and we probably will, but let us here, for reasons of length if no other, stay with the central question: should we condemn or renounce Toufan al-Aqsa, or the resistance as such, because it crossed the line of killing civilians on that day? One can adopt such a principled position. Or, one can – staying with the method of historical analogism – consider the first car bomb planted by the uMkhonto we Sizwe in 1983, aimed at an air force and military intelligence office in the heart of Pretoria, in which nineteen people were killed – civilians included. After this bomb, the armed wing of the ANC entered a phase of escalated struggle against the apartheid regime, causing a string of civilian deaths. What should we think of this? ‘The killing of civilians was a tragic accident, and I felt a profound horror at the death toll. But as disturbed as I was by these casualties, I knew that such accidents were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. (…) As Oliver [Tambo] said at the time of the bombing, the armed struggle was imposed on us by the violence of the apartheid regime.’ This is Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. One can, of course, slam him as far too extreme on this score – a terrorist. The US government designated him as such until 2008. People in the global North tend to be scandalised by the realities of the struggle against colonial regimes exported from their latitudes; people in the global South, less so. My hunch is that if Nelson Mandela – this person – who visited Gaza in 1999 and said these things – were alive today, he would fairly know whom to support.

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But yes: tragic losses, deplorable, nothing to gloat over, nothing to celebrate or take pride in. Here Hamas’s attitude to the civilian deaths it caused on October 7 is not so different from Mandela’s. What it is justifiably proud of the losses it inflicted, and continues to inflict, on the occupation army. Personally, I too felt horror at some of the things Palestinians did on that day. I also don’t particularly enjoy reading about the killing of civilians at the hands of the FLN, the Mau Mau rebellion, the Nat Turner revolt, the Haitian revolution or the Sepoy mutiny or the Tupac Amaru uprising, to mention just a few cases – several of which indulged in gruesome mass violence against the civilian population of colonisers to an extent far, far beyond anything Palestinians have ever done. And yet we, on the Left, commemorate the Haitian revolution as the greatest single act of emancipation in the New World, perhaps even in the modern era. Should we, after October 7, rather start condemning it, on the principle that civilians must never be killed? Or should we remember the violence against the white civilians as an ugly aspect of a legitimate struggle for freedom, the victory of which marked an unusually genuine instance of progress in history?

These are difficult matters, I concede. What, for example, could Mandela possibly have meant when he wrote that losses of civilian life were ‘the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle’? The NLF didn’t kill civilian Americans in Vietnam. But then again, the American occupation of Vietnam was not a settler-colonial project. The ‘inevitability’ Mandela refers to would seem to be a result of the nature of settler colonialism: when colonial regimes from the North implant settlers among the indigenous and/or imported slave population to displace and/or exploit and/or exterminate it, attempts by the latter to shake off the yoke and attain minimal freedom and survival come up against their presence. During the Second World War, the partisans in Norway had only soldiers to fight against. But had the Third Reich placed, say, one hundred thousand Aryan settlers in their midst to torment and destroy them, I bet even the meekest Norwegians would have, at some point, crossed the line. This does not resolve all the problems of what happened on October 7. It does, however, in my view, call into doubt the position that anti-colonial struggle must be disavowed the moment civilians from the settler population fall. I don’t see what history of freedom fighters confronting colonialism and slavery and the other crimes against humanity exported from the North would be left eligible for sympathy after such a procedure. But I think we should stand with these fighters, in the past and in the present.


As for Hamas, we could and should have as long a conversation about what that movement really is, how it has developed, what it stands for, where it is going. That would begin with abandoning the liberal discourse about Hamas, because it does not engage with reality. It is a psychic phenomenon fuelled by fears and fantasies about demons. Serious study of Hamas benefits from scientific work on the movement by scholars like Sara Roy or Tareq Baconi or – his being one of the finest monographs on the topic in recent years – Somdeep Sen. The same applies to Jihad. Apart from its links to the fossil-fuelled Persian Gulf, Kaminer levels three charges against Hamas: it is guilty of ‘messianism, authoritarianism, and sectarian manipulations.’ Let us deal briefly with each.

Messianism is not a thing among Hamas or any other part of the Palestinian resistance. It’s a thing among these boys, who are preparing to slaughter their red heifers, build the temple and inaugurate the Messianic era, and who exercise ever more power over the Zionist project, as even the New York Times recently felt compelled to chronicle. But Hamas has no notion of anything messianic. Contrariwise, the curve over its soon four decades of existence is, as the aforementioned scholars and anyone else who has followed the movement can tell, one of steady secularisation. The features of that process have accumulated persistently: the break with the deranged and inexcusable anti-Semitism of the first charter, the loss of interest in gender segregation and hijab imposition, the divorce from the Muslim Brotherhood, the de-emphasising of piety and focus on politics, the framing of that politics in less Islamic and more strictly national terms. Hamas today and the movement in early 1988 – not to mention the Mujama al-Islamiya from which it sprang – are two different species. One can familiarise oneself with actually existing Hamas by following, as I think everyone should, the speeches given by Abu Obeida. Since October 7, they have usually opened with the Islamic salutations and a token quotation from the Qur’an – some sura about how the weak will ultimately defeat the strong or about freedom finally coming – before quickly veering into expositions on the challenges facing the resistance, the achievements, the sacrifices, the crimes of the occupation, the virtues of solidarity, the path ahead. Don’t be scared! It’s great stuff, listen in. The messaging is thin on religion but laden with anti-colonial, anti-fascist rhetoric.

But the secularisation is perhaps most remarkable at the level of military doctrine. After the massacre in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, the early generations of al-Qassam developed the tactic of martyrdom operations, also known as suicide bombings. They were central to the second intifada and drew on – among many other sources – the religious notion of martyrdom as a value in and of itself. But during this war, there has not – contrary to the expectations of some – been any report of a single martyrdom operation in Gaza: not one suicide bomber, nor any other kind of action in which the fighter aimed to die. With occupation soldiers spread out in hospitals and apartments and checkpoints, the opportunities have been ample. But Muhammed Deif and the other leaders of al-Qassam have ditched the old tactic. The rule is for the fighters to emerge from the tunnels and place their bombs under the Merkava tanks or whatever other target they choose and then run and climb back down to safety. The guerilla warfare is of the classical type (but with a tunnel system instead of a rainforest), secular in form, often refined into tactical perfection.

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What of the authoritarianism? Hamas is no absolute paragon of democratic practice. But surely, things are relative. If we adopt the Marxist view of bourgeois democracy and treasure it for the room it gives to the revolutionary left to operate freely, we must conclude that Gaza under the rule of Hamas was the most complete instantiation of such democracy anywhere between Beirut and Tunis. The PFLP and the DFLP could organise mass rallies and training exercises for separatist women’s brigades and any other activities with a freedom found nowhere else in that zone. Hamas did not murder Nizar Banat. Hamas did not torture Basil al-Araj. The restrictions it imposed on the population paled in comparison to the vicious repression against dissent and struggle in the enclaves controlled by the Palestinian Authority, whose sole raison d’être, of course, is collaboration with the occupation. It is against this background that the current situation has developed: relations between the Marxist and Islamic blocs of the resistance have never been better. Not only did Toufan al-Aqsa set out from a joint operations room, but the leadership of Hamas has consulted with that of the PFLP (less so with the DFLP) along every step of this painful way, concerning everything from demands in the negotiations to approaches to external actors. If it has been brutally authoritarian to anyone over the years, it is Daesh. Gaza stood out for the total inability of takfiri salafi jihadists to gain a foothold there, because when they tried, Hamas would smash them. Again, this is not to say that Gaza under Hamas was some sort of democratic paradise – how could it possibly be, under the conditions of the siege? – but an organisation more prone to authoritarianism could easily have created a full-blown despotic dystopia. The police state of Sisi and the police non-state of Abbas are proof enough.

This brings us, finally, to the charge of sectarian manipulations. I honestly do not know what this could refer to. Insofar as there are any sectarian schisms within the Palestinian people, it would be between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority; but relations between Hamas and the Christian community in Gaza have been excellent, as even Haaretz recently acknowledged (although much more could be said about it). As for the great divide between sunni and shia that has so plagued the Middle East in the past decades, the consensus is that Toufan al-Aqsa has done more to heal it than any other event in recent memory – particularly in Lebanon, a country chronically vulnerable to it. If Kaminer has in mind manipulations between political factions, Hamas is second only to Jihad in its efforts to secure national unity: it is, of course, the Fateh leadership that has spoiled every attempt at reconciliation and restructuring of the PLO. Kaminer proposes Marwan Barghouti as a possible alternative pole. I agree: nothing would be more delightful than to have him out of prison. But the irony here is that relations between Marwan and Hamas have, again, become ever closer over the past years – this is no secret – as most evident in the long-standing top demand of Hamas in every negotiation with the occupation: let him go. This demand precedes Toufan al-Aqsa (and it also includes Ahmed Sa’adat, our dear general secretary.) When that operation was launched, a primary tactical goal was to capture prisoners, with whom the resistance could bargain and force the occupation to open its prison gates – above everyone else, for Marwan. He is still languishing in jail. But if there ever was a chance to get him out, Toufan al-Aqsa was – or is, insofar as the Netanyahu government still cares at all for its prisoners – it. We can count on him being aware of this. Let us hope that he will be the Palestinian Mandela; and let us not nurture any illusions about him emerging from his cell as an enemy of Hamas.


Over the past month, I have immersed myself in the movement for Palestine in New York. There are many things that could be said about it and how great it has been, and here is one: I have never, in all my decades in this movement in the Global North, seen such a pronounced support for the resistance. The silhouette of Abu Obeida hovered over the CUNY encampment. The red triangle is ubiquitous. At the demonstration in Brooklyn violently attacked by the NYPD on 18 May, young women without hijab marched with al-Qassam and PFLP pins. Signs and banners included the pictures of Abu Obeida, Sinwar and Deif, alongside Sa’adat; ‘resistance is justified when people are colonized’ – a common chant; ‘when injustice becomes normal, resistance becomes a duty’; ‘power to all our martyrs – long live the Palestinian resistance’. You don’t get as much of this in the streets of London and certainly not in Berlin (although it is coming there too). Should we deplore it? I, for one, consider it a splendid sign of radicalisation where it is needed most: in the heart of the empire. I hope this generation of activists keeps being inspired by the resistance to never give up and always press on, however oppressive the state it faces might be. On the same note, I think the most decent approach to the resistance is that sustained on a daily basis by Nora Barrows-Friedman, Ali Abunimah and the other comrades of the Electronic Intifada – not the least Jon Elmer, who has the best-informed commentary running day after day. No one should miss it.

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This is how things stand in the present moment; they could of course change at any time. Comrades should not only be critical towards each other but also open to revisions. One cannot exclude a scenario where the resistance in Gaza is fully drenched in blood and whatever fragments of it come out on the other side degenerate into some insanity: a revival of the ‘external operations’ (something the PFLP and the DFLP used to practise, but Hamas and Jihad have never done), a turn towards some more sinister version of Islamism. Then the solidarity with the resistance would have to be re-assessed. Kaminer is right that we cannot stick to some transhistorical ‘blanket approval for anything that any Palestinian does in the name of liberation’ (I never quite liked Abu Nidal). But for now, given the historical gravity of the unfolding genocide, and given the nature of the desperate resistance waged in Gaza – not to forget the northern West Bank – I think the situation is rather the opposite.

When we speak of resistance against murderous oppression and the fight for survival and freedom, do we only bother about the past? Are we happy with it when it is so comfortably distant as to be amenable to kitsch? We have the Black Panthers in photo books and Malcolm X on our walls – then why not also the PFLP and Abu Obeida? Is revolutionary politics a posturing about the past, or about real struggles that happen as we speak? On what grounds do we admire the heroes from millennia of subaltern endeavours at self-emancipation, but not the Palestinian fighters who run all the way up to the tanks and deliver their bombs with their hands and dash off? Why should they not be in our pantheon? I see two possible reasons: we are actually not that serious about the commitment, or we do not consider Palestinian lives worthy enough to be fought for. This fight may well end in the defeat of a total destruction of Gaza and its people, and more beyond. Until then – so the streets of New York tell me – there will be quite a few of us who stay with the vow and stand with the resistance.

Note: this text was written before the tent camp massacre in Rafah.

Andreas Malm's essay, The Destruction of Palestine Is the Destruction of the Earth, was published on April 8, 2024. Matan Kaminer's response was published on May 10, 2024. You can find all of Andreas Malm's books here, including How to Blow Up a Pipeline. See our Free Palestine reading here.


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