[dehai-news] Destroying Gaza, Delaying Palestine

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From: wolda002@umn.edu
Date: Mon Jan 05 2009 - 23:36:11 EST

Destroying Gaza, Delaying Palestine

By Prof. Bashir Abu-Manneh

Global Research, January 5, 2009
The Bullet

We watch in horror as Israel unleashes yet another war on the dispossessed
and weak. Hundreds are killed (mostly police and civilians, not trained
militants), thousands are injured, and a million and a half are terrorized,
punished for defying the will of their besiegers and refusing to submit.
Again the media colludes and sells a barbaric aggression on a basically
defenseless and deprived population as a war between two sides, mystifying
fundamental inequalities of power through words like "disproportionate
response" and "ceasefire." Again "shock and awe" is bandied about as
military currency, as if it worked the first time round in Iraq, or the
second in Lebanon 2006. Again we hear a cocksure military commander say
that the targeted area will be sent back decades in time, as if Israel has
complete control over historical temporality: "In attacking Hamas' regime
in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces will try to 'send Gaza decades
into the past' in terms of weapon capabilities while achieving 'the maximum
number of enemy casualties and keeping Israel Defense Forces casualties at
a minimum,' GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant said."

Israel has tried to habituate the world that killing Arabs is normal, an
unexceptional daily event in the time of "the war on terror," and that
there is always a justifiable reason to do so. Why? Because Arabs always
seem to lack something: goodwill toward their oppressors, peaceful
intentions, or, simply, reasonableness, moderation, and humanity. The
American elite is certainly convinced of that. Witness their behavior in
Iraq, or even Afghanistan and Somalia: a bipartisan consensus that
long-term direct or proxy American involvement (read imperialism) is not in
question. National sovereignty and self-determination are only for the
West. The Israeli elite makes its living off such racist assumptions: the
Palestinians thus need to be taught yet another lesson by their colonial
masters. As Tom Segev has put it:

"Israel is striking at the Palestinians to 'teach them a lesson.' That is a
basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its
inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment,
sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive,
violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom --
via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with
his donkey."

Why, after 60 years to the Nakba, does Israel still find it impossible to
understand that Palestinians will not give up their struggle for freedom
and independence? Will another brutal crack at the dispossessed enemy work
this time round when all the others have failed? On the one hand, it seems
irrational for Israel to continue on this route of ongoing violence against
the indigenous Palestinians who refuse to submit. Force has only bred more
resistance and increasingly more violent struggle. On the other hand,
however, it makes perfect colonial sense. The rational core of Israeli
policy is the ongoing delay of Palestinian national aspirations. Since it
has been proven historically impossible to force Palestinians to think of
themselves as something other than a people with a national cause, Israel
has used force to crush Palestinian national organization every time it
takes shape. And, short of getting rid of all Palestinians in one go
(through mass expulsion or a holocaust), Israel persistently and
systematically depletes their capabilities, capacities, and efforts to
realise their national and human rights and regain expropriated lands. By
bombing and destroying, Israel tries to manage the contradiction at the
heart of its colonial enterprise: its hunger for Palestinian land and
satiation from the (dispensable) Palestinian people. According to this
logic, there are always far too many Palestinians and far too little lands
to satisfy Israeli lebensraum anxieties. Benny Morris has recently shed
more tears about how beleaguered Israel feels, and how he only expects
repetitions of Gaza in the future, marking out Palestinian demography as a
main existential threat for Israel:

If present trends persist, Arabs could constitute the majority of Israel's
citizens by 2040 or 2050. Already, within five to 10 years, Palestinians
(Israeli Arabs coupled with those who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip)
will form the majority population of Palestine (the land lying between the
Jordan River and the Mediterranean)."

He concludes with:

"Israel's sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led to one
violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be surprising if
more powerful explosions were to follow."

Ethnically cleansing another people seems to be Morris' way of dealing with
Israel's colonial contradiction. The New York Times, of course, obliges by
generously granting space and giving voice to advocates of further crimes
in the future. "Pre-emptive strike" has just taken on another meaning:
ideologically justifying yet-to-occur future crimes.

Will Israel succeed in its current campaign? If the aim is destroying
Hamas, then clearly not. Hamas is even more popular than it was before.
President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas' American path of
endless negotiations, as checkpoints increase, settlements grow, and
settlers go on even more violent rampages against Palestinians, is even
more discredited. As the Financial Times put it this week, Abbas "might
emerge as the biggest political casualty of the conflict," especially since
he publicly blamed Hamas for the current escalation thus angering even his
own Fatah supporters: "Even before the Gaza attacks, Mr Abbas and the
Palestinian Authority were seen by many Palestinians as weak, ineffectual
and far too compliant in their approach toward Israel." Even worse, the PA
has stamped on popular protests and demonstrations in the West Bank,
jointly policing the streets with the Israeli army in many places even as
the slaughter in Gaza continues. That, as well as continuing security
coordination with Israel, which leads to countless arrests and
assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives in the West Bank, and
hundreds of political prisoners held by the PA, are serious stumbling
blocks in the face of Palestinian reconciliation let alone unity. How much
longer will Abbas allow American and Israeli vetoes to determine
Palestinian political behaviour?

Hamas, then, will surely grow, as will other more radical groups like Hizb
al-Tahrir and al-Qaida type organizations like Jaish al-Islam. On the first
day of the attacks, Hamas' exiled leader Khaled Mishal stated several times
in a long interview on Al-Jazeera that this is a "historic moment" in
Palestinian history, emphasising that the enemy is powerful enough to
decide the beginning of the invasion but can no longer determine its
end/outcome (as happened in Lebanon 2006). Sumud (steadfastness) coupled
with resistance and iron determination and discipline characterise Hamas'
response to Israel's action. Mishal also called for a third Intifada, but
one with a two-pronged strategy this time round: violent against Israel,
peaceful internally (against the PA). The warning is clear. The PA may well
become a target of, and no longer a vehicle for, Hamas' political
aspirations. The longer Abbas (whose official presidential term expires
next week) refuses to accommodate with Hamas, the more likely it'll become
that the third Intifada will be a Hamas organised-one, aiming for political
hegemony in the West Bank and not only in Gaza. Israel will try to crush
it, of course, but may only end up burying its own Palestinian
subcontractors instead. Like in Somalia and Afghanistan, the more you
attack fundamentalists the more they seem to grow in numbers and in
radicalisation. This is the flipside of an Israeli induced anarchy. If
Sderot doesn't have peace and quiet today, Tel-Aviv won't tomorrow.
Israel's state terror will thus only fuel its victims' counter-terror. If
Hamas knows that it can never defeat Israel, it also knows that it can try
to force on it what Sheikh Ahmad Yassin once called "symmetry of fear":
your civilians will live in fear and insecurity, and will die, like ours
do. If democratic electoral victories lead to boycott and siege, near
starvation and massacres, high rates of unemployment and even higher rates
of poverty and food dependency, and illegal collective punishment, then
what else can dehumanised and desperate Gazans do? The promise of a "life
in death" may again come to alleviate a "death in life."

The most heartening aspect of this horrendous week is the fact that
hundreds of thousands of Arabs across the Arab world, from Morocco to Yemen
(including Palestinians in Israel, who've been arrested and interned in
their hundreds as a result), have come out to protest against the Israeli
attacks, demanding that Arab regimes cut their links with Israel and that
Egypt open its border-crossing with Gaza. Protest focused against Egypt
also because of reports that Egyptian diplomats deceived Hamas officials
into believing that an Israeli attack is not imminent. Again in Arab
history, the links between Palestinian and Arab welfare and mass
mobilization against Western-backed regimes are clearly seen and acted on.
Palestine may yet again become an Arab cause, as Palestinians seem more
helpless and divided in the face of Israel's killing machines. To state, as
Mubarak of Egypt has, that opening Rafah will only lead to further
Palestinian polarisation and fragmentation between the West Bank and Gaza
is to believe that Palestinians somehow belong to Israel and should never
benefit from their links and affiliations as Arabs. Why shouldn't Egypt
help provide Gaza with all its electricity, infrastructural and civil
needs? How can living in dignity threaten Palestinian
institutional-political unity? Arab popular sentiment demands that
cooperation, mutual help against common enemies, and region-wide
organisation on a mass level become the norm not the exception.

Mass Palestinian and Arab mobilization and organisation is the only way
forward. Active political participation can guarantee that what
Palestinians are fighting for today is what they will be getting tomorrow,
without being fooled or lied to by one elite group or another (as happened
in Oslo). It is true that since Israel has the 4th most powerful army in
the world, and is stacked with hundreds of nuclear warheads, no armed
struggle by Palestinians can ever defeat Israel militarily. But popular
mass struggle like the first year of the first Intifada can certainly
defeat it politically. It can also create better conditions for
Palestinians to achieve their much needed independence, national freedom,
and sovereignty.

Gaza should become yet another lesson for Israel in Palestine's will to
freedom. Let's make sure it will. •

Bashir Abu-Manneh is a Palestinian from Israel who teaches English
Literature at Barnard College, New York.

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