Moreover, events in the Gaza Strip are not isolated from the Israeli policy of siege, assassinations, incursions and destruction in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank. The ferocity and comprehensiveness of these offensives indicate further and more dangerous objectives than the declared goals.
This war appears primarily aimed at changing the Palestinian political reality through the use of force. Therefore, Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip continues the scheme already manifest in the economic siege and political isolation imposed on the Palestinian people following the Hamas’ victory in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
This policy is retribution for the Palestinian people’s implementation of their democratic rights through the electoral process. Additionally, it is a policy meant to reshuffle the Palestinian political reality and force it to coincide with Israeli-American political objectives. Consequently, Israel’s campaign of punishment is supported by the United States and Europe, with the collaboration of the Arab regimes and some Palestinian political parties.
In order to set the stage for overturning the electoral results, the Israeli military aggression intersects with Washington and Brussels’ political and economic siege, and the escalating contradictions in the Palestinian political life.
This is a similar scenario to the war Israel waged on Lebanon this past summer. Then, Israel declared that the war was to liberate two soldiers taken captive by Hezbollah and to end missile attacks on northern Israel. However, this was not the complete picture. The political conditions imposed for a cease-fire revealed the goals of the aggression: dismantling of Hezbollah’s resistance, rearranging Lebanese politics and changing Syria’s place in Middle East affairs.
The steadfastness of the resistance, the unity of the Lebanese people and the heavy losses imposed on the Israeli military on the battlefield and in its inability to deter the continued bombing of Israel’s heartland, helped to frustrate this political project.
The Olmert government failed to achieve any of the goals of the aggression on Lebanon. Then, after the war was over, Israel began to look for another cycle of violence to re-establish its power of deterrence and the public opinion’s faith in its damaged military. Gaza was the target. Olmert’s government believes that its aggression on Gaza can serve to rebuild Israel’s power of deterrence as it reshuffles the Palestinian political reality.
Still, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is more complex than it is perceived by the Israeli government. Despite the siege, the killing and the starvation imposed on the civil population, the Palestinian people continue to resist. There are no signs that there will be capitulation anytime soon. Moreover, the contradictions between the Palestinian political forces continue to be governed by the balance of forces between Hamas and Fateh. Despite Tel Aviv and Washington’s wishful thinking, this balance of power is not going to change in the near future. Furthermore, a change in the balance of power may not bring the results wished by the Pentagon and Israeli military commanders.
These days, everyone is looking for a way out of the stalemate in the region, and in the Palestinian reality in particular.
Washington’s growing anxieties in the region expose the ludicrous double standards of its policies. In Lebanon, the Bush administration struggles to keep Hanna Sinyora’s government in power because it was democratically elected. Moreover, under the pretext of the democratic election, Washington blocks any democratic alternatives to the Lebanese political crisis, rejecting all proposals to form a national unity government.
In Palestine, the exact opposite occurs. The American administration attempts to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government. However, it also prevents the formation of a Palestinian national unity government.
In Lebanon, as well as within Palestinian society, American double standards and political behavior has led to a deadlocked crisis. Israel’s failed war on Lebanon has strengthened Hezbollah and its allies. In the Palestinian controlled areas, Hamas has not surrendered despite the ongoing economic siege, the political isolation, skirmishes between Palestinian factions and Israeli military actions.
Consequently, it is possible to understand the American-Israeli alliance’s complete state of confusion. The strategic assumptions at the base of this alliance do not take into consideration the Palestinian and Lebanese realities. These assumptions prioritize the use of force to impose political solutions, but do not take into consideration the dignity and rights of the people in the region. Moreover, they do not take into account the readiness of people to struggle and resist to achieve dignity and equality. This readiness is unmistakably seen in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. The struggle, the resistance and the steadfastness of the people in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq set Washington and Tel Aviv’s regional strategies in crisis.
Every colonial power takes for granted, consciously or not, that what cannot be achieved with a limited level of force can be achieved with more force. However, this presumption expands the cycle of violence and attracts new forces to the conflict, including some that were not originally part of the conflict. This expansion of the conflict between the colonial powers and the resistance, pushes the already existing contradictions to a new level of violence. In the end, the situation always reverts to square one.
Enlarging oppression and injustice does not make peace; it only opens the gates to endless war.
Reflection on the historical experiences of the Palestinian people compels them to reject internal strife. Neither is it legitimized by the pretext of lifting the siege and avoiding economic restrictions. Therefore, beyond the skirmishes between the Palestinian factions, the only choice for the Palestinian political forces is to negotiate a joint program and to form a national unity government.
The experience since the elections to the PLC has illustrated the overwhelming rejection of factional strife and the demand for a government of national unity. No Palestinian political force can rely on a foreign, military or political, agenda to build its legitimacy in the eyes of Palestinian public opinion . Therefore, after each round of conflict and skirmishes, all the factions attempt again to reach a common ground.
It is important to state that all Palestinian political forces are convinced that the common ground must meet the political, economic and social interests of the Palestinian people in general. Without meeting this condition, any agreement will be unstable and will lead back to factional conflicts.
The formation of a Palestinian government of national unity should be judged under the assumption that it will be difficult for any Palestinian faction, regardless of its strength, to impose its agenda on the other factions. As much as Fateh has proved its readiness to use force when it does not participate in the government, Hamas is also able to, in case it is forced to concede its legitimate right to head the authority. Not realizing or trying to disregard this reality means a larger sacrifice of innocent blood.
It is still possible to reorganize the Palestinian political reality, and to set it back on track. However, this possibility is conditioned on Israel’s readiness to abandon its forceful attempts to impose political conditions, to lift the American-European policy of siege and collective punishment against the Palestinian people, and that the Palestinian factions relinquish their policy of domination and exclusion.
Nevertheless, while the Palestinian factions attempt to negotiate their differences, it is not likely that the United States, Europe and Israel will change their policies without popular pressures. Consequently, the actions and intervention of the movement for global justice is vital for the future of the Middle East, in general, and the future of the Palestinian people, in particular. At present, the global movement for social justice is the only force capable of answering the “state of emergency” declared by United States, Europe and Israel .
The alternative to the carnage and starvation that we witness is a political project of justice and respect that will compel implementation of the international resolutions concerning the conflict. That is, a political project that will end the occupation, guarding the dignity and rights of the Palestinian people. A political or military venture that ignores the rights of the Palestinian people and attempts to impose by force, an agenda that neglects the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people, will just perpetuate the cycle of sorrow and bloodshed.
Nassar Ibrahim is a Palestinian writer and journalist. He is also the editor of the Arabic quarterly journal Rouy’ya Ukhra published by the AIC.