Briefing Paper – January 2008

Palestine’s War of Independence

Nadim Rouhana,   The Nation, 12 December 2007

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is under intense pressure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is not a matter of semantics. If Israel’s demand is granted, the inequality that we face as Palestinians — roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population — will become permanent.

More than twenty Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.

On November 10, the dreams of Bilal and Nihad Nabaheen ended forever. Bilal and Nihad, brothers, 14 and 15 years old, pupils at the preparatory school of Al Buriej Refugee Camp, Gaza. I don’t know exactly what was going on inside their small heads when they went on their sad adventure. Were they just playing in a green meadow, very close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel, or were they trying to cross the border to the other world outside the big prison?

I know that the soldiers inside the Israeli military tower are equipped with highly sophisticated binoculars and high-tec instruments. These soldiers, who are also victims of an occupation which deprives them of their humanity, could see that these were skinny young boys. My colleagues at the Emergency Room at the Al Aqsa Hospital tell me that the two bodies were found shot with many bullets. They had died instantly. From ‘Gaza with love’, blog of Mona El-Farra – physician, human rights and women’s rights activist.

Nothing less than our freedom

Mohammed Khatib, The Electronic Intifada, 7/11/07

For the people of our small village of Bil’in, which lies west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, the planned negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Annapolis, Maryland evoke mixed feelings. Like all Palestinians, we pray that our children will not spend their lives as we did, under Israeli military occupation.

But our experience has been that Israel, the stronger party, exploits peace talks as a smokescreen to obscure facts that it is establishing on the ground. During the Oslo “peace” process Israel built settlements in the occupied territories at an unprecedented rate. Israel’s system of settler-only roads, which is now strangling our cities and villages, was created during the Oslo process. This makes us wary of the Annapolis negotiations.

Israel built settlements throughout the West Bank even though international law prohibits an occupying power from settling its population in occupied territory. Now Israel intends to annex most West Bank settlement blocs either through negotiated agreement with the Palestinians, or unilaterally. Bil’in, like tens of West Bank villages, is losing vital land and resources to Israel’s settlement blocs. In 1991, Israel confiscated 200 acres of our village’s land and declared them state land. In 2001 private Israeli developers began building a new Jewish settlement there, as part of the Modi’in Illit settlement bloc.

In 2005 Israel’s apartheid wall separated Bil’in from 50 percent of our agricultural land. In response, we held over 100 nonviolent protests together with Israeli and international supporters. Hundreds of us were injured and arrested. After our protests and a legal appeal, Israel’s high court ruled last month that the wall’s route in Bil’in must be changed to return about half of our land that was taken.

Though we celebrated this success, Israel, with US backing, still plans to annex the Modi’in Illit settlement bloc which includes more of our land. Unlike the settlements initiated by the settler movements, the settlement blocs were built in strategic areas by the Israeli government under the Likud, Labor, and Kadima parties. The settlement blocs are designed to ensure Israeli control of our movement, borders, access to water and of Jerusalem, even following the creation of a “sovereign” Palestinian state.

Some Israeli politicians claim that the settlement blocs that Israel intends to annex comprise five percent of the West Bank. However, these politicians do not include the settlements in occupied East Jerusalem in their calculations because occupied East Jerusalem was unilaterally and illegally annexed by Israel in 1967.

But in reality, Israel has already de facto annexed the strategic 10.2 percent of the West Bank that lies between the Green Line and the apartheid wall, including the settlement blocs. About 80 percent of all Israeli settlers now reside west of the apartheid wall and inside the West Bank.

As Palestinians, we have expressed our willingness to live together on this land with the Jewish people, and to live in one democratic state with Jewish Israelis as equal citizens. However, most Jewish Israelis and their politicians have clearly stated that they must live in a Jewish state, not in a state for all of its citizens. For this reason, we agreed to live in two states — Palestine side by side with Israel.

For Palestinians, agreeing to live in a state on 22 percent of our historic homeland was a great compromise. But Yasser Arafat was besieged in his office by Israel because he didn’t accept Israel’s so-called “generous offer” at Camp David. He was punished because he would not surrender yet more land, and accept a state composed of isolated cantons carved up by Israel’s settlement blocs.

We take strength from our faith that no situation of injustice can continue forever. In the end, we will all have to live on this land as equals. When that time finally comes, we will discover that we are more similar than different. Until then, we will not accept shiny trinkets made of words like “state” and “sovereignty” when we know that within our “state” we will not be able to access our water, exit and enter freely, or move from one place to another without Israeli permission. I will not be free so long as Israel’s settlement blocs and wall steal and carve up my land and surround my capital, Jerusalem.

We have suffered too much for too long. We will not accept apartheid masked as peace. We will settle for no less than our freedom.

This week, Army Intelligence announced that the chances of the Annapolis Conference are “next to nil”. Such a statement is proper for a political party, not for a military body. For 40 years now, the Israeli army fulfils an eminently political function in the Palestinian territories. No wonder that it is now the strongest political force in Israel.

The general Israeli public seemed far more excited by the news that an Israeli was appointed as manager of the British Chelsea Football Team than by the possible outcome of the [Annapolis] conference.

Even in the Rafah Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which was supposed to be under European monitoring with no Israel troops present, Israel turned out to have an effective veto power regarding its opening. Because of an ill-considered decision to lodge in Israel, the European monitors have daily to get in and out of the Gaza Strip — through crossings which Israel can open or close at its discretion.

The Other Israel Nov. 2007

Gaza’s hard place between Israeli and Palestinian violence

Rami Almeghari, The Electronic Intifada, 7/11/007

Since the Hamas-led government seized control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, severe Israeli pressure has been imposed on the coastal region’s 1.4-million-strong population. This pressure has been enforced through strict border closures, continuous attacks and invasions and most recently a series of Israeli punitive after the Jewish state declared the region a “hostile entity” and began to cut off crucial power and fuel supplies.

Gaza has been sustaining the effects of such pressure at the same time as it has been absorbing the impact of the seemingly unending inter-Palestinian violence, which has claimed the lives of at least 400 Palestinians and continues to disrupt everyday life inthe already impoverished society.

In October, internal fighting flared up again with incidents like the Gaza City clashes between Hamas’ police forces and a Fatah-aligned family. There were also skirmishes in the southern city of Rafah with a number of Islamic Jihad members. Five people, including a woman and a child, were killed and at least 30 others wounded in these two separate incidents. The Hamas-led interior ministry argues that to maintain security across the Gaza Strip these actions are necessary impose law and order among the residents. The interior ministry’s spokesperson, Ehab Alghosain, believes that there are a number of reasons that lead to such an abrupt violence throughout Gaza.

“First, there have been attempts by malicious hands to create chaos and lapses in security in order to prove that Hamas is incapable of regaining control over Gaza. Thank God, these attempts have failed so far. Second, there used to be a culture of lawlessness in Gaza where people took law into their own hands. This was in the past; now we have laws and we expect everybody to adhere to them.” Since taking control of Gaza, the Hamas government has accused Fatah of disrupting its governance in the region. Hamas recently provided documents to local media outlets demonstrating Fatah’s involvement in a series of explosions targeting the police forces, known previously as the “executive force.”

The latest violence erupted about three weeks ago when a Hamas policeman attempted to repossess a car from a Gaza family member who happens to be a supporter of the rival Fatah party. One of the Fatah supporter’s family members, who spoke in a condition of anonymity, expressed outrage at Hamas’s actions against his family: “I don’t believe that a government that uses lethal force against our children and women by shelling their houses is a government that wants to keep order.”

To avert further deterioration and what Hamas sees as an attempt to undermine its control, the interior ministry declared at the time of the incidents a state of emergency until the car in question is repossessed and the Gaza family members involved in the clashes are handed over to the authorities. To contain such incidents, while Gaza simultaneously endures near-daily Israeli attacks, several local community leaders are interfering. Senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Rabah Mhanna, put part of the blame on the police forces. “The problem lies in the handling of the situation by our brothers in Hamas and its controlling of societal issues. Hamas resorts to violence when cracking down on provocations. Further, Hamas’s own members face harsh discipline tactics.”

Over the past ten months of intense power struggles between Hamas and Fatah, many mediation efforts have taken place to prevent more Palestinian blood from being spilled. Internal violence in the Gaza Strip escalated in December 2006, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for early elections to put an end to an international economic embargo. The embargo was imposed on Gaza after the then newly-elected Hamas government in March 2006 refused to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past signed agreements.

The internal conflict peaked when Hamas took over Gaza in mid-June amidst fighting with Fatah-linked security forces. President Abbas outlawed the group and formed a Fatah “emergency government” in Ramallah, calling on Gaza residents to boycott the deposed Hamas government. On Friday, media reports claimed that a meeting between President Abbas and some West Bank Hamas leaders took place. As Gaza’s beleaguered residents would say, only conciliation amongst the Palestinians will protect their society from Israeli aggression.

Let our people breathe

Let our people live

Rescue Palestinian people of Gaza

Lift out the lethal blockade on our children

The Israeli authorities do have the habit of slightly relaxing the siege from time to time and allowing a trickle of additional goods into the Strip, just enough “to avert a humanitarian crisis.” However, “a humanitarian crisis” in this context is interpreted very narrowly, as synonymous with “open mass starvation.”

Anything short of that — the great majority of Gazans sunk in abject poverty, an “economic meltdown”, increasingly polluted water sources, a near-collapsing sewage system, mass undernourishment which (usually) does not kill but whose effects will be felt by the young generation of Gazans for as long as they live — does not count as “a humanitarian crisis”…

The Other Israel Nov 2007

We hope this urgent pre last minute attached appeal for lifting the suffocating blockade will reach through you to United Nations offices, Headquarters, European, American, , International societies, personalities, and friends anywhere, urging them for solidarity and support the legitimate rights and basic demands of Palestinian people. This act will be highly appreciated by our innocent peaceful Palestinian people of Gaza living in very humiliating circumstances.

Urgent Appeal

Dr. Ahmed A. Abu Said

Paediatrician , Allergo-immunologist, Gaza

Safe Gaza-Children Group

Gaza Strip is a narrow east Mediterranean coastal area of about 360 km2 with 1.5 million population, the vast majority of them are refugees; surrounded from north and east by Israel, Mediterranean to west, Egypt to south, No airports no seaports, this area partially and temporary had been closing for the last two years, but the situation has been sharply deteriorated in the last 6 months and the area hermetically sealed off.

Economical situation is appalling, no enough goods, or food stuff, no export, all the borders and crossing points, sea and air space are tightly closed, prices jumped rapidly up to double or even more in this poor area and population. Electricity and water often cut-off so we are more in dark than in light. No basic materials for building or construction, for example cement is absolutely absent from the market even for tombs and or tombstones, nothing can be newly built or repaired, of course we can’t talk about iron or steel this is in the brides cans. No spare parts for machines, cars, medical equipments in the hospitals and laboratories.

Petroleum and fuel products are in the minimum, might be severely reduced or stopped.

Thousands of students studying outside Gaza had lost their seats in the universities due to this terrible closure, the same fate for thousands of local employees in Arab neighbouring countries. Health situation is-especially- awful; more than 91 drugs so far are zero stock in the hospitals many of them are life saving such as: Immunoglobulin for Immunodeficient children, drugs for renal failure, anticancer drugs etc.

Two cases died yesterday one of them young man of 36 with renal failure and the other is 48 doctor with brain haemorrhage because of the long delay on the crossing point between Gaza and Israel, hundreds of such critical patients are also waiting their fate IBRAHIM, youngster of 15 is in intensive care unit because of repeated attacks of meningitis due to lack of Immunoglobulin who used to receive since the age of 9months, he might loose his life in any time.

Simple human rights are extensively violated, no body can leave or go to Gaza, no possibility of participation in games or sport or other conferences, meetings of any sort simply Gaza is collapsing, and it’s the only GHETTO in the 21st century. Psychological aspect of the terrifying blockade can’t be assessed accurately now its symptoms will last sure for another decades.

In this pre last minute appeal we strongly urge for:

*              Raising your voice against this lethal blockade; to open all the borders and the crossing points for free passage and movement for all.

*              Free goods out and in especially nutritional items, construction materials and spare parts etc.

*              Free electricity, water and fuel supply.

*              Free drugs and medicinal supply for primary, secondary, and tertiary medical care.

Early every morning, the Israeli radio news broadcasts the statistics provided by the army, on the number of “suspected terrorists” captured in raids on the Palestinian cities in the past night — rarely below five or above twenty. . . . . . Only rarely do such reports extend beyond a few seconds — usually, in cases where the beleaguered Palestinians stood at bay and managed to wound or kill one the soldiers hunting them. (In one case, when an IDF dog was killed by a Palestinian on whom he was set, there was an extensive report including the dog’s name and biography, the soldiers’ grief at his death and the announcement that he would be given “a funeral with full military honours”)… Except for the cases that the suspects were “killed while resisting arrest” or “while trying to escape”, such communiqués invariably end with “the suspects were transferred to Shabak interrogation.”

The Other Israel Nov 2007

Given that it takes no more than two weeks to add a hundred new detainees to the 11,000 Palestinians already held in Israeli detention, Palestinians were not highly impressed with Olmert’s “good-will gesture” of releasing a total of 90 prisoners on the occasion of the Ramadan Holiday

The Other Israel Nov 2007

Demands of a thief

Gideon Levy Ha’aretz 26/11/07

The public discourse in Israel has momentarily awoken from its slumber. “To give or not to give,” that is the

Shakespearean question – “to make concessions” or “not to make concessions.” It is good that initial signs of life in the Israeli public have emerged. It was worth going to Annapolis if only for this reason – but this discourse is baseless and distorted. Israel is not being asked “to give” anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return – to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity. This is the primary core issue, the only one worthy of the title, and no one talks about it anymore.

No one is talking about morality anymore. Justice is also an archaic concept, a taboo that has deliberately been erased from all negotiations. Two and a half million people – farmers, merchants, lawyers, drivers, daydreaming teenage girls, love-smitten men, old people, women, children and combatants using violent means for a just cause – have all been living under a brutal boot for 40 years. Meanwhile, in our cafes and living rooms the conversation is over giving or not giving.

Lawyers, philosophers, writers, lecturers, intellectuals and rabbis, who are looked upon for basic knowledge

about moral precepts, participate in this distorted discourse. What will they tell their children – after the occupation finally becomes a nightmare of the past – about the period in which they wielded influence? What will they say about their role in this? Israeli students stand at checkpoints as part of their army reserve duty, brutally deciding the fate of people, and then some rush off to lectures on ethics at university, forgetting what they did the previous day and what is being done in their names every single day. Intellectuals publish petitions, “to make concessions” or “not to make concessions,” diverting attention from the core issue. There are stormy debates about corruption – whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is corrupt and how the Supreme Court is being undermined. But there is no discussion of the ultimate question: Isn’t the occupation the greatest and most terrible corruption to have taken root here, overshadowing everything else?

When the proposal to send hundreds of Palestinian security personnel into Nablus came up, Defence Minister Barak made the stipulation that they be active only from six in the morning to midnight, and that in the remaining night hours they keep inside their barracks and not interfere with the doings of Israeli troops.

Acceptance of such terms did not help Abu Mazen’s image as the champion of Palestinian independence.

The Other Israel Nov 2007

Palestinian Rights

Jamal Juma’, The Electronic Intifada, 2/12/07

Last Tuesday’s demonstrations, which brought thousands onto the streets of Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus and Gaza in defiance of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) attempt to silence the peoples’ voice, represented a crucial moment for Palestine.

Our demonstration, which was supported by the Popular Committees of the Refugee Camps and over 150 civil society organizations and representatives, called for the upholding of the fundamental principles of our struggle: the right of the refugees to return, the right to Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right to our land. We were refusing the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as this would legitimize the Zionist ideology of colonialism, racism and ethnic cleansing, and effectively exonerate Israel from the crimes of the Nakba, waiving the right of return. Such recognition would justify and reinforce the Israeli system of apartheid against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Palestine that we are fighting for is one which upholds the fundamental principles of our national rights and equality, and which respects the democratic right of the people to express their views in protest on the streets. The PA has shown that they do not share this vision. On Tuesday they attempted to prevent the people from asserting their rights, first by banning demonstrations and then by attacking us with tear gas, batons and military jeeps.

The departure of the occupation from our land and the right of the refugees to return is non-negotiable, as is the question of Jerusalem. For the oppressed and occupied, ongoing struggle and resistance using all necessary means is not only our right, it is our obligation in front of all those that have sacrificed before us and the future generation that has the right to live in freedom. It is our only tool to ensure that “negotiations” talk about how to achieve our rights and not how to abandon them step by step. Yet for the first time in the sixty years of our struggle, those who claim to represent us at a national level are no longer talking about resistance to the attacks of the occupiers. Instead, they are disingenuously opening up negotiations relying on the US, the occupation’s most ardent backer, to act as an “honest broker.”

Tuesday’s actions were important in themselves as an expression of the voices raised against Annapolis, but also because by defying the ban on demonstrations, the popular committees, representatives of civil society and political parties threw down a powerful challenge to the Palestinian leadership: as the pressure for normalization grows, so the grassroots anti-normalization movement is growing. In the last month, the One Voice initiative, an attempt to coerce Palestinians into denying their own rights while recognizing their occupiers, was defeated by grassroots activists. Last week, Ramallah hosted a conference strategizing to beat the occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions. Palestinians from within the Green Line voiced their powerful opposition to recognition of a Jewish state on their lands in a unanimous decision made by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the senior representative body of Palestinian citizens in Israel. The demonstrations on Tuesday were not an isolated protest; they were part of a wide popular movement against concessions on basic principles, and against an apparent acceptance on the part of the Palestinian leadership of the isolation of Palestinians within the Green Line, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and in the Diaspora from each other. At the Cyprus conference in October, Palestinians inside Israel called Palestinians from all over their homeland and the diaspora together to build unified strategies and follow up mechanisms, as a powerful counterpoint to Israeli bantustanization.

In Annapolis, the Authority did not raise the issue of Palestinians within the Green Line, nor the right of return, nor the criminal siege of Gaza. The Wall caging Palestinians in the West Bank into ghettos was not on the agenda. Those appointed to rule the West Bank bantustans showed that they were not even representing the Palestinians there when they brutally repressed our protests. In this so-called “peace process,” only a tiny portion of Palestinians are represented: they are laying the ground for an outcome that the Palestinian people cannot and will not accept.

The so-called “peace process” demands not only that the PA clamp down on armed resistance: it is also becoming clear that it will require the repression of all of us who reject the abandonment of our rights. The Palestinian people who are confronting the Israeli occupation day after day have not been consulted or informed about the negotiations: they only are to feel the batons when they disagree and call out for their rights. Tuesday was a testing ground to determine whether the PA will be able to make the Palestinian people swallow a second Oslo, further compromising our rights.

The gulf between the PA and the Palestinian people is becoming increasingly obvious. Indeed the whole range of Palestinian political and social forces joined in condemning the repression on Tuesday. The choice for the PA is clear: either to go along with the dictates of the US and the occupation; or to radically alter their course, to return to the people and remember that they are leaders of the Palestinian national struggle. The grassroots movement against normalization with the occupiers will continue to grow. Resistance will continue as the Palestinian people assert their fundamental rights.

(Jamal Juma’ is coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign)

At checkpoints, security checks by Israeli soldiers often proceed sluggishly, making Palestinian motorists wait for long hours before being let through; at roadblocks, the road is simply blocked by piles of earth and rock, making many roads inaccessible to Palestinians and forcing them to go through many extra kilometers of back roads, often narrow and in bad repair.

It had long been said, by Palestinians as well as Israeli and international observers — but now it was also pointed out by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: there is no chance of recovery and development for the Palestinian economy, as long as such massive obstacles for the flow of goods and persons remain.

After several meetings when the subject was raised, Barak announced the removal of 24 roadblocks (out of several hundreds). The UN teams on the grounds discovered, however, that just prior to this announcement the army had erected some forty new roadblocks in places where there were none before…

The Other Israel Nov 2007

Donor organizations: Aid to Palestinians ineffective unless Israel changes policies

Manar Jibrin IMEMC 13/12/07

Both the World Bank and Oxfam International issued statements Thursday challenging Israeli policy in advance of next week’s donor’s conference in Paris. The two organizations are both major donors to the Palestinian people, and issued the statements to point out what they see as the ineffectiveness of further aid money, given the current Israeli policies. Due to the Israeli closure of all borders of the Gaza Strip, Oxfam reports that increased transportation expenses will cost the organization at least $200 million.

The World Bank said in its report, which will be presented at the Paris donor’s conference, that increased aid money and economic investment in the Palestinian economy will be wholly useless unless Israeli restrictions are eased. The World Bank predicted in its analysis that, even with this influx of cash, the Palestinian economy will continue to shrink as long as Israel refuses to remove trade and travel restrictions on the Palestinian people.

Israel currently occupies all areas of the West Bank, and all borders, air and sea space of the Gaza Strip. In addition, more than 700 checkpoints and roadblocks cover all areas of the West Bank, preventing Palestinians freedom of movement. All borders in and out of Gaza are closed by Israeli forces, and the Palestinian population is imprisoned inside the territory with no way to escape from the daily Israeli attacks.

Jeremy Hobbs, the head of Oxfam International, said Thursday, “More aid will not be effective until donor governments insist on a rapid change in Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian movement in the occupied Palestinian territories and the ending of the blockade of the Gaza Strip.” He challenged donor countries on their unwillingness to challenge Israeli policies, saying, “It is not enough simply to dump more money into Palestine. Foreign governments and the Palestinian Authority must increase the pressure on the Israeli government to lift the blockade of Gaza and make it possible for people in the West Bank to go about their business. This is essential if the Annapolis peace process is to work.”

(The donor’s conference is scheduled for December 17th, and will involve a number of donor countries, the European Union and aid organizations like Oxfam and the World Bank. The Palestinian President is expected to ask for a total of $5.5 billion over three years to revive the Palestinian economy)

It would be wrong to say that Israelis have no idea at all about what their elected government is perpetrating in Gaza. Several tens of thousands read Haaretz, which carries some reports of the situation at an average of once a week (though not always very prominently).

And though far more rarely, sometimes the topic even breaks into the electronic media — for example, the Channel 10 TV News, which featured items on critically ill Gazan patients desperately waiting for permission to get treatment in Israel, and on the new wing of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital whose construction was stopped since building materials are no longer allowed in. Still, most Israelis have only a vague idea of what is happening — and moreover, have no great interest in learning more, and often react with hostility when activists try to rub their nose in the facts (for example, by distributing leaflets and brochures at busy Tel-Aviv intersections).

The Other Israel Nov 2007

Help! A Cease Fire

Uri Avnery   22.12.07

One after another, the Palestinian leaders and commanders are being killed from the air. Every point in the Strip is exposed to Israeli airplanes, helicopter gunships and drones. Up-to-date technology makes it possible to track the “children of death”, those marked for killing, and a wide net of informers and agents, some of them under duress, which has been built up well in advance, completes the picture.

Forget the Qassams. Forget the mortar shells. They are nothing compared with what Hamas launched at us this week:The chief of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, has approached an Israeli newspaper and proposed a cease-fire. No more Qassams, no more mortars, no suicide bombings, no Israeli military incursions into the Strip, no “targeted liquidations” of leaders. A total cease-fire. And not only in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, too.The military leadership exploded in anger. Who does he think he is, that bastard? That he can stop us with such dirty tricks? This is the second time within a few days that an attempt has been made to thwart our war plans. Two weeks ago, the American intelligence community declared, in an authoritative report, that Iran had stopped its attempt to produce a nuclear bomb as early as four years ago. Instead of heaving a sigh of relief, Israeli officials reacted with undisguised anger. Since then, all the commentators in Israel, as well as our huge network of hired pens around the world, have tried to undermine this document. It is mendacious, without foundation, motivated by a hidden, sinister agenda.

But miraculously, the report survived unscathed. It has not even been scratched.   The report, so it seems, has swept from the table any possibility of an American and/or Israeli military attack on Iran. Now comes the peace initiative of Haniyeh and endangers the strategy of our military establishment towards the Gaza Strip. Again, the army choir gets going. Generals in uniform and out of uniform, military correspondents, political correspondents, commentators of all stripes and genders, politicians from left and right – all are attacking the Haniyeh offer.

The message is: it must not be accepted under any circumstances! It should not even be considered! On the contrary: the offer shows that Hamas is about to break, and therefore the war against it must be intensified, the blockade on Gaza must be tightened, more leaders must be killed – indeed, why not kill Haniyeh himself? What are we waiting for? A paradox inherent in the conflict since its beginning is at work here: if the Palestinians are strong, it is dangerous to make peace with them. If they are weak, there is no need to make peace with them. Either way, they must be broken.

“There is nothing to talk about!” Ehud Olmert declared at once. So everything is alright, the bloodletting can go on. And it is indeed going on. In the Gaza Strip and around it, a cruel little war is being waged. As usual, each side claims that it is only reacting to the atrocities of the other side. The Israeli side claims that it is responding to the Qassams and mortars. What sovereign state could tolerate being bombarded by deadly missiles from the other side of the border? True, thousands of missiles have killed only a tiny number of people. More than 100 times as many are killed and injured on the roads. But the Qassams are sowing terror, the inhabitants of Sderot and the surrounding area demand revenge and reinforcement for their houses, which would cost a fortune.

If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders, they would have jumped at the ceasefire offer. But the leaders don’t really care about what’s happening to the Sderot population, out on the geographical and political “periphery”, far from the center of the country. It carries no political or economic weight. In the eyes of the leadership, its suffering is, all in all, tolerable. It also has an important positive side: it provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army.

The Israeli strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams. It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel. The real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas. The method is simple, even primitive: to tighten the blockade on land, on sea and in the air, until the situation in the Strip becomes absolutely intolerable.

The total stoppage of supplies, except the very minimum necessary to prevent starvation, has reduced life to an inhuman level. There are effectively no imports or exports, economic life has ground to a standstill, the cost of living has risen sky-high. The supply of fuel has already been reduced by half, and is planned to sink even lower. The water supply can be cut at will. Military activity is gradually increasing. The Israeli army conducts daily incursions, employing tanks and armored bulldozers, in order to nibble at the margins of the inhabited areas and draw the Palestinian fighters into a face to face confrontation. Every day, from five to ten Palestinian fighters are being killed, together with some civilians. Every day, inhabitants are being abducted in order to extract information from them. The declared purpose is attrition, to harry and wear down, and perhaps also to prepare for the re-conquest of the Strip – even if the army chiefs want to avoid this at almost any price.

One after another, the Palestinian leaders and commanders are being killed from the air. Every point in the Strip is exposed to Israeli airplanes, helicopter gunships and drones. Up-to-date technology makes it possible to track the “children of death”, those marked for killing, and a wide net of informers and agents, some of them under duress, which has been built up well in advance, completes the picture. The army chiefs hope that by tightening all these screws they can push the local population to rise up against Hamas and the other fighting organizations. All Palestinian opposition to the occupation will collapse. The entire Palestinian people will raise their hands in surrender and submit to the mercies of the occupation, which will be able to do as it pleases – expropriate lands, enlarge settlements, set up walls and roadblocks, slice up the West Bank into a series of semi-autonomous enclaves.

In this Israeli plan, the job reserved for the Palestinian Authority is to act as subcontractors for Israeli security,

in return for a stream of money that will safeguard its control of the enclaves. At the end of this phase of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, the Palestinian people are supposed to be cut to pieces and helpless in face of the Israeli expansion. The historic clash between the unstoppable force (the Zionist enterprise) and the immovable object (the Palestinian population) will end with the crushing of Palestinian opposition.

In order to succeed in this, a sophisticated diplomatic game must be played. Under no circumstances may the support of the international community be lost. On the contrary, the entire world, led by the US and EU, must support Israel and look upon its actions as a just struggle against Palestinian terrorism, itself an integral part of “international terrorism” The Annapolis conference, and afterwards the Paris meeting, were important steps in this direction. Almost the whole world, including most of the Arab world, has fallen into step with the Israeli plan – perhaps innocently, perhaps cynically. Events after Annapolis developed as expected: no negotiations have started, both side are just playing with images. The very first day after Annapolis, the Israeli government announced huge building projects beyond the Green Line. When Condoleezza Rice mumbled some words of opposition, it was announced that the plans had been shelved. In fact they continue at full speed.

How do Olmert and his colleagues fool the whole world? Benjamin Disraeli once said about a certain British politician: “The Right Honourable Gentleman surprised his opponents bathing in the sea and took away their clothes.” We, the pioneers of the Two-State Solution, can say this about our government. It has stolen our flag and wrapped it around itself in order to hide its intentions. At long last, there now exists a world-wide consensus that peace in our region must be based on the co-existence of the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. Our government has slipped into it and is exploiting this agreement with another aim altogether: the rule of Israel in the whole country and the turning of the Palestinian population centers into a series of Bantustans. This is, in fact, a One-State-Solution (Greater Israel) in the guise of the Two-State Solution.

Can this plan succeed? The battle of Gaza is in full swing. In spite of the huge military superiority of the Israeli army, it is not one-sided. Even the Israeli commanders point out that the Hamas forces are getting stronger. They train hard, their weapons are getting more effective and they show a lot of courage and determination. It seems that the falling of their commanders and fighters in a steady bloodletting is not affecting their morale. That is one of the reasons why the Israeli army is shrinking back from re-conquering the Gaza Strip.

Inside the Strip, both the main organizations enjoy wide public support – the demonstration to commemorate Yassir Arafat organized by Fatah and the counter-demonstration of Hamas each drew hundreds of thousands of participants. But it seems that the great majority of the Palestinian public wants national unity in order to fight together against the occupation. They do not want religious compulsion, but neither will they tolerate a leadership that cooperates with the occupation.

The government may be very mistaken in counting on the obedience of Fatah. Competing with Hamas, Fatah may surprise us by becoming a fighting organization once again. The stream of money flowing into the Authority may not prevent this. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was wiser than Tony Blair when he said 85 years ago that you cannot buy a whole people. If the Israeli army invades Gaza in order to re-conquer it, the population will stand behind the fighters. Nobody can know how it will react if the economic misery gets worse. The results may be unexpected. Experience with other liberation movements indicates that misery can break a population, but it can also strengthen it.

This is, simply put, an existential test for the Palestinian people – perhaps the most severe since 1948. It is also a test for the shrewd policy of Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and the army chiefs. So a cease-fire is not likely to come into effect. At first Olmert rejected one out of hand. Then this was denied. Then the denial was denied.

The inhabitants of Sderot would probably have been glad to accept a cease-fire. But then, who bothers to ask them.

“Those among Palestinian ‘leaders’ who are colluding with the occupation are certainly part of the problem, not the solution. Although I am very critical of Hamas for different reasons, I recognize that a majority of Palestinians under occupation democratically elected them to govern and to lead the struggle for freedom and self-determination. The world has to respect this democratic Palestinian choice, although only one-third of the Palestinian people participated in these elections. The remaining two-thirds, Palestinian refugees around the world and Palestinian citizens of Israel, were not even considered.”

Omar Barghouti Electronic Intifada 27/12/07


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