Saturday 23rd Sep 2017
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Palestine Quagmire Revisited

West Asia

, by Abul Kalam

Israel has destroyed Gaza with the stated goal of creating a new reality on the ground:
No Hamas, only Abbas and his Fatah to deal with. Pro-Palestinian intellectuals are wondering if a new form of resistance will emerge from Gaza’s ashes.
US President Obama has appointed a special envoy to work for peace between the Palestinians and Israel.  Oslo accord, Madrid negotiations and Annapolis meet failed. For years, Saudi proposal of an Arab-Israel “mutual recognition” did not entice Israel to give Palestinians a fractured “nation state.”
Toothless UN could not protect Gaza civilians. The humanists, especially the secular democracies did not raise a finger in support of the innocent civilians indiscriminately bombed and butchered. The worst were the Muslim and Arab kings, presidents, and prime ministers. They silenced their own masses for fear of internal unrest.
On the other hand, addressing the annual Herzliya security conference on February 5, 2009, Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud, which is expected to win the most seats in Israeli parliament vowed to decapitate Hamas. 
Netanyahu said, “Palestinian society is deeply divided ... They are not strong enough to accept minimal concessions for a peace deal and are not strong enough to fight terror. The reality is very clear – any territory we evacuate today will be taken over by Iran. There will be no escape from toppling the Hamas regime which is the Iranian proxy in the Gaza Strip. This is the real threat we are facing. It will oblige us to work on all fronts, including harnessing the US administration to stop the threat.”
A few essential points that seem to be missing in the world press about Israel’s attack on Gaza are:
Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of Gaza belong to towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.
Israel controls access to the area and the movement of people and its forces enter the area at will. It’s blockade, with the support of the US and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June 2008 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November 2008.
This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence.” Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli Defence Forces chief, in 2002 stated Israel’s goal bluntly: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
The Palestinians appealed for help in the name of Arab and Palestinian nation. Islamic terminology like: “Those (among the Muslims) who are killed defending their blood are “Shaheed”, was used only selectively, and in whispers.
The appeal in the name of Palestinian people – a nation that is wronged – echoed in the UN for some time but did not have much impact as Israel had the US on its side. When the Palestinians resorted to high-jacking and suicide bombing, Israel used them to present itself as a victim of Palestinian terror.
Britain conquered Palestine in 1917, and was mandated to support Zionist national goals while merely “safeguarding” the civil and religious rights of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants. In good colonial fashion, Britain encouraged the more conservative and corrupt leadership of Palestinian society. When the civil war erupted in 1948, the social, political and economic weaknesses coupled with the opposition of an independent Palestine by the Arab neighbours resulted in Israeli victory.
There was little room for independent Palestinian political development after 1948, with Gaza under Egyptian and the West Bank under Jordanian rule. The creation of the PLO in 1964 gave a false hope.
Israel frustrated the emergence of a PLO base, as it would threaten its control of the Occupied Territories after their conquest in 1967. However, its repressive policies could not prevent the first intifada in late 1987.
Stone throwing youths pitted against the ‘Goliath’ of the Israeli army, Israel’s military power and willingness to use indiscriminate force, coupled with the arrest and long-term imprisonment of tens of thousands of Palestinians, wore down Palestinians, sapping the strength of the intifada by the time the Gulf war started in 1991.
The Palestinian Authority established in the wake of the Oslo accords was run largely by corrupt PLO officials without deep roots among the masses or sincere conviction. The Oslo accord where PLO recognised Israel’s legitimacy without any tangible concessions deprived the Palestinians of any reason to oppose Israel.  The Madrid peace talks also did not show any progress toward a Palestinian state.
More than two years into the Aqsa intifada, Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority demonstrated itself to be incapable either of effectively governing the small parts of the Occupied Territories under its control, or of resisting the ongoing Israeli occupation. 
Whatever their original claims, the interests of the PLO leadership quickly morphed from securing a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories to maintaining their newfound power, and access to wealth and patronage through Israeli-sponsored monopolies, large-scale international aid, and various forms of corruption.
Israel’s leverage over the Oslo PLO elite helped ensure that the PA functioned as much as Israel’s policeman in the Occupied Territories – controlling and when necessary repressing opposition to the ongoing occupation.
Hamas appeared on the scene. Because of its rhetoric, it was increasingly seen by the majority of the Palestinians as the most viable alternative force in Palestinian politics. But on the most basic question confronting the Palestinians – how to force Israel to stop expanding the occupation and negotiate a peace agreement that would bring real independence – Palestinian best minds have no clue what to do except continue with a strategy that many in the Hamas leadership understood was not working.
The Holy Messenger (may Allah bless and greet him) mentioned that a “Mumin” is never bitten from the hole of poisonous snake twice, and that “Seek Allah’s help and never feel incapacitated” (Mishkat)
The Palestinians have to unite on a stated goal, independent of their patrons, evaluate the chances of its appeal to their backers, present it clearly to the world, and pledge to remain steadfast despite the severity of oppression.
The US administration, at best, may try to convince them for “Palestine: a five-state solution” (Friedman, NYT 1/29/08).  The entire plan has been presented as if it is based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.
“The virtues of this five-state solution – Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia – are numerous: Egypt and Jordan, the Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel, would act as transition guarantors that any Israeli withdrawal would not leave a security vacuum in the West Bank, Gaza or Arab Jerusalem that could threaten Israel. Israel would have time for a phased withdrawal of its settlements, and Palestinians would have the chance to do nation-building in an orderly manner.
Lofty words hide a fundamental deceit. If Arafat and PLO could not get anything out of Oslo agreement then what will force Israel to present the Palestinian a “nation state” on a platter?
The question is what will save the Palestinians from repeating a history of political failures?

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