Israel's "Divide and Rule" in Gaza
Islamic Jihad Takes the Lead in Gaza
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Semantics are important; especially the semantics of war, as pointed out in earlier articles (see An Eye for an Eye: On War Semantics). I almost fell off my chair when I read this week in a mainstream Hebrew media article the term “Hamasnikim” used in reference to the Hamas leadership. The –im at the end of the word is the Hebrew masculine plural. –nik is a suffix used in English and Hebrew to denote an agent-noun (it describes a person related to the thing described by the word to which the suffix is attached; for example kibbutznik is a kibbutz dweller). The –nik suffix is of Slavic origin and invariably—at least in Hebrew—gives a positive undertone to the word; one will never see Nazi party members referred to as Hitlernikim. Suddenly, Hamas members got the same level of acceptance as kibbutznikim, moshavnikim, and other sectors of the Israeli society. Will a Hamas member win the Israel Prize next year? “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” said Shakespeare’s Marcellus in Hamlet. How rotten are things really in Gaza?
This love story between Israel and Hamas is not new. In the beginning, the PLO (Fatah) was Israel’s archenemy and nemesis. Owning its flag was a crime in Israel. Then an agreement was reached between Israel and the PLO, and Hamas immediately emerged as the new Israeli nemesis. Many Palestinians lost faith in the compromising PLO and began supporting Hamas. Much later, Hamas began signing partial agreements with the Zionists. On June 2008, Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas for the Gaza area. This agreement failed miserably in December 2009, due to the savage Israeli attack on Gaza known as Operation Cast Lead. Later, on August 22, 2011, the Hamas government in Gaza officially announced that a ceasefire agreement between the factions and Israel had been signed. Following this warming up in relations, another agreement between Hamas and Israel was announced on October 11, when Gilad Shalit was swapped for over a thousand Palestinians held as prisoners by Israel (see The Saving Shalit Business). There is nothing wrong in these agreements. Yet, both PLO and Hamas failed in bringing to the Palestinian people comprehensive and fair agreements with Israel. After every agreement, the misery continued being the rule in the Palestinian territories. Invariably, Israel makes friends with a small group, and then closes a private deal with it (the same is true for Israel’s various social contracts). The vast majority of Palestinian people did not see any improvement in their lives as a result of these agreements. Understanding this, the recursive nature of these events becomes clear. In 2012, Hamas is seen by growing numbers of Palestinians as a partner of Israel in their oppression.
Following the assassination of its leader the Popular Resistance Committees have been quiet since then; but the Islamic Jihad gained. It is widely perceived as the party that answered to the Israeli violence. A few days later, on March 30, the Land Day took place. The picture at the top of this page shows a Hamas officer stopping Palestinian protesters. Most Palestinians understood this in a very simple fashion: the “Hamasnik” works for the Zionists. Subsequently, Jihad Islamic rallies in Gaza get record audiences these days; the movement is slowly replacing Hamas as holder of the imperium, that evasive Roman notion referring to sovereignty.
Since then, sporadic rockets have hit Israel. To the astonishment of the Islamic Jihad, the Hamas has created a special unit whose task is to search for rocket launching units of the Islamic Jihad and stop them. Hamas is warning of a possible repetition of an Israeli attack like Operation Cast Lead; if they want to keep their power, they must avoid it at all costs. Hence, they chase down the Islamic Jihad military units. On the other hand, the Islamic Jihad is apparently getting encouragement from Iran to heat up the area, as a counterweight to Israel’s involvement in slicing Syria. Israeli military sources claim a repetition of Operation Cast Lead would be negative since it would fail to calm the area. Instead, they are preaching for a series of small operations aimed at specific targets. All sides agree that violence will continue, though they differ in the form it will take.
A Round Trip
Reality is never linear. It would be nice to read this article and summarize the linear development of Palestinian politics in a few lines. A few years ago, the Fatah failed and the Palestinian Authority was split. Mahmoud Abbas is the current President of the Palestinian Authority; yet, following his humiliation by Israel, he has no chance of being accepted by Palestinians as their rightful leader. This sends us back to the Land Day protests of this year, when former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel, published a special message calling on the Palestinians to launch a widespread resistance against Israel. Marwan Barghouti’s words are significant. Regarded as a leader of the First and Second Intifadas, Barghouti supported the peace process, but in 2000 he became disillusioned. He became the main figure behind the Second Intifada—also known as Al-Aqsa Intifada—in the West Bank. He was referred to by Uri Avnery as “Palestine’s Mandela.” In 2002 Barghouti was arrested in Ramallah by the IDF and Israeli authorities accused him of the murder of Israeli civilians and attacks on Israeli soldiers. He was tried and convicted on charges of murder, and sentenced to five life sentences. Marwan Barghouti refused to present a defense to the charges brought against him, maintaining throughout that the trial was illegal and illegitimate. Nowadays, he is seen as the only contender who can beat Hamas and become the next Palestinian President.
Moreover, Marwan Barghouti occupies a place of honor in the memory of all Israelis, due to things said by one of his lawyers. Shamai Leibowitz is an Israeli lawyer, better known for being the son of the polemic Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz (see Diskotel). During his defense of Barghouti, he compared Barghouti to Moses. He said in the Israeli court: “According to some lawyers, he should be called a terrorist, but according to Exodus, he is a freedom fighter.” Mr. Leibowitz argued that Moses killed an Egyptian not because he hated Egyptians but because the man was beating a fellow Jew. While the Israeli audience was shocked, Barghouti smiled.
Hence, Barghouti’s words are significant. The message he delivered last Monday was clear: “The Palestinian Authority must stop all cooperation with Israel—economy and security—and work toward Palestinian reconciliation,” he said and added: “It must be understood that there is no partner for peace in Israel when the settlements have doubled, it is the Palestinian people’s right to oppose the occupation by all means, and the resistance must be focused on the 1967 territories.”
Politics are often defined as “the peaceful solution of conflicts.” However, in all the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians we do not see this definition of “politics.” We see in them the continuation of a long war; we see accords in which the side perceived as militarily stronger imposes unfair conditions and limitations which are impossible for the people to accept. The answer is clear: the war goes on, regardless the name of the leading organization. Should the Islamic Jihad compromise on unfair terms with Israel, it would also be replaced. Unless the leaders of all sides understand that sovereignty belongs to the people and thus no agreement taking advantage of the people would be ever accepted, the war will continue.
"I have been to Palestine where I’ve witnessed the racially segregated housing and the humiliation of Palestinians at military roadblocks. I can’t help but remember the conditions we experienced in South Africa under apartheid. We could not have achieved our freedom without the help of people around the world using the nonviolent means of boycotts and divestment to compel governments and institutions to withdraw their support for the apartheid regime." —Archbishop Desmond Tutu
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