Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bloody and still unbowed

The horrifying pictures and videos are still searing our memories as the Gaza Strip has experienced one of its bloodiest week since the beginning of the Second Intifada and definitely the biggest death toll in such a short span since Hamas has been in control. You would not know it from the Israeli press or even from the pages of the New York Times that the ghastly total of Israel's excursion into the tiny strip has amounted to 121 according to the AP which "at least 54 of them did not take part in the hostilities" according to B'Tselem (adding that "twenty-five of them minors" and "at least forty-six minors were wounded."). These are amazing numbers when put in comparison with the number of Israelis who have fallen (a paltry 3 for those terrorists who "aim" at civilians). If Hamas is trying to kill Israeli civilians, it is doing a poor job of it. As facts would have it, it is the mighty Israeli army who did superb work of destroying innocents:

"IOF penetrated the Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip, assassinated one man, and killed an infant less than one month old...

They surrounded the home of 40-year-old Yousef Sulaiman al-Smiri...After the IOF besieged al-Smiri's house, the IOF opened fire at it intensively under helicopter cover. It ordered the family, through loud speakers, to leave the house. The family and their guests left the house, except for Yousef al-Smiri who fled.According to affidavits given to Al Mezan by witnesses, the family and the guests left the house as they were instructed by the IOF. The house's outside lights were on and the IOF kept its light on them the entire time. However, the soldiers continued shooting and, consequently, the mother Nadia Abu Aser was hit by a live bullet to her left arm. Her infant daughter, Amira, was injured by a live bullet to her head. Also, the shooting injured four other residents of the house.

There is reason to believe that Yousef al-Smiri was murdered after being stopped. After he fled his house, his body was found at approximately 10:00am the next day (5 March). Believing that he escaped from the IOF, the neighbors found al-Simiri's lifeless body lying in an open area about 150 meters from his house. When the body was examined at the hospital, a live bullet was found in his chest, and his head was crushed."

Not content with their good work in slaying poor Mohammed Al-Boraiy last week, they wanted to repeat their "morale" exercise on more Gazans. Is this what Ehud Olmert had planned when spoke of “weaken” Hamas or pressuring Palestinians in overthrowing the Islamists in a false hope of removing them from power? You would think that Olmert had been taught a lesson from his failure in Lebanon but I guess these politicians will never admit when their policy is one that is fruitless. It seems Olmert’s master plan is being undone in the West Bank also, with a spectacular scene that has Jerusalem being policed more in recent memory. Even though the official Israel line is that they were not responsible for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbollah is claiming responsibility for the latest killings in Jerusalem evoking the “retribution” that was inevitable after another of Israel’s extra-judicial killing. Time and again, the doomed nature of Israel’s militancy is putting their citizens in danger of reprisal and Olmert seems not to care.

Now we have children, dozens of them, being killed and this is meant to make Palestinians blame Hamas? This doesn’t even make the news in the Israeli press:

“the Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv dailies, to be specific - decided that the killing of over 60 residents of Gaza in one day by our soldiers is not a story. The proof: There is no mention of it, not even implied, on the first pages of these two newspapers, their obvious showcase…Only on the margins of page 3, in tiny letters, was there a first mention: About 95 Palestinians killed since Wednesday. A first picture of the killing and the outcry in Gaza on page 6.”

With such disregard for the worth of Palestinian life, it’s easy to paint them as part of the enemy’s front line. Why, they use “human shields”, don’t they? The killing of their children is a great military strategy: they have less people to “blend in” with. They’re cowards. We can sit in our fighter planes and bomb them like the ants they are and
only feel a “slight bump on the wing”.

What is important to note is that Israel has not felt the need to even cover what’s going on inside Gaza, as they have not sent ONE single reporter in there. How else are they meant to know what’s going on if they don’t even care enough to report on it?

The Israelis, the Americans and yes even most of the West’s dehumanization of the Palestinians is what is contributing to their failed strategy to even come close to quelling the violence in the region. Plenty of politics are thrown in, and it is far too complex to limit to a single damning point that is the leading reason why things are getting so bad but you would think that after the Iraq disaster that the elite would think twice about such invasions and bombing campaigns to “weaken” the enemy. With the ascendance of Hamas back in January 2006, it has been a consistent point of Washington to try to ignore that a pattern is happening that is weakening their presence in the Middle East.
Hence the great deal of importance on the Vanity Fair article that only embodies what Condoleezza Rice and George Bush had in mind when the “surprise” of a Hamas victory, which should have been foreseen since there were MANY advisors who stated that the Fatah party were not “ready” ie they were not prepared to face the onslaught of a “clean Hamas” against a “dirty Fatah” on a one man, one vote election, and even Rice’s head proxy confessed that the elections were not a good idea, that they have to do what they can to eradicate this nuisance of a party.

Rice does not come out too cleanly in the article, and according to
Missing Links, the article totally exonerates Dahlan and his party since they always attest that their plan was doomed to begin with. “It was not our fault” that the coup did not happen because they were weak, under-funded and unprepared. Hamas saw what was coming and naturally did what any political party does: survive. How ironic is it now that over a decade later after being tortured by Fatah police and security personnel for attempting to sabotage the Oslo process it is Hamas who has the power to do so over Fatah soldiers. And could Hamas be blamed for trying to show Fatah that it was only part and parcel of the occupation? That Israel had passed on the duties of occupation to its own proxy army in the territories called Fatah who were doing their best to clamp down on dissent and resistance?

This is the major problem that Rice and Bush have dug for themselves, and to a lesser extent Ehud Olmert: their sheer opposition of Hamas and Hizbollah as something less than what they are, or by merging them with “terrorists” as al-Qaeda or even “terrorist states” such as Iran has them stuck in a xenophobic drama. Despite what Rice and Bush might say, Hamas is far from an Iranian proxy (like Fatah is when Bush undertook that policy to overthrow Hamas). It may get aid from Iran but tell me where does Hamas expect to get aid from? There have been reports upon reports about the
situation in Gaza being the worst since ’67, having no electricity, no medical system and their food is in short storage. This is no way to restore faith in the Palestinians and is the biggest double standard when you refuse to accept their decision on who they want to lead them in talks. And because for some reason that aggrieved Palestinians do not want to suffer more humiliation at the hands of the colonizer, who has made them refugees once, twice and sometimes even more than that, they react angrily and decide to fire some rockets, the sanctions that are meant to hurt Hamas only hurt those normal Palestinians more. It is their food that is being rationed and their movement that is being challenged and their children that is being hurt and killed. Collective punishment has not worked to overthrow anyone; it only works to add more “fuel to the fire”. With all the fighting, Hamas has more material to give to anyone who will listen that Israel is intent to inflict damage of “Holocaust” proportions. And with the current invectives being hurled at Arab MK’s in the Knesset coupled with the number of casualties in the Gaza Strip, who is to blame Hamas for not trying to capitalize on all of this?

Hamas already has called the Israeli pullout a victory. Olmert claims that is was only a limited action to give Hamas a “taste” of what is to come. It is difficult to surmise what is to come next, with contradictory accounts from both Olmert and the coming
Egypt initiative that is supposed to be backed by the Israelis and the US. Yet again, Hamas is foiling the US plans and this won’t be the last of it.

But what is very sordid is that all of this fighting could have been avoided. Muhammed Al-Boraiy could have lived for a lot longer and
the one month baby girl could have had her first steps. Had it not been for the casus belli against Hamas, it might have been led to something more tangible than a shaky talk with Egypt as the mediator. The shortsightedness of Rice and Bush is leading them to repeat their mistake of Lebanon back in 2006 when Rice expressed with bravado that it was to be a “birthpang of a new Middle East”. Little did she know that she was almost correct: the resistance groups of Hizbollah and Hamas are surely making a very strong point of being regarded as a legitimate player in the Middle East, and cannot easily be diverted as some marginal faction that is only intent on terrorism and bent on Israel’s demise. Rice, the Cold War expert, is seeing that using pulpits along the region is not the easiest way to do business. Bush the catechist, may not be willing to admit that his “us versus them” policy is bankrupt and is leading the American empire down a slippery slope that has Iran becoming the biggest influence in the violatile Middle East, hence why Israel wants the US to take it down.

The calculation of "not talking to terrorists" has cornered the Bush administration into a tough episode here. While the double standard is so odious when North Korea is spoken to and Iran is isolated, the plan of putting Hamas as a "terrorist" entity has culminated into what we have seen in the last week or two. The deaths would have been avoided if the Bush administration had not attempted to punish Palestinians for voting in Hamas. Had Hamas been engaged when they were showing plenty of signs of moderating, who knows what could have been accomplished? Rice and co. do not want to go back on their principles of not giving terrorists any leverage but what Rice and co. seem to miss is that it is they who cannot choose who speaks for their "enemies". By branding Hamas as "terrorists", they ideologically had to ignore the result, since they weren't "our kind of guy(s)". Thus, we have the policy of isolation that has led many Hamas supporters from believing that Washington are serious with negotiations to being in complete disillusion that Washington's words had any real merit. Bombing Lebanon and littering it with cluster bombs did not do a thing to weaken Hizbollah's support as Israel still has to do with them no matter what they do. Quite surprising is that the only person who seems to have any logic is Ron Paul as he was the only 'no' vote in Congress for the new resolution condemning Palestinian rocket attacks. It seems they will never learn.

As a matter of fact, it is
Hamas that is learning all the rules of the game. The violence may have not lead to much, and the Qassams are usually ineffective but they have led Israel to the negotiating table with them, something that has not happened since they were elected into power. The Fatah wing is largely hollow, with only aid and Washington’s backing keeping them alive in the West Bank. Since Annapolis, Fatah has not seen one concession from Israel, only subterfuge and fake “removals” that only solidifies the Jerusalem bloc. This has been consistent with every peace process, and it is no wonder that Hamas states that Israel is not intent on giving up anything through negotiations and only armed resistance can show them that there is a price to pay for continued colonization of Palestinian lands. Now that it has weathered the Israeli storm, it is now in a standoff that could potentially lead to a ceasefire. The sanctions may not be lifted but Hamas has shown that is can survive the slow starvation though this does nothing to help pressure Hamas.

Of course,
we will get the typical replies that “if only Hamas recognize Israel” and all that fluff. But we’re not talking about final borders here, are we? Aren’t we just talking of a ceasefire? The solution to the conflict has to involve Hamas, and not just the phony leader that Washington beefed up for theatre. Whether Washington likes it or not, Hamas has the support of the people, or else it would not have voted for it. It is stupid to believe that Canada did not like the fact that Bush was voted in (again) so therefore they immediately cut all financial ties to the US; they merely accepted the result and just kept going with business as usual. I know, I know, bad analogy: but just because you do not like the victor of an election does not mean that they don’t have legitimacy. If you want relations with the country, you talk with the voted representative of the population. You don’t try to ignore the result and attempt to delegate the responsibility on third parties: this isn’t 1967 and the Jordanian option was a failure. The PLO was selected for a reason; Hamas was voted in for a reason. Now let’s swallow our idiotic pride and talk with Hamas before it really is too late.

Secondly, the demands of Hamas are just a plan for them to be viewed as rejectionists. What’s usually missing is the fact that although Hamas won’t recognize Israel, Israel won’t recognize Israel: Israel does not have final borders. Israel does not recognize Israel on the UN Partition borders nor even on the Green Line. In the words of Mamoon Alabbasi,

“So why is Hamas being singled out for not recognising the UN drawn Israel (the one with the pre-1967 Green Line borders)?

And the Israel that Israel itself recognises (the one that includes land grabbed through war) is not recognised by the international community.”

So the world does not recognize Israel in its current form and yet Hamas is being bullied to commit to it? Now that is quite a double standard and Hamas are no fools. It is even reported that despite the condemnation of Palestinian schoolbooks inciting hatred towards Israel, it is the Israeli textbooks that do not even show the Green Line. The education system does not recognize Palestine and yet Hamas is meant to recognize Israel? Is Israel required to recognize a Palestinian state before they are brought to the negotiating table? (They should recognize one anyway.) I quote Alabbasi again,

“why is Hamas expected to recognise those who do not recognise them?”

But that does not stop Hamas from sending out gestures of a ceasefire? Do they stop talks with Washington because they do not recognize Hamas? Absolutely not. And to be even more frank, Israel did not require such a demand of Egypt and Jordan, both of whom have had peace and normalisation with Israel for a number of decades. So is the requisite for recognition such an imperative? After all, those Palestinian textbooks come from Egypt and Jordan, so they do not recognize Israel and incite hatred towards them yet peace is still a possibility within those two nations.

It is just a clever ploy in order to keep Hamas as a fringe. But unfortunately for Bush, Olmert and co. they are not going away too easily and have put their strategy completely off the track. Engaging Hamas would be the policy that would make the most sense. They have some sort of prestige and they are the most likely party to bring order in Gaza and stop those Qassams from flying over into Israel. A modicum of common sense would have led one to undertake this policy back when Hamas was voted in but Rice decided to go another route, one that
neocon David Wurmser called “a stunning disconnect between the president’s call for Middle East democracy and this policy”.

No one has ever accused the Bush administration of dealing with reality but Hamas are making themselves become a reality to the administration. You can never know what to expect next as Washington could well be on the way of cooking up another plan to derail Hamas. But as of right now, Hamas is still alive, and unbowed.

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