Monday, March 3, 2008

No-Win Extremism

Gaza The Victim

By Elias Harfoush
In Dar Al Hayat (Lebanon),
Opinion March 2, 2008

The Gazans are falling victims caught between the blind Israeli aggression that does not distinguish child from fighter and the suicidal behavior that characterizes the Hamas Movement and its rockets that lure Israeli aggression and "test" the extent of its savagery and ability to kill civilians.

It goes without saying that no one needs this "test" to confirm that the fierce Israeli response to Hamas' rockets will stop at no limits, not even at targeting the homes of civilians and killing children under the rubble. However, the test is essential to prove that the world will stand silently before this Israeli aggression and will find excuses for it, excuses that even some amongst us are willing to provide through cheap talk and the opening of fronts that are neither politically or militarily compatible.

Even with the assumption that the resistance cannot lay its bets on the scenario of matching Israel's force which will never happen anyway given the absolute American support, the faltering political support in this battle can neither be blamed on Israel nor on the US. Unlike the case in previous intifadas and confrontations with Israel, the Palestinian schism has pit the Gaza Strip alone in the face of the aggression. It is this schism that bears most of the responsibility for this situation and which makes the Israeli assault on the Gazans so tragic.

Once again we see how far extremism on both sides can lead and how civilians pay the price of political objectives and interests in which they have no engagement. On the Israeli side, the violent and incompatible response to Hamas' rockets is the first practical response to calls by Israeli politicians and military leaders to regain the deterrence capability Israel lost in the July war in Lebanon and to deliver a bloody message to inform other parties including Hezbollah that under Ehud Barak's leadership of the military operation, the response to "open war" will be painful and endless. Following the massive media exploitation of the so-called Israeli defeat in the Lebanon war by Hamas and its allies, it seems that the primary objective of the latest strikes on the Gaza Strip is to assert Israel's military supremacy and its readiness to resort to all means to accomplish that, including the commitment of a "holocaust" as Israeli deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai mentioned.

On the other hand, Hamas is reaping major benefits from its position as a victim of the Israeli aggression, especially with respect to its continued political and media campaigns against President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad's cabinet. In this case, it is easy for Hamas which controls Gaza to affirm that it is the side raising the banner of armed resistance and whose martyrs fall victims to Israeli guns while Abbas and his government exercise the politics of negotiation that was rejected outright by Hamas as a form of "defeatist policy." In this context, the rockets on Sderot will have achieved a good target, namely forcing Abu Mazen to halt the negotiations and embarrassing him to the point of preventing him from criticizing Hamas's actions under the current circumstances.

Hamas and its allies have never accepted these negotiations in the first place. As a matter of fact, Hamas never expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a Palestinian state which Presidnet George Bush promised to accomplish by the end of the year. Rather, it perceives this promise as part of the "American plan" for the region, a plan that must be confronted and defeated.

In a Haaretz article (February 12, 2008), Ahmed Youssef, the advisor to the ousted Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, criticized the negotiations and attacked Abbas by saying that Hamas had previously recognized his right to negotiate in the name of the Palestinian people, "but he has now lost that right, because he no longer enjoys the respect of the majority of his people."

Instead of calling for final status negotiations, Youssef calls for a long truce that would offer both sides "the opportunity to confront disputes in a natural and calm atmosphere."

This truce, however, becomes nothing but an illusion when Israel lays its bets on wiping Hamas out before making any settlement while Hamas bets on an open confrontation with Israel at any cost. In such a situation, we can only expect more escalation and extremism.

I concur with the sentiments in this article. The exaggerated Israeli vengeance killing of innocent civilians in the pursuit of "militants" is only matched by the childishness of HAMAS in boasting that their continued rocket attacks are bringing about Israeli withdrawal.

What insanity is this? This kind of immaturity spirals downward into more deaths and no negotiations. There must be talks between Fatah and Hamas to bring about Palestinian unity in the face of Israeli occupation. Absent that, there will be no negotiations, no "peace process", no end of Palestinian resistance and no end to the occupation.

As long as Palestinians are divided, Israel will be "free" to pursue her agenda of diminishing the Palestinian population and extending it occupation/settlement policy (lamentably, with the tacet concurrence of America)

With thanks to the ATFP (American Task Force on Palestine) for uncovering this piece, I am your correspondent, John Kleinheksel Sr.