Gaza as Center
by Basem L. Ra’ad
Behind the blinding media rhetoric and deceptive narratives and justifications, and digressions from root issues, the latest attacks on Gaza are part of a larger plan.
Christian Palestinians voted overwhelmingly for Hamas in 2006. I was in the Jerusalem area, and in Ramallah and Bethlehem, and witnessed this unusual turn. It wasn’t the decisive factor in the crushing win by Hamas over the Authority led by Fatah, but it carried much meaning. Not only have Christian Palestinians been subjected to the same dispossessions and harsh treatment as Muslims by the occupiers; like other Palestinians they were voting for an independent voice, less control by the West and by Israel. They were voting for change, out of the stagnation and incompetence brought on by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the intransigence of the Israeli government, which continued to build colonies, imprison, kill, and impose ever more stifling restrictions and dispossessions. People were opting for resistance, for a shift in the balance of power.
I saw the conspiracies against Hamas by all sides beginning on the day it won the election—not only by Israel and the US and some European countries but also (as I personally heard) by Palestinian Authority officials. Over the months and years, parliamentarians in the West Bank were arrested, leaders assassinated, and three massive attacks on Gaza launched by Israel.
Democracy is selective. When the Israelis elect political and religious extremists and when their government is the most peace-obstructive in Israel’s history, that’s said to be democracy. When Hamas gets the vote or Egypt elects a Muslim Brother as president, everything is done to disrupt the democratic choice and to pacify the population.
In the current media coverage and Israeli propaganda, Hamas is portrayed only as a “terrorist” organization that is sacrificing Gaza’s population for its extremist objectives. Conflating Hamas with ISIS is the newest deceptive strategy among Israeli and North American Zionist spokespeople, who are exploiting news of what is happening in Iraq and US bombing there.
We don’t have to like Islamic ideological movements to see that the West and Israel are intent on blurring the distinction between legitimate resistance (represented by Hamas and Hizballah) and extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaida. The plan is to remove resistance. Hamas has inherited one remaining outlet for resistance in the region against the colonial policies of Israel and the hegemony of the West, regardless of how misguided some aspects of its ideology might appear.
Israel’s attack came after all Palestinian factions decided on a unity government, which Israel refused to accept. Although it used other excuses, its real motive is to eliminate any negotiating strength on the Palestinian side. Why “negotiate” with a unity government when the previous Palestinian divisions gave Israel more power to manipulate occupation and Gaza’s seige? Destroy Hamas and leave only Abbas and his more pliable group.
And this intention to eliminate Hamas is implemented with the most indiscriminate and pathological acts of murder, and hate statements by many Israeli politicians and religious leaders: calls for killing the mothers of “snakes,” putting all the people in concentration camps, “exterminating the nests of resistance” that remain, and finally making the Palestinians “perish from the world.”
In political terms, these words and actions demonstrate an intention to destroy what is left of the Palestinian cause, as much as it has been over the decades to destroy the Palestinians as a people. Israel is allowed by the media and many world leaders to justify this slaughter, shifting the responsibility for it to Hamas, ignoring repeated incidents of children playing and civilians sheltered in UN schools killed by US-supplied Israeli shells.The casualty statistics point to the obvious, apparently missed by most Israelis and some in the West: those killed on the Israeli side are soldiers, while in Gaza 80 percent of those killed are civilians. Hamas is making the case for itself as a resistance movement, while Israel is acting as a criminal colonial state apparatus.
Diluting the Palestinian cause, keeping Palestinians under attack, wanting to disarm them completely—all have other objectives. Continuing to demonize Hamas diverts attention from the fact that the great majority of Gaza’s population is a product of Israel’s creation in 1948. Gaza is the most concentrated and most proximate reminder to the rest of Palestine (city and village populations expelled and their homes destroyed or taken over by Israelis). The 1.8 million Gazans are survivors or descendants of people who lived and owned properties in what are now Israeli-occupied colonies and towns. It is a concentration of the massive Nakba of 1948, an overpopulated and degraded Troy, and now a Guernica multiplied.
Though the original creeds of Hamas are couched in undiplomatic language, they spring out of this original grievance which must be addressed if the conflict is to be resolved with any sense of justice and if reasons for “resistance” are to be addressed. But Zionist ideology abandons justice, claiming entitlement to the “land of Israel” and a mythology that relies on biblical stories—stories that have now been totally debunked by archaeological and historical discoveries.
Destroying Hamas would diminish the Palestinian leadership’s ability to influence the Zionist state. It would blur the legitimacy of resistance and the root causes inherent in the colonial-settler nature of Israel.
And the plan is wider.
The regimes in Iran and Syria, (along with Hizballah and Hamas) form an axis that Israel and the West want to eliminate as a source of power and leverage. It has been a declared objective of many US and Western politicians to destroy this axis. The two regimes and the two allied movements, despite recent Shia’-Sunni friction, are an alliance that is not at all compliant. They do not fit with Western master plans for the region. They do not allow free reign for Zionist and imperialist ambitions—which fragmentation and puppet regimes created in the past are meant to extend into the future.
These resistance movements have emerged out of religious ideologies, which were much less powerful a short time ago. Previous attempts had not succeeded in remedying the historical injustices. The form that they have taken now has emerged, more out of necessity than choice, as a dedicated alternative at this stage.
Israel was facilitated as a creation by Christian fundamentalism allied with imperial designs, well before the Holocaust. While the religious justification for this state has been proven an invention, the inherited sympathies are is still strong in religious and political circles since the same biblically-derived justification myths were used in earlier colonial projects, including what became the US. All kinds of self-interested and profitable investments continue to accrue from following this model.
Religious claims are glorified on one side and condemned on the other, especially when the latter condemnation hides a national robbery by Israel of immense scale. Intellectuals, activists, and fair-minded people must work to expose the strategies that camouflage as righteous claims but perpetuate conflict, exploitation, massacre, and slow genocide. All should also act to prevent the inventions and dispossessions from being enshrined as real and legitimate, for injustices to be forgotten. The rise of extreme positions on the Israeli side is a symptom of strategic national amnesia; on the Palestinian side, it is a symptom of remembered grievances, of continuing injustices—a resistance.
In the absence of fundamental changes, ceasefires and temporary solutions won’t work.
Basem L. Ra’ad is Professor Emeritus at Al-Quds University and the author of Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean.