Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Begin the Third Intifada: An Intifada of Peace

By Liam Bailey

Ever since the Palestinians elected Hamas in free and fair elections, Gaza has been getting slowly destroyed. Only one major move can save it from complete destruction: a third Intifada.

Gaza's destruction has resulted from the Israeli imposed financial blockade, which was of course followed up by the U.S. and the international community. The siege is causing severe poverty. Not to mention the multiple Israeli air and artillery strikes in the past year, hitting infrastructural targets like a power station and bridges, giving already restricted Palestinians less freedom of movement. Then there are the errant shells hitting houses and killing civilians and children. And finally a major ground operation in the summer of 2006. All of this has resulted in the killing of hundreds of civilians in the past year.

But Gaza is also being steadily destroyed from the inside, because poverty is accompanied by depression and hopelessness — and with hopelessness comes rising criminality. Gaza has no official police or security forces but does have guns and rockets aplenty, and targets never too far away. Rising crime is an increasing nightmare, causing the Gaza strip to slowly implode, most notably with increased inter-factional violence between Hamas and Fatah. The fighting has been intensified because the U.S. and Israel support Fatah with money, arms and a campaign of making them look most likely to end the occupation — in the hope they will paralyse the popular but "extremist" Hamas movement.

The fighting had lulled after the unity deal was signed in February in Mecca - a deal for a government that went some way in meeting Israel's demands in return for lifting the siege amid hopes that an end was near.

But the siege and worsening poverty continued. Rising crime has led to the noose around Gaza tightening even further. One of the few sources of income in Gaza consisted of foreign journalists and other visitors. The kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston sent them running for the hills.

Fatah attempted to restore order and the faith of outsiders by flooding Gaza with their security forces, which I don't doubt was done at least in part with good intentions. But I can also understand why Hamas was decidedly nervous and angry with the flood of Fatah gunmen, given their history of rivalry along with the U.S.-Israeli desire for Fatah to regain control of the Palestinian Authority. So, the fighting began anew, lessening any chance of outsiders returning.

Gaza has never been so isolated and poor. And the people charged with bringing an end to the misery can find nothing better to do than kill each other, along with countless innocent civilians. At the same time, Israel's repeated operations in the West Bank led to Hamas deciding to end the ceasefire with Israel. The number of rockets being fired from Gaza increased dramatically.

So, when things were reaching their peak of outright desolation and hopelessness for the Palestinians, Israel decided to end their 6 months of restraint in the face of rocket fire and at the same time use it to up the ante on their campaign to put an end to the Hamas problem. Israel has begun a new campaign of air strikes on the rocket squads and Hamas militants, and also on Hamas members and their homes. And overnight the Israeli Security Cabinet approved intensifying the campaign.

Israeli air strikes, on top of the poverty, unemployment, restriction of movement and inter-factional violence is tearing Gaza apart. Leaving Gazans with very little to live for, driving them to ill-advised actions and in turn threatening to make the situation even worse.

One thing could save them: A Third Intifada of zero violence. An Intifada where all Palestinians unite in peaceful protest at the occupation. No guns, just hordes of angry people ready for change, ready to finally put all the violence behind them and gain their new state - by starting as they mean to go on, in peace and unity.

Imagine if you will, all the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and the refugee camps on and around the Israeli border leaving their houses together to go and take up positions in human chains along the Israeli border — in the areas where the whopping great security/separation wall doesn't make it impossible. I see them closing checkpoints, stopping traffic, halting exports, hindering trade and giving Israel a taste of the restrictions they have been forcing the Palestinians to endure for decades.

It wouldn't only get the Israelis' attention — in the You Tube, de-centralized-media-everywhere-world we live in, it would damn well get everyone's attention pretty quick. So, any ideas the Israeli Defence Forces had about opening fire on the chains would be almost impossible. Of course the I.D.F. may well have a go anyway, given their opening fire on a crowd of unarmed Palestinian women in front of cameras not so long ago. For me, the fact that the women were there as human shields to help Palestinian gunmen holed up in a mosque escape, does not justify the I.D.F. firing on them.

In the event of another such atrocity I would urge restraint by armed Palestinians, and hope the human chain of the Third Intifada remains strong until Palestinians are granted an equal and independent state, and that all refugees evacuated one way or another when Israelis gained their country, be adequately compensated and offered a new home in the new state.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Gaza has no official police or security forces but does have guns and rockets aplenty, and targets never too far away"

Difficult to follow; the Palestinians DO have "official" police and security forces (a LOT of them; though perhaps you referred to their lack of legal instituion in Gaza as opposed to West Bank?). In any event, as you noted yourself; the area is swarming with Famas and Hamas groups, most with the monikers of some security group, militia, etc. The Gazans may have the honour of being the most "secured" people on earth, with a troops-per-civilian density that US commanders in Iraq can only dream of.

Most of the endemic lawlessness in Palestinian areas is a result of fighting between Fatah and Hamas, as they try to channel the (shrinking) state budget to their (unpaid and angry ) supporters.

Its a simple patronage/guns/graft economy; dozens of similar examples in the 3rd world. There's nothing remarkable about it, surely?

That said, your peaceful intifada idea is worthy, good-intentioned and completely futile. Oh, and quite a few commentators

Dealing with rational, self-interested, educated, modern, democrats like the Israelies it's the OBVIOUS strategy. But...

Of course, we both know that Palestinians will never choose peaceful means over the violent ones they have preferred (and have served them so badly) these past 40 years. (You'd probably say they were too "brutalised" to do so, I'd say "pathologised, with cultural predispositions to violence and a complete lack of empathy for other minds"). But either way we're talking about the same psychological inability to make the best, self-interested, choice. And a leadership/organisational inability to put it into practise. Control the armed factions? Abbas can barely control his own menu.

Given their factionalism its difficult to see the Palestinians implementing any strategy at the moment. But they had their chance.