The Palestinian people are in an unenviable position today. The Occupation continues, the theft of land continues, the government has approved another settlement plan, and the humiliation of their representatives in the Knesset continues (MK Haneen Zoabi). Every nationalist `patriot` is proposing a new anti-Palestinian law of one kind or another. Peace with the Palestinians is more remote than ever, and there is no hope on the horizon. No wonder, then, that frustration and despair are growing in the Left. Who would have thought, back then, many years ago, which now looks like an eternity – that is, in 1967 – that this accursed Occupation would last for fifty years? Who in the Left was not sure that it would end in a short time? We all believed then in the German adage: `What is forbidden to happen cannot happen.`
Within the Left there are even those who think that in the situation that has emerged we should avoid advocating the vision of two states: the [Israeli Jewish] public does not accept it, and the Palestinians too have despaired of it, the world has reconciled itself to this situation, and Israel is ready – under the eternal leadership of Netanyahu. Disappointment and despair have taken hold of the Israeli Left as well.
To my surprise (and dismay), even Amira Hass has joined the gloomy chorus. That courageous and consistent fighter for Palestinian rights, a journalist who struggles tirelessly against the Occupation and its atrocities, has now published (Haaretz, 10 July 2016) an article under the heading `Israel has won`. The headline already says it all – Israel has won and the Palestinians have been defeated in the fight for their independence. In the article she explains in detail how and why that happened. The lists the Palestinian defeats: Israel won in 2004 and the siege of Gaza has not been lifted. `A thousand aid ships from Turkey won’t free them`, she writes. `And Israel also won in 2006, if only in the Palestinian context: Hezbollah didn’t lift a finger when it (Israel – S. A.) attacked the Gaza Strip three times after the Second Lebanon War.` She concludes that `deterrence works`. She also explains that Israel closed the internal Palestinian rift with its attacks. And last week Ismail Haniyeh said that no new war is on the horizon, in order to clarify, according to Amira Hass, `the desperate public cannot be sacrificed again on Hamas` altar of national honour`. Amira Hass also points to another Israeli accomplishment: the West has not broken off its relations with us. Despite the mass demonstrations against Israel, American-Israeli security cooperation has not stopped, and Germany is selling us submarines. In addition to all that, Hass also mocks (I have no other word) the Palestinian leadership: `deterrence works even if the military echelon in Hamas brags that it has lengthened by a few centimetres the rockets that it has acquired, smuggled and produced by itself`.
And also if you thought that there was a national struggle being waged by Hamas against Israel, you were mistaken, because `the military confrontations with Israel were the advancement of its political objectives by other means.` And she also explains that the policy of Hamas is to compete with the PLO for leadership, to be a permanent actor in Arab and Muslim politics, and maybe to strengthen the Gaza flank within Hamas, and to sweep under the carpet internal criticism over the desperate internal situation in the Strip. Amira Hass instructs the Palestinian leadership that `when choosing the means of struggle the leaderships need to take into consideration other factors besides the sanctity of rights and the justice of anger: military capacity, ethics, international law, logic and the international situation`. Has also criticizes the military struggle because `it’s a game in a field in which Israeli superiority is absolute`.
It must be admitted that Hass is right about most of the facts that she presents. They say you can’t argue with success, to which should be added that you can’t argue with failure either. But Hass goes too far. Palestinian military capacity should not be completely dismissed, and there may even be grounds to appreciate Palestinian successes – admittedly, partial – in that field: the tunnels, the stubborn resistance and the fighting spirit cannot be ignored. Despite everything, Israel needs to think twice today before launching another war. Nor can it ignore what happened to the [Israeli] communities around Gaza in the previous conflicts. Hass` faith in Israel`s power is exaggerated. Only yesterday, Prof. Yechiam Weitz (Haaretz 3 July 2016) wrote that `we are celebrating Operation Entebbe, because it was the last military operation in which we had clear success.`
It is strange, to put it mildly, how Hass instructs the Palestinian leadership on how to behave and what to do. There is more than a little typical Israeli arrogance to this, the idea that she – Hass – knows better than they what they should do. It is a shame that she falls into this trap, especially since in recent days Marwan Barghouti presented a reasonable political line even without the benefit of her learned counsel.
Also strange is her assertion that the Palestinian struggle has not succeeded in stopping European and US support for Israel. The US is represented as an observer from the sidelines, which it is not! It is the centre, basis and foundation of the conflict. Without the support of the US there is no Occupation nor even European support. US support for Israel is a strategic interest of the US. And it is even broader than the interest in preserving its hegemony in the Middle East. A small hint: nuclear missile carrying submarines and the most sophisticated aircraft in the world are not intended for war in Ramallah, and not even merely against Tehran. It is indeed beyond the capacity of Hamas to contend with the American superpower, regardless of the shortcomings Amira Hass attributes to the Palestinian leadership. It is unfortunate that Hass does not devote a word or two to that.
But Hass’ central error is in her failure to see national struggles with a broad historical perspective. Has there ever been a national liberation struggle that did not include the use of force, and a great deal of it? In which innocent civilians were not harmed by both sides? Has there been a national struggle the outcome of which was known at the beginning, and how long it would take? In which the national leaderships did not make terrible mistakes? In short, has there ever been a national struggle in which the nation fighting for its liberation did not make nearly all the mistakes and errors and omissions that Amira Hass attributes to the Palestinian struggle? Has there ever been a national struggle in which critics did not emerge from within, who demanded that it be stopped because it had no chance? That the ruler is too strong – and has already won?
Modern history is replete with struggles for national liberation and independence, most of them called `wars`. The best-known of them were: in Asia – India, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and of course Israel; in Africa – Algeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and others; in Europe – Poland, Greece and Ireland; and in America – the USA itself. Most of those states emerged after wars of liberation. There were differences on the path to national independence, but the element of violent struggle, revolt and war were common to all. It is true that in India Mahatma Gandhi preached non-violence, but the liberation of India and its division into two states was accompanied by a huge bloodbath. Most of the struggles for national freedom were also long – not shorter than the Palestinian struggle so far. There have been divisions and conflicts within the struggling nations and their leaderships, there have been long periods of inactivity during the struggles, there have been great uprisings that did not lead to liberation (in India in 1857, for example), and also the failed Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-1939). Common to all these is that in no national uprising was it possible to be sure of the outcome. But: all the uprisings failed – until they succeeded.
Splits and divisions are also common within the struggling peoples. Among us too there were three divisions in 1948: the Hagana, Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi. Divisions are nearly inevitable; they are not exactly an unfortunate invention of the Palestinians.
None of this is `proof` that the Palestinian struggle will succeed. But history teaches us that many national struggles, which looked hopeless, nevertheless led to independence and freedom for peoples who struggled stubbornly and patiently. In any case, it looks to me like struggles for Palestinian freedom and independence in particular should be encouraged. Past experience suggests that there is a reasonable chance that the Palestinians` struggle for independence, for liberation from the Occupation and the creation of a state beside Israel will meet with great success. Israel has not won!
N.B. I am not a proponent of violence, but it bears recalling and repeating that violence does not originate with the people in revolt, but is a response to the thousand-fold greater violence of the oppressing state. It is the same in our case. Violence comes above all from Israel, which has sunk its teeth into Palestinian lands, and not from the resisters. Today we are living in an upside-down world indeed: the resisters are condemned as proponents of violence and terror, and the oppressors raise the banners of freedom and democracy! What an irony of history: the imperialist West cast in the role of opponent of violence!
Translated from Hebrew by George Malent