Listen and remember
Youssef Bazzi\n - 21/01/2009
There was a news report that a Libyan plane had transported Gaza’s wounded (no more than a handful in matter of fact) to be treated in Libya’s hospitals. This brought to mind the figure of “Colonel” Muammar Al-Qadhafi, the very man who had dumped thousands of Palestinians on the Libyan-Egyptian border, where they remain to this day.
The TV screen showed the Sudanese president kitted out in military uniform and addressing a hundreds of army officers. “When Israel kills more than 350 Palestinians it is an act of genocide,” he declaimed, going on to deplore, “the tardiness of the official Arab response.” I was reminded of one “General” Omar Al-Bashir, who, aided by these very officers and the Janjaweed, prosecuted a (very real) genocidal war against his own citizens in Darfur. He had yet to receive the summons to the International Criminal Court on charges of committing crimes against humanity, for fear that he would commit more massacres against the Darfurians or even set off a new war between the North and South of the country.
More reports, this time that Muqtada Al-Sadr’s “banned” organization had organized demonstrations supporting Gaza and denouncing the Israeli assault. I recalled the blood-drenched “heroics” of his militias in the suburbs of Al-Azimiya at the expense of ordinary Iraqis. I recalled, too, the thousands of Palestinians exiled to the Iraqi-Syrian-Jordanian borders, to be abandoned in refugee camps, fleeing from these very same militias. Not one country has come forward to claim them.
The “terrorist” Ayman Al-Zawahiri was reported to have denounced Israel’s actions and the bombardment of innocents in Rafah, Khan Younis, Jabaliya and Beitlahia (the well-armed sheikh might like to know that the last of these is home to a Christian minority). That made me think of the Iraqi “resistance”, which on the very same day dispatched a female suicide bomber to detonate herself in the middle of a march for solidarity with the Palestinians in Mosul, resulting in a massacre that claimed the lives of many Iraqis.
News that the Egyptian “opposition”, the grim ghosts of the Left and political Islamism (mostly toothless), had put together a series of demonstrations against the Israeli assault on Gaza and expressed solidarity with Hamas. It was hard to forget that this same opposition had maintained a complete silence over the bloody proceedings down in Sudan, that it had demonstrated in support of Saddam Hussein, a man who had put 350,000 Iraqis into mass graves: just one of the glorious feats that littered his path on his “crawl towards Jerusalem”.
The Qatari Al-Jazeera news channel was engaged in a campaign denouncing Arab regimes and sympathizing with the “resistance” in Gaza. I thought back to Qatar’s airports helping deliver bombs to Israel during its war against Lebanon in 2006.
Qatar, so magnanimous and pious in its distribution of funds and aid (for which Hizbollah thanked it on billboards erected from the streets of Beirut to the southern border) is also the only Emirate whose “people” have not demanded that it expel the Israeli diplomatic mission or shut down one of the largest and most important American military bases in the region.
I hear the Mullah-ruled Iran has held rallies in support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and strongly criticized “Arab inertia”. I recalled the fatwa issued by the vali al-faqih Khameni a few days previously in which he “forbad” from volunteering for suicide operations against Israel.
A report of a “banned” Lebanese leader coming before his adoring supporters to declare his horror at the deaths of more than 400 Palestinians in Israeli attacks on Gaza’s neighborhoods and camps. I remembered what he had done to the Palestinians in Lebanon (thousands killed) between 1985 and 1987 to punish them for “supporting Yasser Arafat”.
The Syrian regime has orchestrated demonstrations and issued statements and attacked Arab states and policy for being slow to support Hamas and its followers. I thought of the fate of each and every Palestinian that ever tried to slip into Israel over the Golan Heights. I thought, too, how this “rogue” regime, on a front considerably calmer than Sinai and Wadi Al-Araba, had consistently expelled, killed and imprisoned Palestinians from the time of Tell Al-Zaatar in 1976, through Lebanon’s daily street battles of the 1970s and 1980s, fighting in the Bekaa valley and Tripoli in 1983, up until the genocidal wars in the refugee camps between 1985 and 1987. For this entire period the assassinations, bombings and detentions continued unrelentingly. The Syrians practically wiped out the PLO. Indeed, this very regime made a friend and ally of the man responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres, Eli Habeiqa, and installed him in the Lebanese administration.
Khalid Mashal, complete with his inane grin, appears on television to announce that over 500 Palestinian citizens of Gaza have been killed during the Israeli assault… “Our losses, on the other hand, are very little…” The “we” in this short sentence refers to Hamas, and Hamas alone. Five hundred dead and nearly 3,000 injured cast aside, rendered worthless, by the movement’s Damascus-dwelling leader. They had no place in his “we”. For whom was Khalid Mashal fighting? Who was he defending? The answer came from his colleague, “Prime Minister” of the statelet of Gaza, Ismail Haniya, and his astonishing declaration: “Were they to wipe Gaza out entirely we would not change our position.” Gaza is held cheap, therefore, for the sake of their “position”. Who is he defying? Israel, of course, which announced that it was sending its army to the besieged territory to “defend its citizens and restore security” (the wrong method perhaps? That’s another argument).
Israel promises its citizens peace and calm. Hamas promises to send all its so-called citizens to their deaths for the sake of a single, pointless rocket. Faced with such an equation, the outlaws will always rejoice: it’s a win-win outcome. Thus Hamas, whatever the result of the war, whatever the final number of victims, will be able to claim victory. Their triumph is assured: who can defeat a policy in which it is totally acceptable that the worth of each rocket launched against Israel (with the aim of wiping out the Hebrew state, no less!) is equivalent to a hundred dead Palestinian children.
Hamas cares for its victory far more than Israel cares for its citizens and soldiers. Who wouldn’t play this game? There is the entirely justifiable charge that certain elements in Israel (especially those of the far-right parties) want to expel Israeli-Arabs from the country. In response, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, called on the Israeli Arabs to disrupt the country from within. I am reminded of the call made by the Arab armies to Palestinians in 1948, to leave their villages and towns the better to fight for their liberation.
What is the lesson we learn over and over again? That whenever the slogans of movements like Hamas and leaders like Khalid Mashal get heard and become popular, the goals of these slogans seem to wither and retract. Thus, “Liberating the whole of Palestine from the river to the sea” comes to mean in actuality no more than, “Open the Rafah crossing”.
We learn, too, that the greater the insistence on “resistance” the greater the chance of civil war (most recently the battles between Hamas, and the Hils and Dahmash clans).
We have learnt, in the words of the writer Aaron David Miller, “far more than we need to about conflict in the Promised Land” We have learnt that we are enemies with this lot and friends, allies and brothers with this lot and that peace is a distant dream, though we can also say that the Arabs are “tired” of this struggle that has been going on for more than 60 years. We know that the Palestinians in particular are worn out by the conflict and this historic and ongoing injustice perpetrated against them by the enemy and their brothers alike. The Israelis, too, are starting to show signs of exhaustion.
The outlaws and rogues listed above are therefore justified in their characterization of the exhaustion afflicting the Palestinians, Israelis and Arabs. They accuse the Arab of “inertia”, the Israeli of “weakness” and the Palestinian of “betrayal”. Their goal is to infuse the confrontation with new vigour and fresh ambition. But to what end? The Israelis go to war for a peace that suits their vision (one that remains unjust), the Palestinians for a peaceful equality that guarantees residence in a viable state and the Arabs for a peace that will help them secure their states, regimes and societies.
These new combatants seek to eradicate Israel, overthrow existing Arab regimes and erode the power of the American Empire. These are eternal struggles, goals that seem unlikely to be reached. Until they are, you will be blessed with ever more civil wars, American invasions, Israeli assaults and divine victories.