By: Ibrahim Hannouneh
This article does not give a position, support or justification to any one particular ideology, but rather explains reality, not only regarding the attack on Gaza and Palestinians, but also the Palestinian strategies of resistance with their popularity and their impact. The issue will be tackled from logical, emotional and political perspectives.
The current escalating Israeli military measures and attacks, which began and are still ongoing in the West Bank then later moved to the Gaza Strip, were clearly planned and strategic, as a means to: first, to disturb and prevent Palestinian national reconciliation and unity; second, to bring negotiators back to the table without Israel having to freeze settlement and force them to accept any deal even if it definitely would not fulfill basic human rights for Palestinians; and third, to solve internal political conflicts among political parties within the Israeli government.
The death of three Israeli settlers, whose death cause is still not clear while some news and media investigation talk about a accident on their own a few days before Israel announced their disappearance and accused the Palestinians, was used to serve these agendas. Hamas was accused by Israel simply because they, together with most other Palestinian political parties, have stated that: if the settlers were kidnapped by Palestinians, as Israel claimed, they are armed settlers who illegally confiscate and colonize our land, and attack Palestinians on daily basis, and hence, logically, they are legal targets for the Palestinian resistance. Besides, the Palestinian authority cannot be blamed since its security forces do not control and are unable to access Area C, where settlements and settlers are mainly located, as it is under full Israeli Security control, and this is where the alleged kidnapping took place. Most of the time, the PA cannot even have control of Area A or B! Besides, settlers usually have hundreds and thousands of far more equipped Israeli soldiers 'protecting' them all the time!
Have Palestinians started firing rockets into Israel? Simply not, because, first, the Israel soldiers and settlers are the ones who have rapidly increased attacks on Palestinians everywhere, with arrests, killings, house demolition, and attacks, including the burning of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the beating of his cousin in Jerusalem. Second, Israeli raids on Palestinians in the Gaza strip from planes, tanks and gunboats, have not stopped for years, even during the supposed 'cease-fire deal', while Palestinians for the most part kept quiet and committed to the deal. Third, the Palestinian resistance and reaction came from various Palestinian factions, hence it was not planned. The heads of these political parties and groups stated clearly on TVs from the first few days that we never intend or want to react, but we are forced to.
Are Palestinians expected to keep silent and never resist while being shot at and killed? The United States and many European Nations, along with other countries, have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, killing thousands, stating that terrorists are based in and getting trained there! The same countries are now putting sanctions on Iran and threatening to attack Syria, who have never threatened to attack them, because they believe that they could be a threat to their national security some day. Israeli brutality and terrorism is obvious, and is perpetrated directly against Palestinians everywhere, concentrated primarily on Gaza. So, why Palestinians are not allowed to resist?
A Christian theologian, Kosty Bandali, stated in one of his articles: "Fighting injustice is a form of self-defense used by the oppressed in their struggle against the oppressor, because the oppressors started using violence … as Christians we should love our enemy, but we should stand and support the oppressed … supporting the oppressed obliges us to fight and struggle for the removal of injustices … using violence could be essential to avoid greater danger in a case where it is proved non-violent struggle is not stopping the oppressor (although non-violent struggle is always prioritized whenever possible)".
Most people in the majority of countries in the world have weapons in their homes, to protect themselves. So, if a thief or criminal attacks some house and starts killing children one by one, will the household stand idly by and keep watching him? If a police officer faces a criminal with a gun trying to shoot at him or at other people, would he not shoot first, even if that meant it might kill him, to 'prevent greater danger'. This is definitely self-defense. This is almost similar to the Palestinian resistance and self-dense in Gaza and elsewhere. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978, states that it: "Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle". Hence, Israel is the one practicing terrorism in its various means, while Palestinians are resisting and defending themselves in their possible methods. Throughout history, and with Israel, it is always the oppressors who starts and uses violence against the oppressed.
Is the Palestinian resistance using Palestinian civilians as human shields? Simply no, because, first, it is clear that the Israeli army is failing to target the armed resistance, hence, they are taking revenge by killing more and more Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and try to cover the failure for the Israeli community by presenting these killings as if they are successes of the Israeli army. On the other hand, it is a clear attempt to create pressure from the Palestinian community against the resistance parties to stop resisting. Both attempts have definitely failed. Second, Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth! Hence, there is no division between populated areas and there are no empty areas, everything is crowded, and Israel knows this! So, the armed resistance is not an army, they are militant civilians resisting and firing back with simple means and tools from wherever they can, from inside their own towns, villages and refugee camps, against Israeli military planes and tanks firing at them and killing their children!
Is the Palestinian resistance targeting Israeli civilians? Mostly not, and based on the Palestinian traditions and values, this is never intended. There might be intentions to threaten the Israelis, mostly settlers, in order to create a pressure on the Israeli government and army to stop their attacks on Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. Most of the rockets fired on Israel were targeting either military bases, settlement compounds, and recently with the Israeli attempts of ground invasion, Israeli tanks and patrols were targeted. It is actually the Israeli government that has its military bases within populated civilian areas in Tel-Aviv and West Jerusalem. Comparing figures, Israel has attacked hospitals, schools, mosques in the Gaza Strip in the last few weeks, and has killed so far more than 810 Palestinians, more than 95% of which are civilians (according to the Palestinian officials, while the UN talked about 82% civilians), while the Palestinian resistance has killed 35 Israelis, as officially confirmed by the Israeli military, only 1 was a civilian while the rest were armed soldiers!
So, logically and legally, Palestinians have the right to resist by all means, and emotionally the armed resistance is gaining more and more popularity for various reasons and factors: first, more than twenty years of negotiations have achieved almost nothing for the Palestinians, while violations and occupation measures, including settlements, settler attacks, arrests, etc. continue on daily basis. With the huge number of killings, injuries, destruction, etc, people emotionally would ask for immediate revenge, and the armed resistance have managed to provide such at many cases, besides forcing Israel to comply to certain deals, including the 'Shalit deal' prisoners' release. When rockets were fired from Gaza at military bases and settlements compounds, in Bethlehem and East Jerusalem, where people could see some rockets and hear the Israeli sirens, many if not most people were whistling and cheering publicly and on social media! Second, it is resistance and not intended as an attack on Israel, and the resistance does not indicate any hatred against civilian Israelis, Jews or non-Muslims. In most speeches and statements by the Islamic Political Parties' leaders, Palestinian Christians are always indicated as partners in resistance and that the resistance is defending all Palestinians, and they are against the destruction of mosques and churches, which the Israeli army and settlers target. The Palestinian Islamic parties and their resistance, being moderate Islamic parties, form a suitable alternative to the fundamentalist Islamic groups rising in the Middles East, linked to Al-Qaeda, including the ISIS and Al-Nusra, which the Palestinian Islamic parties fight and are clearly against. Third, the armed resistance has created Palestinian unity on the ground, among the various Palestinian political parties and factions, from left to right. This in turn was reflected as unity on the political level, which was one of the main Israeli targets to destroy. The cease-fire conditions set by the armed resistance groups, which are very basic and humanitarian for the people of Gaza, are now adopted by all the Palestinian political parties, including Palestinian Authority and the PLO. The PLO has called for increasing popular demonstrations across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and by Palestinians inside Israel (1948). Fourth, the Palestinian armed resistance has progressively proved its professionalism and organization with the use of technology, creativity, strategic planning and systemization, beside its morality and credibility of statements and provided information.
All the facts mentioned above is not intended to support or justify armed resistance, rather, again, to give facts and conditions. Now, politically, it is clear for most countries in the world, including the USA leadership, that the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are useless while Israel is not forced to stop it violations, occupation and give Palestinians their basic rights. Israel should be forced to comply with the international law, according to the UN and international resolutions, and then negotiations would be on practicalities. One choice as a possible method is the aforementioned armed resistance, which Palestinians have used in the past and are using nowadays in Gaza. However, keeping in mind that Palestinians never chose and are unwilling to use armed resistance, which is the last alternative, while reading and realizing how biased many countries in the world are to Israel, considering it 'Holy', and deceived by or believing in Israeli propaganda, supported by the Islamophobia, presenting any Palestinian armed resistance as terrorism, there must be another 'non-violent' choice to put pressure on Israel. This choice is an international movement against occupation with various campaigns, including the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign against Israel, isolating Israel internationally, international media that shows the reality against Israeli propaganda, bringing many Israeli leaders as war criminals to the International Criminal Court, and so on. For those who support Palestinians but do not want the Islamic parties or 'violent' resistance groups to gain further popularity among the Palestinians, and hence win in upcoming elections, they should strongly and practically support this alternative and show the Palestinians that it brings practical political results and impact. Besides, the living conditions in Gaza are some of the worst in the world: with ongoing siege for years, there is no water, no electricity, no medicine, etc. which makes life for most people worthless, therefore they would prefer to die while struggling against and fighting occupation rather than slow death in poor living conditions. Hence, creating livable conditions for Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, with freedom, would make life worthwhile for most people, and definitely minimize the number of people who are willing to get killed in armed struggles.