The piece below is long, but it makes an important argument that the "actual, central and most feasible context for ...achieving liberation for the Palestinian people...is political," not military.

--Kevin Lindemann


Armed Resistance and the Chances for a Military Solution

By Isam Makhool

The formulation of questions pertaining to armed resistance and the chances for a military option embodies the significant shift that has taken place in the context of the Palestinian cause and the issue of liberation, especially if this formulation is compared to the essence of the question which pervaded Arab and Palestinian discourse until the seventies of the last century. Then, serious doubts were raised on whether it was useful to allow the very presence of a political solution to the Palestinian question -as an alternative to, or even a complement of, armed resistance- to exist. The mainstream view in that debate undermined the political option, and considered adopting it as incapacity, weakness and evasion of the duties of [armed] resistance and actual liberation.

The question which poses itself now, at least as I understand and accept it, rightly presupposes that the actual, central and most feasible context for resolving the Palestinian question and achieving liberation for the Palestinian people, in this particular stage, is a political one. Although this context does not nullify the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself, or to attain the necessary means to do so, it nonetheless attempts to candidly answer a number of related questions: Is there a strategic military option through which the Palestinian people can achieve liberation and independence, by militarily defeating Israel? Which side stands to gain from dragging the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a military-security arena? What exactly does a military option mean, and who is advocating it? Which side is trying to simultaneously eradicate any hope for a political solution, to shun a political battle, and to replace it instead with a military confrontation and a military settlement ?!

In my assessment, the last decade and the developments it brought upon the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, have shown beyond doubt that the military option is out of the question, both as a Palestinian strategy to defeat Israel and gain independence, and as an Israeli strategy to extinguish Palestinian aspirations for freedom, independence and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital within the June 4th, 1967, borders. It is also implausible in light of the current imbalance of forces in our region, and in the unipolar world at large. In the past decade, precluding the military option was a fundamental factor in pushing the political process forward, and in confusing Israel. It was natural for it to confuse Israel, and not the Palestinians, since the political option stripped Israel of the overwhelming military advantage it enjoyed, especially in the absence of an Arab element in this equation.

Imposing the political option was an achievement of the first Palestinian intifada (popular uprising) of the late 1980s which brought together the entire Palestinian people, men, women, children and seniors, rejecting the occupation, confronting it with stones, and stripping it of its powerful military card, its military might, which was turned into a liability, a fetter around the occupier’s arms: whenever Israel used its military advantage to win a military victory, it found itself losing politically.

The Priority of the Peaceful Option does not Nullify the Legitimacy of the Resistance

Giving priority to the peaceful option and singling out the political strategy do not negate the legitimacy of resisting military occupation; neither do they undermine the lawful right of any nation under occupation, including the Palestinian people, to resist occupation using all possible means, permitted by international conventions. However, they do entail that the exercise of this right be guided by a clear and accurate analysis of the realities of this era, the balance of powers, and the actual Palestinian state of affairs. They also necessitate making the crucial distinction between what benefits the cause of liberation from occupation on the one hand, and, on the other hand, what feeds into the strategy of that occupation, justifying its aggression and oppression, and distorting the justice of the liberation cause, while forcing the occupied to play according to the rules of the occupier, on its own field, where it commands overwhelming advantages, previously stripped away from it, as a result of immense Palestinian sacrifices.

The rejection forces, predominantly the rightist, on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, often do not like to take into consideration such compounded issues; they insist on considering the conflict an existential one which can be settled only through military confrontation, sooner or later. These groups are interested in ruling out the political solution and the political opportunity, denying these options a real chance to succeed, since that would contradict their strategy and final solution.

When the Rejection Bloc Governs Israel …

The main difference between the two sides is that the Israeli rejection bloc is today ruling Israel and enjoying an unprecedented parliamentary majority, whereas the Palestinian rejection bloc is in the opposition. This difference explains the reality of the terrorist and destructive role that the government of Ariel Sharon plays in obliterating the political option, and in creating a false perception about the possibility of returning to the military option as the only option, thereby delaying the political solution indefinitely, or at best conditioning it upon the outcome of the military solution, with total disregard to the consequences.

It is not a coincidence that Sharon’s obdurate, colonial government was ushered to power in Israel under the slogan: "Give the army a chance to win," after adopting Barak’s cliches: "There is no peace partner on the Palestinian side," and "Arafat is no partner for peace," and his belief that after Camp David II Israel must impose a solution based on its military might, even if it adopts unilateral moves (including the so-called "separation" plan) to this end.

The truth is Sharon did not bring with him to power the mentality of the military option; it was Barak who laid the foundations for it through undermining the Palestinian partner in the peace process, thus bringing Sharon to power. It is not true either that Sharon’s blood thirsty government, which massacres Palestinians in Rafah, Tulkarem, Khan Yunis, Nablus, and Jenin, is committing these crimes because there is no Palestinian peace partner; on the contrary, such crimes are committed precisely because there is a Palestinian side interested a peaceful and just solution, committed to a political settlement. The presence of such a partner, Sharon fears, may restrict his military option, or even strip Israel of its superior military card altogether.

Rehva’am Ze’evi, Israel’s late tourism minister, who advocated "transfer" [ethnic cleansing] of the Palestinians, was blunt -to the degree of rudeness- when he was interviewed by Israeli television only hours before the suicide bombing of Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem and few weeks before he was assassinated; he demanded his government to "declare war on the Palestinian Authority, to dismantle it, to destroy it, and to end Yasir Arafat’s rule," citing the senseless argument that, "Arafat is not a suitable partner for a solution." (Ze’evi was looking for a peace partner ?!!) He even angrily warned his interviewer, "Don’t frighten the people of Israel with the alternative that might replace Arafat… if Hamas and Islamic Jihad take control of the Palestinian leadership, this will benefit Israel … the world will understand us. Then we can stick to the military option and to the opportunity of eliminating terrorism." This outrageous statement by Ze’evi exposes the true face of the Likud-Labor government: it is not concerned about the Israelis’ security, but rather the occupation’s security and continuity, as well as the perpetuation of its colonization, oppression and aggression, all channeling the conflict into the military track, taking it further away from any political settlement.

The mere creation of the Israeli national unity government reflects the political and ethical crisis that dominates the political structure in Israel. This government has "assassinated reason," as well as the opportunity for peace and democracy; it was not created to offer an alternative to the existing political or peaceful solutions, but was in fact created as an alternative to all political solutions and to every process of negotiation, deemed as an obstacle to be removed. It does not have anything to offer but oppression, aggression, and colonial violence in its attempt to subdue the Palestinian people.

Such "rolling insanity" is capable of creating a dangerous new reality, whereby the Israeli occupation returns to the hearts of Palestinian cities, facing widespread popular resistance anew, after Israel had succeeded in the Oslo accords to dissociate itself from Palestinian population centers. Such a development creates new rules, carrying new dangers, and new confrontation tools, rooted in the tactics of the first intifada. No one then can deny the Palestinian people its right to self-defense and to resist the occupation in Ramallah, Tulkarem refugee camp, and Al Kasaba in Nablus; moreover, no one then can fail to distinguish between the criminal and the victim.

Competing to Monopolize the Role of the Victim

Not only does Israel occupy land, build settlements, confiscate land, control Palestinian water resources, and humiliate, incarcerate and dehumanize Palestinians, but it also strives to acquire the status of the victim, competing with the Palestinians over it, thereby denying them even their right to be Israel’s victims! Israel, with unequivocal U.S. support, does not want to focus on the occupation and the demands to end it, since it is adamant that the issue on the table is not the occupation, but violence. The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the implementation of the pertinent United Nations resolutions cannot be allowed to be part of the main discourse in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; only Israel’s security must be considered for discussion! The American-Israeli agenda cannot let such issues as Israeli colonial oppression, aggression, war crimes, liquidation of Palestinian activists, and state sponsored terrorism -which the Bush administration views as legitimate self-defense!!- to be voiced or presented. On the contrary, it is "Palestinian terrorism" and eradicating the infrastructure of "terrorism," and internal Palestinian strife that are high on this agenda. Consequently, the correlation between suffering under occupation and being a victim is no longer a simple or an obvious one; it is all bound by the dictates of the balance of forces.

Such dissemination of false consciousness intensifies the complexities of confronting the oppressive Israeli occupation, which is sponsored by the Bush Administration. In fact, the Bush administration is lying when it declares a "war of democracy" against terrorism, whereas in fact the war is on democracy, human rights and freedom of nations, the American nation included. The US intentionally and systematically mixes up, in a criminal and deceitful manner, between any form of national liberation struggle, or struggle for nations’ rights, on the one hand, and "terrorism" on the other, where the latter has become the American magical fig leaf since the September 11th attacks. This "terrorism" has been manipulated as a pretext for suppressing every struggle for social justice, human rights or democracy, despite the fact that since the 1980s until recently the United States used these same values to justify its "rapid intervention" worldwide, where in fact it committed crimes under their guise.

A War on the Existence of Israel or on the Continuation of Israel’s Occupation

Armed resistance against the occupation and militarization of the intifada, which were never able to end the conflict before, have faced even more complications in the current local and global context, where Israel enjoys a wider margin of freedom to apply extreme forms of colonial oppression, while at the same time appearing as the victim –the victim of its victim, really.

Under the rule of Barak and later Sharon, official Israel has worked hard since it launched its aggression against the Palestinians in October 2000, to portray the intifada as a "war," not aimed at ending the occupation, or gaining independence for the Palestinian people, but on the very existence of Israel, and a continuation of "Israel’s war of independence," which started in 1948 and has not ended yet. This illogical, cunning and anti-historical falsification is meant to prepare the minds of the public to accept mechanisms similar to those used in the 1948 Nakba (Palestinian Catastrophe), and the Israeli war crimes that ensued. It also aims at rallying all Israelis behind the official line, and silencing any real debate on the occupation, the settlements, and the objective differences between those who profit from the occupation and those who are hurt by it. The Israeli fabrication also aims at hiding the true face of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, liberation, and independence, making it look instead as a "war" to eradicate Israel.

Furthermore, official Israel has deliberately and dishonestly used Barak’s failure at Camp David to dictate a Palestinian concession on the right of return, to convince Israelis that the Palestinian strategy is based on destroying Israel and changing its demographic nature, and not on the quest to end the occupation or to achieve independence.

The rulers of Israel, despite their differences, have dealt with the Palestinian refugees issue and the right of return as a scarecrow to generate fear among the Israeli public of the justice element in the proposed peaceful solutions, whereas recognizing the Palestinians’ right of return would actually end such fears. It is futile for Israel’s consecutive governments to arrogantly assign the duty of, and responsibility for, securing the Jewishness of the state of Israel to the Palestinians, through demanding that they forfeit the rights warranted to them by the international legitimacy, and deceptively considering them, if they fail to do so, liable for the failure of the peace process and for the collapse of the final status talks.

The Borders of June 4, 1967: not the Core of the Conflict but the Opportunity for a Solution

The bombings carried out by Palestinians against Israeli civilians inside Israel have contributed to the effective promotion of the "existential threat" argument, and have reinforced the myth of the continuation of "Israel’s war of independence, which started in 1948 but has not ended yet." These acts have also abolished the distinctions, that used to exist in the general Israeli consciousness, between the residents of Israel proper vs. the settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. They have also "succeeded" in minimizing the acute debate, that once existed among Israelis, on the need to get rid of the occupation. That debate has reached its peak during the first few months of the intifada, when the settler-right movements launched a rabid campaign –which partially reflected these movements’ desperation then- against wide affluent sectors of the Israeli society, "who were not only unmoved by the bloodletting of settlers in the 1967 occupied territories, but who also dealt with settlements as an obstacle that they must rid themselves of." The settlers also accused wealthy northern Tel Aviv residents of "dullness" and of discrimination between their blood and that of settlers, since they were only touched when regular Israelis were killed, but could not care less when settlers in the occupied territories were killed. They accused them of viewing the settlers as a security, political and economic burden, which the Israeli society was no longer willing to endure. The bombings beyond the Green Line (inside Israel proper) transformed the colonialist settlers from being a burden to being national victims, worthy of compassion, acceptance and integration.

It is true that the 1967 borders are not the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; however, they undoubtedly offer a chance for a political solution. Ignoring this fact has helped free the settlers of their isolation, and has wiped out the line drawn to discern between Israeli civilians and settlers, who form a primary component of the occupation, and an obstacle to Palestinian independence.

Inside Israel, the bombings have created a dangerous and fake perception among Israelis and in the international community that the main threat is not the occupation but "terrorism," which aims at killing Israelis and Jews wherever they might be. From the same perspective, the Palestinian struggle is viewed not as striving for liberation and independence, but rather for the destruction of Israel; as a result, the Israeli occupation can once again succeed in presenting itself as the victim of those whom it is actually victimizing. This has given the gory Israeli ruling establishment a golden opportunity to spread ethical, political, and ideological insipidity and apathy in the Israeli community, to uphold its military option, and to maintain the status quo indefinitely.

Priority to Demography or to Geography?

This is all taking place in the shadow of a conflict between two major Israeli political schools: the Labor Party school, which espouses giving priority to the demographic threat, since it views it in the short to medium run as endangering the Jewish majority to the west of the Jordan River. Confronting this threat, rather than acknowledging Palestinian national rights, is what compels Labor to propose dividing the land and establishing a Palestinian state next to Israel, in conformity with Clinton’s suggestions, which were amended by Barak’s reservations. The second school is the bloc that advocates the "Greater Israel" slogan. This school has recovered in the wake of the failure of Barak’s government, the collapse of the political process and Barak’s undermining of the Palestinian peace partner. This school claims the ability to hold on to "the land of greater Israel" on the one hand, while preserving the Jewish identity of the state, on the other, through compromising Israeli democracy, keeping the Palestinian people outside the circle of national rights and political legitimacy, and pushing the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel outside the sphere of democracy and the legitimacy of participation. Having the illusion that Israel’s overwhelmingly superior power can be used to end the conflict militarily, this school calls for a systematic process of subjugation of the Palestinian people, where confrontation is turned into "events," or to a perpetual state of affairs, and where racial segregation becomes an established system. This is the school that is currently governing Israel, due to the miserable failure of the Labor Party, and its despicable servitude to Sharon’s government and its fascist tendencies.

In light of this conflict, the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership have no right to abandon their faith in their ability to politically penetrate the Israeli society, to accumulate peaceful achievements there, and to await the right moment to shatter the Israeli collective silence, which resulted from an ugly disinformation campaign, thriving on Barak’s deception, Sharon’s lies and Palestinian mistakes. Sharon is seeking ways to avoid the political process and to reduce the conflict to its security dimension, through maintaining the explosive situation, intensifying the bloodletting and committing war crimes. His government not only lacks a political alternative, but has also made itself an alternative to any political solution; his main agenda is guaranteeing security, occupation and settlements, and not guaranteeing the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike, through ending the occupation, dismantling the settlements and recognizing the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.

Having a breakthrough that can alter the dominant position in Israel is a decisive factor in winning the battle for a just peace, and for completely ending the occupation. Influencing the international public opinion is just as crucial in mobilizing support for international protection of the Palestinian people (a Palestinian demand which both Israel and the U.S. have no moral right to reject, or to impede, because they are both responsible for the crime). International peace and monitoring brigades and solidarity delegations also constitute a real challenge to the Sharon apartheid policies. However, the important question remains: who isolates whom? Will Sharon succeed in isolating the just Palestinian struggle and Palestinian leadership? Or will the Palestinian struggle isolate Sharon in Israel and internationally (perhaps in the Arab World as well)? Isolating Sharon must start in the Israeli arena, which is bursting with internal contradictions, and which is in a state of crisis at the intellectual, social and political levels. This, however, is condition upon giving those contradictions a chance to take off, to explode.

Who will Win the Million?

There is a saying which states that committing a war crime requires three conditions: A murderer, a victim, and a million spectators looking the other way. Sharon’s leadership of this Israeli government of blood and death provides the first condition. The continuation of the occupation, that has been oppressing the Palestinians for more than three decades, provides the victim. And the battle remains: who will win the one million spectators? Will Sharon and the Israeli military establishment, supported by the U.S. administration, succeed in keeping the million spectators –in Israel and the world at large- looking the other way? Or will the Palestinians and the rational and wise forces in Israeli society, together with the Arab national minority in Israel break through belligerent consensus, and shatter the overwhelming stillness of the international and Arab arenas, which turn a blind eye to the Israeli crimes?

I believe that the snow ball has started rolling, and the uncertainty of who will win the million has turned into a question of time. Furthermore, the Palestinian bet on this breakthrough will ultimately remain a decisive factor, capable of isolating the sea of blood policy, which Sharon is presaging to the Palestinians and Israelis alike, and also capable of laying the foundations for just peace and independence on the ruins of this deadly policy.


From: Communist Party of Israel , Sun, 17 Feb 2002
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