FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ariel Sharon’s Subjugation Strategy

by Neve Gordon

JERUSALEM. Israel recently agreed to withdraw its forces from Bethlehem and populated Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip while the Palestinian Authority takes on the responsibility of policing residents there.

Israeli soldiers and tanks moved to the outskirts of Bethlehem, allowing the residents who have been under curfew for nine weeks to leave their homes.

But the tight military blockade around the city continues, cutting it off from other parts of the West Bank. Bethlehem has been transformed into an island.

But even this small gesture, initiated by Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, has little to do with his concern for the Palestinians, 2 million of whom have been imprisoned in their homes for nearly 70 days.

Rather, the appearance of Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna on the political scene — as a contender for leading the Labor Party in the next national elections — seems to have induced Mr. Ben-Eliezer to finally negotiate with the Palestinians. Mr. Mitzna, who is part of Labor’s dovish wing, has, according to the polls, a 60 percent lead over Mr. Ben-Eliezer.

While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not opposed Mr. Ben-Eliezer’s initiative, he has a few ideas of his own.

On Aug. 20, only hours after Israeli and Palestinian forces began implementing the Gaza-Bethlehem First withdrawal plan, he authorized the arrest of Mohammed Saadat, the brother of Ahmed Saadat, who is the current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The elite military unit that was sent to do the job killed Mohammed, the young brother.

As the news of Mr. Saadat’s death spread, violence once again flared in the occupied territories following nearly two weeks of relative quiet.

The PFLP also vowed to avenge the assassination, and if the past is any indication of the future, it will make good on its promise.

Mr. Sharon, though, is not a man to make arbitrary decisions. Killing Mr. Saadat was just part of his ongoing attempt to subjugate the Palestinians.

The closures and curfews have not worked, nor have the extra-judicial executions, the demolition of homes and the deportation of family members. So perhaps arresting and killing brothers of political leaders — “as a potential deterrent” — will.

But what is Mr. Sharon’s goal?

After an F-16 jet dropped a one-ton bomb on a crowded residential area in Gaza on July 22, killing 17 people — nine of them children — and wounding more than 140 others, Mr. Sharon exclaimed that the attack had been one of Israel’s “biggest successes.”

Despite harsh international criticism, Mr. Sharon remained unrepentant.

The Israeli press suggested that his triumphant cry had less to do with the operation’s formal objective — the extra-judicial execution of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh — than with the successful destruction of a unilateral cease-fire agreement formally finalized by different Palestinian military factions a day before the massacre.

Predictably, the cease-fire was annulled and a series of Hamas attacks followed, killing nearly 30 people and wounding many more. Among them was the bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, where nine people died, including five Americans.

Not unlike the bombing of Gaza, killing Mr. Saadat on the eve of the implementation of Gaza-Bethlehem First was meant to add fuel to the violence. It is still too soon to tell how many Israelis will die this time.

Again and again, Mr. Sharon has chosen the battleground as the arena of action because he does not believe in a diplomatic solution to the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His overall objective, though, is not to wipe out the Palestinian Authority, as some commentators seem to suggest, but rather to forcibly change its role.

Regardless of whether Yasser Arafat remains in charge, if Mr. Sharon gets his way, a “reformed” Palestinian Authority will no longer serve as the political representative of an independent state.

Rather, it will operate as a subcontractor for the Israeli government — a civil administration of sorts, responsible for education, health, sewage and garbage collection, and for policing the streets, as Gaza-Bethlehem First appears to entail.

The strategy is clear: confer on the Palestinians the costly role of managing civil life, but eliminate their political freedoms while controlling them from afar. South Africans called them Bantustans.

To accomplish this vision, Mr. Sharon needs to break the spirit of the Palestinian people, hoping that at a certain point they will bow. This, it seems, is exactly what he has been trying to do. The Gaza-Bethlehem First plan does not undermine his objective because it prolongs the strangulation and humiliation of the Palestinians, even while it allows them to leave their homes.

Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He can be reached at ngordon@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

 

Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail