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

 

More articles by:

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail