Ever since Israel’s withdrawal of its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 it has slowly turned that territory into a besieged ghetto. All land, sea and air access in and out of Gaza was and is controlled and the amount of supplies in and out have been reduced over time. In this process the governments of the United States and Egypt cooperated. Washington commenced a financial stranglehold on the Hamas controlled territory and Egypt sealed up Gaza’s Western border. In addition, by their silence, the European Union and many Middle Eastern countries also showed that they would cause no trouble for Israel on account of their actions in Gaza. This is probably the case because first, the leaders of these countries, whether democratic or authoritarian, are members of a political elite who value their relationship with the United States and Israel more than the lives of the Gazans. These leaders have no stomach for upholding international law or pointing fingers at Israel even when it commits crimes against humanity. And second, the majority of citizens of these lands (even the Arab ones) do not know enough or care enough about Gaza’s fate to rise up and demand a change in their government’s policies. In the case of the United Nations there has also been silence from the Security Council (whose members follow the lead of their basically pro-Zionist governments) and from the organization’s timid Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Only the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, and the Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, Richard Falk (an American Jewish academic), have had the courage to speak out. But, of course, these brave souls have no authority over UN policy.
In the face of this situation the resistance groups of Gaza had only their home made missiles to fight back offensively. These were not, of course, a very effective weapons. Confined to a ghetto and abandoned by most of the world, the democratically elected government headed by Hamas negotiated a hudna or truce with Israel through the auspices of the Egyptian government. This truce brought a fragile quiet to Gaza and southern Israel for six months but did not relieve the pressure on Gaza’s borders or promise any real betterment in the lives of the people of the Gaza Strip. Then, in September 2008 a meeting took place outside of Ramallah between the West Bank militia leaders of Fatah and Israeli military commanders. According to reports in the Israeli paper Ydiot Ahronot the meeting was to arrange for the deployment of more Fattah policemen in the city of Jenin. But it went further and included reaching a common agreement on the destruction of Hamas prior to the end of Abu Mazen’s presidential term of office on January 9th. The Fatah militia leaders described Hamas as a common enemy of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The two would now work together to destroy this enemy. Israel would destroy Hamas in Gaza and Fattah would assist in its destruction on the West Bank.
Shortly thereafter Israel purposely broke the truce by crossing the Gaza border on the pretext of destroying a tunnel which they said was to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The application of common sense demonstrates that this was not a believable tale. The tunnel certainly existed, but it did not cross the border into Israel. The Israelis, obviously knowing about the tunnel, could have simply waited to see if the tunnel came into Israeli territory and then destroy it. If this happened the Israelis would have a strong case for their actions and the truce would most likely survive action against Hamas within Israel. But there was no proof that Hamas was intent on using the tunnel to attack Israeli troops as long as there was a truce. Israel knew that Hamas would retaliate for its attack on the tunnel within Gaza territory. And the chances of the truce crumbling in the face of Israeli aggression on top of a tightening of the borders that had by that time produced widespread malnutrition was predictably high. This scenario was produced by Israel so as to give them an excuse to fulfill the plan originally discussed with the Fatah militia back in September.
The massive airstrikes we now witness are but the beginning of this plan to destroy Hamas. More air strikes will probably follow and culminate in a full military invasion of the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians will die in this operation along with hundreds of Israelis. The Israelis can also expect a renewal of suicide attacks in their cities. The present structure of Hamas in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will suffer great damage. Its ability to do its charitable work and carry on resistence may well cease in the short run. But then they will rebuild and within a number of years appear again to serve the needs of their people and renew resistence against the Zionist enemy.
In this story there is only one really new aspect. It is not Israeli duplicity, for modern Israeli leaders have regularly broken their word, whether given orally or in writing, ever since the first Camp David efforts of 1978. It is not the use of tactics that combined the behaviors of both progroms and concentration camps. For Israel had been concentrating, impoverishing, and brutalizing Palestinians both as individuals and as a group for decades. Indeed, the world needs a new word to describe the behavior of Israelis toward Palestinians—a word that means the same as anti-Semitism but is applicable to Zionist behavior. Not even the world’s silence in the face of the Israel’s turning of Gaza into a modern version of the Warsaw ghetto is really new. For the world’s governments have been essentially silent for 60 years. What turns out to be the new aspect of this tale is the collusion of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in this aggression toward the Palestinians of Gaza. It would seem that Fatah’s leadership has actually decided to ally with the enemy that seeks to ethnically cleanse them. They remind this writer of the Jews who served the Nazis as policemen in the ghettos of German controlled Europe during World War II. Their reward was that they would be the last to be exterminated.
The behavior of Fatah means that this organization and its leaders are almost certainly doomed. Unlike Hamas, they will not be able to rebuild. Their reputation, after it becomes known that they cooperated with Isreal in the assault against Gaza, will be unredeemable. If there is ever another election in Palestine they will not be able to seriously participate. They can now exert authority only as adjuncts of the Israel’s colonial army. In essense, they have abandoned the Palestinian people and tied their fates irreparable to that of Israel.
LAWRENCE DAVIDSON is a Professor of History at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania.