By Abdel Sattar Qassem
It is easy to believe that the people of Palestine face just one war, that which is related to the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of the Gaza Strip; some may even limit the “war” to the blockade of the Gaza Strip on the grounds that the West Bank is involved in negotiations and there is a self-rule Palestinian Authority, albeit operating almost entirely under Israeli control.
The media plays a major role in creating this perception, due to the specific focus on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; aided and abetted it has to be said by some Palestinians who overlook the fact that most of Mandatory Palestine was occupied in 1948. By focussing solely on the territory occupied by Israel since 1967, the initial occupation and the rights of refugees to return to their land are being forgotten.
Moreover, the Palestinians face war on several fronts as part of what is understood to be an Israeli strategy to exhaust the patience and resilience of the people living under occupation. The aim is to dissolve the notion of a Palestinian nation leaving individuals to struggle and grab whatever they can in their own best interests.
The salaries war
This war is being fought in the occupied West Bank in order to placate the people with jobs associated with donor countries, controlled, of course, by Israel and the United States. It is a war that turns the possessors of rights into guardians of the state of Israel, and has the following key features:
A) The number of staff in the Palestinian Authority (PA) is increased so that more families are dependent on salaries and, therefore, less likely to opt for resistance as a way to challenge the occupation. A PA employee has to think long and hard before expressing any opinion or taking any action against Israel because he could lose his job. Donor countries are as clear as Israel and America that they will only fund positions for those who support Palestinian agreements with Israel.
B) By targeting economic and agricultural production, the occupation authorities have created a level of unemployment that forces more people to seek jobs in the dependent rather than the self-reliant economy. The Palestinian security services, for example, which work closely with the Israelis to police the occupation, employ many people who would otherwise be engaged in producing Palestinian produce and goods which would in turn compete with Israel’s on the open market. Tradesmen such as blacksmiths and carpenters have also been affected, as have the traditional clothing and shoe production in towns like Nablus. All of this makes the sort of jobs on offer at the PA much more attractive to people desperate for an income.
C) Influential senior post-holders in the PA are kept in check by the provision of perks such as luxury cars and travel facilities, fuel and phone cards, mobile phones and VIP cards.
D) The circle of trust within Palestinian society is broken by the deployment of Palestinian security personnel who monitor and punish the people, especially those who oppose either Israel or the Palestinian Authority. There are no jobs in government institutions for those who are suspected of opposing the Authority or belonging to opposition factions.
E) Using the education system and social events, the PA and its paymasters dilute Palestinian national consciousness, turning the people into consumers preoccupied with their own desires.
The war to “Israelise” the country’s Palestinian citizens
This is a war waged by Israel against the Palestinians who stayed behind in 1948 and refused to be driven from their homes. The aim is to make them “good Israelis” serving the cause of Zionism, the political ideology that abuses them, confiscates their land and deprives them of basic human and national rights. In referring to these citizens as “Israeli Arabs”, the authorities and media seek to deny Palestinian identity and link their existence to the state of Israel.
Despite the partial success of this affiliation of Palestinian Arabs to Israel, and the failure of the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian Authority to defend their brothers and sisters living inside Israel (“1948 territory”) the notion of resistance to the occupation has remained strong with many who seek to retain their Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identity.
The blockade war
Up until 2007, the Gaza Strip was subjected to the same wars as the West Bank. Since then, however, a total blockade has been enforced on Gaza, with Israel in the lead role of enforcer, supported by the USA (of course), the European Union, Russia, Arab state (especially Egypt) and even the Palestinian Authority. The aim is to force the people of Gaza to abandon their democratic choice of a Hamas government and move into the embrace of the Fatah-run PA. The blockade is a complete sea, land and air siege and is enforced by Israel’s armed forces. This has included a full-scale land invasion which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, one-third of them children.
Such intense pressure on the people has brought forth evidence of their resourcefulness in order to cope with daily privation; it has also increased the level of global support for the rights of the Palestinians and opposition to the Israeli blockade. Solidarity campaigns have succeeded in raising awareness of the plight of the people of Gaza, turning the media spotlight back onto those guilty of crimes against them the Israelis.
The war of persecution and humiliation
This particular war is waged largely by Arab regimes against the Palestinian people on the grounds that a Palestinian is always guilty until proven innocent. In this war, it is a crime to seek the ways and means to liberate the Palestinians’ homeland and restore their human and national rights. In suppressing active resistance to the illegal Israeli occupation, these Arab states are complicit with Israel and the US in human rights abuses committed by the Zionists.
Palestinians face regular interrogation and abuse by Arab security services until they are prepared to accept the ideas and ideologies of the Arab despots kept in place by Western support precisely because what they do against the Palestinians helps to keep Israel “secure”. After the Oslo accords, even Palestinian security services serve this function to protect Israel against ordinary Palestinians. In return, Israel has been known to protect pro-American Arab regimes through the exposure of coup attempts and suchlike.
Arab countries differ in how they wage this war. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are denied many basic human rights in order to make sure that they do not feel the urge to abandon hope of returning to Palestine and make their stay in the host country permanent. This second class status persists no matter how many times the Palestinians themselves assure the Lebanese authorities that they have no wish to stay longer than is necessary. It appears that the authorities want young Palestinians to migrate and forget their national cause.
In Jordan, it was clear from the start that the government worked to establish itself as an alternative homeland through naturalization and civil rights for Palestinians. The regime is now speaking against this concept as right-wing Israelis have seized on it to “prove” that the Palestinians already have a state of their own (an estimated 70% of Jordanian citizens are of Palestinian origin), it is on the East Bank of the River Jordan, and it is called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
In most Arab states, ordinary Palestinians are soulless, just eating, drinking and sleeping, and not daring to interfere and get involved in Palestinian affairs on pain of accusations of treason.
The war of displacement
The daily harassment of Palestinians in Palestine and Arab countries has led to mass migration and Israel seeks to facilitate that as much as possible. Some countries, such as Norway, Sweden, Canada, Australia and the United States, have opened their doors to this Palestinian exodus, easing previous entry restrictions but making sure that the applicant for a residence permit is a refugee not just from the land of Palestine but also from the cause of Palestine. Helping in this way to empty the land of Palestinians is one way, of course, that these countries – even unwittingly – are helping the Zionists to achieve their aim of “cleansing” the land of Palestinians altogether.
Through al of these types of war against the Palestinians, the Israelis and their allies have failed to disperse the people from their land and eradicate them and their rights. Some successes have, it has to be admitted, been achieved, but most have failed, despite the best efforts of Israel, the US and Arab states.
The general Arab populace across the region is not the compliant mass that it was in the past and many are now awaking from their stupor to support the Palestinian cause. Increased Islamic awareness in many countries makes it possible for those involved in the political process to mount serious challenges to their governments’ policies in years to come. This will inevitably benefit the Palestinian cause.
The biggest problem facing the Palestinians in the high- and low-level wars that they face is in the West Bank, where the authorities are remarkably successful in containing the Palestinians and humiliating them. The situation is so bad that those who have been accused of working with Israel have become the leaders, making the decisions and collaborating with Israel in several areas. This is, however, likely to be a temporary situation.
Palestinians all across the worldwide diaspora have a deep understanding of their cause, their factions and their leaders, sufficient to sort the wheat from the chaff; they also understand fully the international movements and attitudes of Arab and Zionist schemes. They are thus forewarned and capable of challenging media, political and cultural attacks on the Palestinians to keep the people united in their cause. It is true that many Palestinians still suffer from wishful thinking and good intentions towards some of their leaders and their policies, but they are not in influential positions and so are, in the main, inclined towards the Palestinian national cause.
Regional and global unity of purpose is generally positive, due to the Palestinians’ own determination backed by Arab media such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Manar and Al Alraie satellite channels. If a division is apparent between the West Bank and Gaza, it is because people cannot be united around the policy of formal recognition of Israel and security coordination with the occupying power. In the end, the West Bank and its people will return to be active players in opposing the occupation and walking together with Gaza and the diaspora on the path to liberation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.
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