In March 1955, an Israeli army unit attacked a camp belonging to the Egyptian army inside the Gaza Strip, which was entrusted to Egypt after the 1948 war. The Israelis killed 36 Egyptian soldiers in cold blood and wounded 28 others. One of the perpetrators was the infamous Ariel Sharon, the late Israeli prime minister, who said that the purpose of the operation was “to kill all the soldiers, destroy all the weapons that were available inside the camp and destroy its entire installations.” According to a once-secret Israel report made public a few years ago, it was a punitive objective, not military, “to deliver a message to the Egyptian leadership under Gamal Abdel Nasser that any new commando operation [by Egypt] will have bloody consequences.”
Nasser learned the painful lesson and called off the operations that were carried out by Egyptian intelligence units. Such operations have always puzzled historians because during that same period he was in contact with Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett about making peace between the two countries. The Egyptian president later tightened his iron grip on Gaza and prevented and pursued any Palestinian who contemplated resistance. Compare that with the current situation in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion set up a military doctrine for his country to deal with the surrounding Arab states which did not recognise it; he called this “incremental deterrence”. The doctrine did not tolerate any resistance operations and responded with incremental and brutal force so that the Arab states would realise that they have no choice; they could accept or reject Israel, but they had to stop all forms of resistance. The result was the same either way. Israel does not need the love of the Arabs nor does it need to convince them of its right to exist in their midst. It knows that its existence is outside the context of history and logic and that it came into being by force, it will live by force and it will die by force. Consequently, it will have to live with its finger on the trigger.
A glance at the history of Israel and the Palestinian resistance will prove that this doctrine is still alive. It is exactly what the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is implementing so faithfully in Gaza today, in the footsteps of his predecessors. In brief, and in accordance with Ben-Gurion’s doctrine, Israel will continue to persecute the Palestinians in Gaza until they give up resistance, just as the others have.
The problem is that Israel wants the Arabs to change while it does not change itself. The other constant factor, which renders the acceptance of Israel and succumbing to the status quo extremely bitter, is the Israeli occupation. Enjoying American political and military cover, Israel deals with its occupation with a combination of racism and arrogance. The negotiations encouraged by US Secretary of State John Kerry failed precisely because of the Israeli stance towards the occupation, which it seeks to legitimise. However, it is not even acceptable to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah despite it having succumbed to the status quo and to financial gains and privileges, let alone to the much-maligned Hamas. In as much as this renders peace impossible it also renders capitulation likewise.
This background is important for Arab intellectuals and writers who, incomprehensibly, have been attacking the notion of resistance in the ongoing Israeli war against the Palestinians in Gaza. This strange phenomenon warrants analysis. Regrettably, the number of such intellectuals here in Saudi Arabia is higher than average. If such a trend continues it will destroy the kingdom’s honourable claim to support and defend the Palestinian cause since the time of its founder, King Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud. We are only rivalled in this by the Egyptians, although they should not be taken too seriously because they are going through an exceptional phase that does not deserve much comment other than that we are waiting for it to pass.
These intellectual and writers have jumped crudely on the Palestinian resistance groups, blaming and denouncing them “for not realising the difference in power between them and the Israelis” and “for seeking to alleviate the pressure on the Iranians”. Worse still, some claim that “everything taking place is nothing but a PR campaign to regain sympathy for political Islam.” They are wrong.
The focus has to go back to Israel’s occupation to explain an Israeli war against the Palestinians that has not stopped for a single day since 1948. “It is meaningless to ask how the ongoing war on Gaza started,” wrote Dr Khalid Al-Dakhil last week. Did Hamas start it or Israel, he asked rhetorically, before answering his own question. “When did the Israeli war on all the Palestinians, including Gaza, stop? War is not always about firing shells or rockets or about the hell of cluster and phosphorous bombs. It is also about assassinations, the demolition of houses, the theft of land, the settlements, administrative detention, forced displacement and humiliation at checkpoints that are spread across the [occupied] Palestinian territories. It is also about bedevilling the victim by calling him a terrorist who refuses to recognise the right of a ‘Jewish state’ to exist.” From this perspective, said Al-Dakhil, the Israeli war on the Palestinians has never stopped since 1948. “All that happens is that this war at times adopts the form of a low intensity conflict while at other times it becomes an open military onslaught. Israel is always the one that decides when and how the transition is made from one form to the other.”
On that March morning in 1955, there was no Iran and no political Islam to use as an excuse, just a young Egyptian leader who wanted to negotiate with the Israelis and pressure them through the weapon of resistance. He was subjected to some of what Hamas is being subjected to today. He succumbed to the status quo and abandoned Gaza and the whole of Palestine. Now the Palestinians in Gaza are in a large prison. They cannot leave their homeland even if they wanted to, because it is their homeland and because a racist, arrogant Israeli state controls the borders; our implicit acquiescence doesn’t help.
So why are we seeing this sudden hostility towards the resistance? In my opinion, it is for one reason and one reason only. Such writers are embarrassed by the resistance groups and their rhetoric against them is their way of saying, “We surrendered long ago; why can’t you do the same?”
Translated from Al Hayat newspaper, 19 July, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.