Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Presidential palace in Cairo. Egypt actively supported Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.
19 January, 2009
The following is an interview with Nassar Ibrahim, Policy Director of the Alternative Information Center. The interview was conducted on 16 January 2009 by Enrico Bartolomei
What is going on in the West Bank in relation to the Israeli attack on Gaza? Why is the reaction not so strong?
The reaction in the West Bank is strongly affected by the internal Palestinian split: the power in the West Bank is presently held by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. Soon after the 2006 election in which Hamas won, the antagonism between the former Fatah-led PA and the new Hamas government became manifest. This opposition can be read as the difference between two strategic choices: the one represented by the Fatah leadership and supported by many Arab regimes loyal to the USA power, which sees the peace negotiations and the involvement of international institutions as the only way to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The other strategy is the resistance movement, currently led by Hamas with the participation of the leftist groups (PFLP, DFLP), the Fatah al-Aqsa Brigades, the Islamic Jihad and so on. When Israel attacked Gaza 20 days ago, the political position of the PA in the West Bank was clear: 'we are not part of the attack.’ Therefore, they are using all their power to keep the West Bank as calm as possible, employing the Palestinian policemen in order to prevent any clashes between the Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli soldiers. As a result of this policy, the reactions in the West Bank are not effective enough.
As Livni herself announced several times, the attack on Gaza, which is a massacre, a genocide, is not being done in order to topple Hamas or to stop the firing of the rockets: they are attacking Gaza to destroy any group or any Palestinian movement that sees resistance as the main way to face the Israeli occupation. Only by getting rid of the Palestinian resistance movement will Israel will be able to impose its conditions on the table. The Fatah leadership in the West Bank should take concrete actions against the occupation and should not provide any political cover for the Israeli aggression on Gaza. On the contrary, the PA is acting as a mediator, like Egypt and the other Arab regimes, instead of putting pressure on Israel while the resistance fights to prevent Israel from achieving a real success. Keeping the West Bank calm is of great help to Israel, the same for the Arab regimes that do not take strong positions against the attack. This gives Israel more time to turn the situation in Gaza.to its favor, first militarily and then politically.
…in this light the role of the PA is no more just a 'moderate position,’ but real connivance with the Israeli attack…
Sure it is not a moderate position, this is a political choice and the PA will pay the price for that afterwards: for the Palestinians, Israel’s war on Gaza is against the choice of resistance to end the occupation. The war clearly shows that we are split on two fronts: the front of the resistance and the front of the support for the Israeli attack. What is the PA position, in which front are they? And the Arab regimes? As for the last Lebanon war, in which some Arab regimes blamed Hezbollah, in the present war they hold Hamas responsible for the attack, actually supporting Israel. They blame Hamas for launching rockets on the southern border of Israel, but this is not correct: during the six-month cease-fire, Hamas stopped all the launching, but the siege continued, and the siege is part of a military action. Should Israel be allowed to kill us slowly without any kind of reaction?
…it seems another step in the Israeli long-term policy of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians…
It is, Israel says it has the right to defend its civilians from the rockets, but the real question is 'why are you occupying this people?’ The first problem is the occupation. And also the international community is helping Israel to the extent that it doesn’t resolve the question of the occupation. With the present attack, Israel is trying to forget its defeat in Lebanon, showing the world its high-tech weaponry and using them against cities and people who lack any possibility to flee. Israel first wants to defeat Hamas; second it wants to prevent weapons from entering the Gaza border; the third aim is to impose a radical change in the political situation. Israel is using all its propaganda system in order to present this as a war between two armies, but in fact there is a clash between the almost unarmed Palestinian resistance movement and the Israeli super power. Israel says that the fighters hide among the civilians, using them as shields, but in fact there is no distinction between the fighters and the other Palestinians because the former are the sons, the brothers and the husbands of the same people suffering from this attack. Their heroic resistance is the reflection of the Gazans’ heroic resistance; Israel knows that very well and for that reason is killing civilians without distinction: it fights the resistance itself by fighting the civilians. As a consequence, there is no choice for the Palestinian people but to fight or give up. Look at the consequences of the so called peace process: Gaza is under siege and the West Bank almost the same (Wall, check points, arrests, assassinations), even though there are no missiles coming from there. The Palestinian leadership must stop and consider the results of the peace process, a 15 year long negotiation and the situation got worse. Only the choice of resistance can put an end to the occupation. Fighting and negotiating together. There is no example in history of a people under occupation stopping all forms of resistance to rely only on negotiations. In order to reach a result Palestinians have to struggle and to negotiate at the same time. In the other way they will start negotiations already defeated and could only passively accept Israeli conditions.
Let’s go back to the present split between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Do you think any future reconciliation will be possible at this point?
After this war, the split is no longer between Fatah and Hamas, but acquires another meaning: it will be the split between the choice of resistance against the occupation and the passive acceptance of the Israeli and US political conditions, in other words the Palestinians should give up. After the war, the political map will be different: people will choose resistance. Look at Gaza, look at the popular support for Hamas: the Palestinians are backing their resistance in Gaza because Hamas is now seen as the powerful actor trying to defend Palestinian national rights. On the other side, the political position of the PA is seen as sharing in the Israeli attack on Gaza. I remember even some speeches from PA leaders saying to the Gazans to be patient because the legitimacy would return soon. But how will they return in Gaza, riding the Israeli tanks? Who will ever accept them in Gaza after all this bloodshed, after more than 1000 martyrs and 5000 injured, after all this destruction. The legitimacy will come from the struggle and will not come from collaboration with the occupier. If ever the Palestinians will rely again on the present PA leadership, that will be a great historical fault.
What will be the role of the Palestinian Left in the future? Might it be an alternative both to Fatah and Hamas leadership?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Islamic political movement took power in the Arab and Islamic world. The victory of political Islam is the result of the US neoconservative policies and propaganda system: they succeeded in splitting the world and the debate into 'East’ and 'West.’ As a result, most people mobilized around the Islamic movements, seen as the strongest alternative in this period of history. That does not mean there is no Left anymore: the leadership of political Islam will be kept only while the Islamic movements fight against imperialism. Mass support for the Islamic movements does not mean that people accept their ideological and social agenda: so far the struggle has been to gain the minimum level of the Arab people’s rights. The masses gathering nowadays in the streets are demonstrating against US hegemony in the Middle East, and at the moment the Islamic movement is carrying that flag of protest. They are not alone; the leftists are part of that struggle. Again, this is the point: the choice between resistance against Israel and US imperialism or defeat—the one of the followers of Israeli and US policies, first and foremost the Arab regimes allied with them.
When I look at the demonstrations all around the world, I ask myself 'why are they supporting Gaza?’ Only because the Gazans are human beings like all the others? No, we are fighting the same battle; we are facing the same dreadful consequences of the American policies in the world: the situation in Gaza is merely the result of these policies, which are failing all over the world. The US failed militarily both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and failed economically as seen the recent collapse of the financial system shows. Israel also failed in Lebanon in the 2006 war, and they will fail in Gaza. Israel and the US are paying the price of such a stupid strategy. They collapsed morally. We will teach them what it means to stand for human rights.
Source: Alternative Information Center