by Tahir Mahmoud (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 37, No. 12, Safar, 1430)
Political commentators have advanced numerous reasons for Israel’s onslaught on Ghazzah. From the official Israeli line to stop Hamas rocket attacks to Israeli politicians’ need to act tough before next month’s elections to presenting a fait accompli to the incoming US president have all been trotted out. Each carries an element of truth but even if taken together they miss the larger point about the primary reason for Israel’s murderous attack: to eliminate Hamas and install the puppet Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in power in Ghazzah. Israel wants a quisling that would willingly sign on the dotted line whatever Israel puts in front of it. In this criminal enterprise, Israel also has the backing of most Arab regimes in addition to the European Union and Israel’s principal financier, the US.
The scale of Israeli brutality in which innocent ci-vilians have been targeted and then blamed on Hamas is reflective of this policy. The Israeli, and indeed Amer-ican aim was to cause massive cas-ualties in hopes of turning the people against Hamas. This has had completely the opposite effect. When thousands of people are killed including hundreds of children and thousands are bombed in their homes, it is unrealistic to expect that they will express gratitude to Israel. Besides, the people of Ghazzah have been under siege for two years. They have experienced the zionists’ disruption of their lives. Nearly 80 percent of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Ghazzah’s narrow strip are dependent on food handouts from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Israel has blocked food, fuel and medicines for more than two years. Even during the ceasefire that went into effect last June and under which Hamas stopped firing rockets into Israel in return for no attacks by Israel and complete lifting of the blockade, Israel continued to violate this. Former US president Jimmy carter wrote that only 15 to 20 percent of Ghazzah’s daily needs in food and medicine were being allowed in (Washington Post January 8, 2009). Carter also said that in the last seven years, Hamas rocket fire had killed 13 Israelis. (By way of comparison, in the first eight days of Israel’s onslaught on Ghazzah, more than 450 Palestinians were killed.) Carter described Israel’s attacks grossly disproportionate. He also opined that it was completely unwarranted since Hamas had proposed extension of the truce for another six months, an offer spurned by Israel.
It is not difficult to see why. The plan to topple Hamas had started soon after it won the January 2006 elections routing Abbas’s corrupt and incompetent Fatah. Initial attempts included threats, blackmail and open warnings to Abbas that the West and Israel would not accept any Palestinian government that included Hamas. The US also used the “Quartet” comprising the US, UN, the European Union and Russia, to demand that Hamas renounce all armed resistance to Israeli occupation and even “disarm” before a political solution could be reached. This demand essentially amounted to giving Israel the right to use its military and economic controls over the West Bank and Ghazzah to impose a unilateral solution on the Palestinians. In its current murderous onslaught, Israel made similar demands: Hamas must not fire rockets into Israel and it should not be allowed to rearm. There was no mention that Israel must stop its murderous attacks, immediately withdraw its forces from Ghazzah and end the siege that amounted to a declaration of war on the 1.5 million Palestinians.
Two years ago, the US, Israel and the Quartet’s demands were thwarted when Hamas agreed to form a unity government with Fatah through the Makkah agreement of February 2007. This, however, proved short-lived be-cause Washington persistently demanded that Abbas dismiss Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister. In May 2007, for instance, Elliot Abrams, then deputy advisor in the National Security Council, met a group of visiting Palestinian businessmen telling them to overthrow Hamas using whatever means necessary. Abrams, it should be stated for the record, is the person who has said that the primary loyalty of American Jews should be the state of Israel and that they should not feel shy about it.
US-Israeli pressure was not limited to mere advice. While the US, European Union and Canada cut off all financing for the Palestinian government, Israel refused to hand over the value-added tax and customs duties it collected on behalf of the Palestinians. This was not Israeli largesse; under the Paris Protocol signed with the Palestine Liberation Organiza-tion as part of the Oslo Accords, Tel Aviv was required to pay this money to the Palestinian government. Together with political and economic pressure, the US also exerted military pressure. In late 2006, then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to provide covert military training and money to equip and strengthen Muhammad Dahlan’s militia. Dahlan is a thug and is closely allied with the US and Israel. His militia was used to torture and terrorize Hamas supporters at the behest of the US; this was intended to instigate open warfare with Hamas. The line given to them, and one that has been repeated during the current onslaught by American and Israeli officials is to “dismantle Hamas infrastructure”. Thus, if schools, hospitals or Ghazzah University are bombed and destroyed, these are all presented as part of “Hamas infrastructure” and, therefore, legitimate targets. The civilians that die in such attacks are presented as “collateral damage.”
Fighting erupted when Dahlan’s militia attempted to stage a coup against the Hamas government on June 7, 2007. Hamas fighters pre-empted the coup and routed Dahlan’s thugs in five days. After Fatah security headquarters were taken over, Hamas discovered hundreds of secret documents revealing close contacts between Dahlan and the Israeli spy agency Mossad. Dahlan had been providing intelligence information on Hamas leaders to the zionists for years. Not surprisingly, even during the recent Israeli onslaught, Hamas warned that Abbas’s men were acting as spies for Israel to locate its officials for targeted assassinations. In an interview with the American magazine Vanity Fair (April 2008), Dahlan admitted that he had carried out “very clever warfare” against Hamas in Ghazzah for many months. American instigation of warfare between Hamas and Fatah was also confirmed by Alvaro de Soto, then UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who wrote in his 2007 confidential ‘End of Mission Report’ that the US “clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas.”
Once Hamas took full control of Ghazzah in June 2007, its economic, political and military strangulation intensified. The US, EU and Israel were already involved in this siege. Arab regimes including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were also brought on board to ensure that Hamas did not survive. A clean, successful Hamas-led government led by people who were not thieves was anathema to the small men that rule the Arab world. Their masses would immediately see the difference between their own incompetent and thoroughly corrupt rulers and Hamas’s self-sacrificing leaders. Further, that Hamas could stand up to the Israeli Goliath without any resources while their own rulers, awash with oil wealth and equipped with huge stockpiles of weapons, have always advanced pathetic excuses for inaction and cowardice.
Both Egyptian and Saudi officials are on record as saying that they would like to see Hamas cut down to size. Israel’s apologists — in the West and East — have continued to harp on zionistpropaganda about “protecting” Israeli citizens from Hamas rockets but truth has a way of slipping through. Amir Taheri, an Iranian exile and former editor of Kayhan newspaper during the Shah’s regime who now lives in Paris revealed Is-rael’s true intentions. On January 9, Taheri wrote: “Also…Hamas, since it staged its putsch two years ago, has closed Gaza to all Palestinian groups that have accepted a two-state solution…More importantly, perhaps, Hamas has forged an alliance with Iran based on President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad’s strategy of wiping Israel off the map…Thus, Israel’s war aims are clear: end the rocket attacks, reopen Gaza to other Palestinian parties and eliminate the Iranian presence. This means creating a new status quo in which Hamas is not the dominant party in Gaza.”
No respectable journalist would indulge in such blatant lies but when one has a long history of serving a tyrant like the Shah, then Taheri’s lies are not surprising. Hamas did not stage a putsch; it was Dahlan’s thugs that were instigated by the US and Israel to carry out a putsch against Hamas, according to his own admission. Second, President Ahmedinejad has not called for “wiping out Israel off the map”; he repeated the words of the late Imam Khomeini that the zionist regime should be removed from the page of time. Such subtleties are obviously lost on the likes of Taheri and other zionist supporters. But it is his admission of Israel’s true intentions for this murderous war — to eliminate Hamas’s influence in Ghazzah — that is revealing. Like the colonial master, Israel must determine who is to be allowed to rule in any part of Palestine.
But Israel’s war aims have not been realized. True, it has inflicted massive damage on Ghazzah — 1400 people killed, 5,000 houses destroyed and 20,000 damaged and much of Ghazzah’s infrastructure destroyed — as it did in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. That is what armies are trained to do: cause wholesale destruction. That, however, has not resulted in Israelachieving its war objectives. Rockets did not stop landing in Israel even though their effectiveness was grossly exaggerated. Rockets are the Palestinians’ reaction to zionist barbarity and strangulation. They refuse to die quietly. Further, Hamas has not been weakened nor have Fatah and Abbas become more popular as a result of Israel’s barbaric attacks. Instead, as Isabel Kershner wrote in the New York Times (January 15), “With each day, the [Palestinian] authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indeed his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters. The more bombs in Gaza, the more Hamas’s support seems to be growing at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, already considered corrupt and distant from average Palestinians.”
Even some Israelis have started to admit this in public. The New York Times quoted one Israeli official on January 15: “‘There are not too many realistic ideas around,’ conceded Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The reason: Most ideas, he said, largely rely ‘on the good will of Hamas.’ That may be in short supply, because Hamas, deeply embedded in Gazan society both as a fighting force and a provider of social services, seems highly likely to survive in some form after this war,” wrote Kershner in her January 15 article.
When leadership is rooted in the masses, it cannot be eliminated even if each and every one of the leaders is killed. Others immediately step forward to take their place and continue the struggle. For truly committed Muslims, the intensity of oppression simply brings out the best in them as it did in Ghazzah.