by Zafar Bangash, Laila Juma (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 5, Safar, 1422)
Just weeks after the Arab governments humiliated themselves with their utter failure to support the Palestinian intifada at their Arab League meeting in Amman on March 28, Islamic Iran showed the way forward with the unqualified support offered to the Palestinians at the opening of its International Conference on the intifada and the zionist problem in Tehran on April 24.
The conference, attended by representatives of Hamas, Islamic jihad, Hizbullah and other jihadi Islamic movements, as well as representatives of the Palestinian Authority, was opened by Imam Khamenei and president Khatami, in a show of the Islamic state’s unity against the enemies of Islam, despite internal debate about the future of the Islamic state. Both pledged their support for the jihad against the zionists and Iran’s continued rejection of the zionist-designed peace process.
In Palestine, meanwhile, it was largely business as usual. A twelve-year-old boy, Muhammad Muhareb, was martyred on April 23, when settlers fired on the funeral of a Palestinian security man killed the previous week. According to Israeli sources, they fired after they had been fired on, but independent witnesses confirmed Palestinian accounts that the Israelis had opened fire after Palestinians had fired a salute to the martyr during the funeral.
One day earlier than that, Kamel al-Zbaidi had been martyred when he detonated a bomb in the Jewish town of Kvar Sava north of Tel Aviv on April 22.
On April 21, Israeli troops has stormed the Haram al-Sharif after juma prayers, in what was described by observers as a calculated act of provocation towards the Palestinians. They did not enter either the Dome of the Rock or the Masjid Al-Aqsa.
The week had also been marked by three separate Israeli attacks on refugee camps in Ghazzah, which the West characterised as ‘invasions’ of Palestinian territory, as defined by the ‘peace process’. Dozens of homes in the camps were crushed by Israeli tanks, along with their contents. However, the zionists withdrew after staying in the territory briefly, apparently under US pressure not to aggravate the situation further.
A Hamas spokesman rejected the characterization of the attacks as an invasion, saying that the very existence of Israel was an invasion of Palestinian territory, and the whereabouts of the areas attacked by zionists in the recent operations lay was irrelevant to Palestinians.
In the meantime, despite the horrendous military assaults launched against the Palestinians, the zionists are not finding the second intifada smooth sailing either. While no match for Israeli firepower, the Palestinians have shown that their will to survive is far stronger than the zionists’ ability to crush them. Their brutality is also exposing cracks in Israel, which is not a homogenous society, despite attempts to project it as such. The fact that more than 600 reservists are in jail for refusing military service in the West Bank and Ghazzah reflects the state of nervousness that exists among those who are called upon to do the dirty work of killing innocent people. Another 2,500 reservists (according to official figures, and no doubt many more in reality) have not reported for duty.
The Israeli media and their apologists in the west have put their most positive spin on these worrying developments: the reservists are “conscientious objectors”; they feel an “affinity” with the Palestinians, whom they see as human beings. Yet there were no conscientious objectors for the previous 53 years, when the Israeli military machine was murdering Palestinians. Entire communities were wiped out (at least 475 villages and towns), horrible massacres were perpetrated — last month marked the fifty-third anniversary of one such massacre at Deir Yasin (April 9, 1948) — and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out of their homes. The sudden emergence of conscientious objectors in Israel may not be the result of lofty idealism but more the desire to live rather than die.
While resulting in numerous Palestinian casualties, the Aqsa intifada has also caused several Israeli deaths. The Palestinian casualties outnumber the zionists’ by 10 to 1, but the fact that Israelis are also dying has given some of them cause for concern. All oppressors are cowards by nature; the zionists especially so. As long as they kill others but do not suffer any casualties themselves, they are quite happy to do so. In Lebanon, the zionist army slaughtered more than 20,000 people in a matter of a few weeks in 1982; there were no Israeli conscientious objectors then. It was only when the Hizbullah appeared on the scene that the Israelis began to have second thoughts. Many fled the battlefront and even larger numbers needed psychiatric treatment after serving in Lebanon.
The same phenomenon is evident in the attitude of the so-called Israeli peace camp. Since the start of the Aqsa intifada, they have expressed great disappointment with Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestinian Authority, and bitterly criticised him for rejecting a very “generous offer” from Ehud Barak, who had gone much further than any previous Israeli prime minister in making ‘concessions’ to the Palestinians. That Ehud Barak was offering only 42 percent of the original 22 percent of Palestinian land to Arafat, divided into cantons and completely controlled by Israel, was conveniently overlooked. Zionist logic runs thus: what I have is mine; what you have is negotiable. The “peaceniks” then rushed to embrace the extremists, and are now in full agreement with Ariel Sharon’s policy of crushing the Palestinians.
The left/right divide in Israel has always been a fraud; they are two sides of the same coin. Often, the soft-spoken zionist leaders have been more brutal in their treatment of Palestinians; Shimon Peres, architect of the Israeli nuclear policy, is a prime example. It is therefore nonsense to talk about differences in the outlook between the rightist camp (to which belonged such war-criminals as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu) and the left (represented by another set of criminals and mass-murderers such as David Ben Gurion, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak). Whether right or left, they all subscribe to the same ideology of maintaining the purity of the Jewish state, which must not be contaminated by allowing non-Jews into ‘their’ country. This racist philosophy is at the root of zionist barbarism. In fact, its genesis can be traced much further back in history.
The zionist enterprise was and is predicated on two assumption: that the Jews are a special people, God’s chosen race; and that their peculiar experience in Europe confers on them a special status because the rest of the world owes them restitution. So the Jews came to the conclusion that, as a minority, they could not coexist in European nation-states: hence the drive to secure a state of their own. Throughout their history they were persecuted in Europe and Russia; this was made worse by the rise of fascism in the ninteenth and twentieth centuries. The Jewish experience of persecution in Europe, however, was simply transferred to Palestine, with the victims becoming the oppressors. Racism, a peculiar characteristic of the Europeans, also came with the zionists to Palestine.
Those who argue that, if Muslims lobby harder to influence decision-makers in western capitals, we could get a fair resolution of the Palestinian question, fail to notice the decimation of the native populations of North America and Australia. The zionists are pursuing a similar policy in Palestine. This explains the sympathetic press in the west and the doting regimes, which are more than willing to underwrite every Israeli crime against the Palestinians. They see their own treatment of ‘natives’ being repeated in Palestine and are not at all sorry, because they consider Palestinians to be an inferior breed.
In order to justify the theft of Palestine from its original inhabitants, the zionists had to invent a great lie: Palestine had been “a land without a people” waiting for “a people without a land.” Palestine was never without people; there were more than half a million inhabitants there, 90 percent of them Palestinians, at the turn of the last century. Similarly, the Jews were never without a land, despite their horrible experiences in Europe. But once the zionist enterprise was realised through the chicanery of the western colonial powers acting through the United Nations, the task before the zionists was to ensure that the indigenous majority was first turned into a minority, and later expelled completely from the land.
The Aqsa intifada has already exposed the first cracks in Israeli society: the reservists’ refusal to serve. The Israeli establishment, dominated by the military (Israel is the most militarist state in the world), realises that Israel can only be held together by creating a siege mentality; hence the constant resort to war and aggression. Zionism and peace are contradictory terms; the two cannot coexist. If there were peace, Israeli society would collapse under its inner contradictions.
But there are limits to military aggression; because of Israel’s peculiar situation, it cannot sustain long-term wars of attrition. It can fight a war for six days or two weeks, but anything longer creates serious problems. Lebanon showed the inability of Israel’s military machine to withstand pressure for a long period. Once casualties begin to mount, the most sophisticated military machine in the Middle East begins to crack up. The Aqsa intifada is also producing the same results. The difference between this intifada and the earlier one (1987-1993) is that then Israeli casualties were low. This also explains Israel’s resort to helicopter-gunships and missiles to attack Palestinian civilians.
The Israeli economy is also suffering the effects of the intifada Investors are often the first to flee when there is trouble. Coupled with the sudden downturn in the US economy, which is bound to affect Israel as well, the Aqsa intifada must give the zionists a dose of their own economic medicine, as well as increase their casualty rate. The zionists do mind dying. For Muslims, there is no defeat: if we survive the war, we are victorious; if we die, we get the reward of shahada (martyrdom) insha’Allah: the highest honour in life and in death.