Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Divide and rule in Gaza

The US-Israeli government role in fomenting civil strife in Gaza is clear to all assiduous observers of Palestinian politics, and it is currently playing out with tragic consequences. As Hamas lobs largely ineffectual rockets that fall into southern Israeli fields and occasionally towns like Sderot in resistance to the occupation and unbearable living conditions — causing some property damage and light injuries — Israel once again has seen fit to use this as a pretext to deliver a ridiculously disproportionate military response, striking Gaza and killing 16 Palestinians in the past three days.

It could, of course, engage in talks with the democratically elected Hamas, but Israel has shown over and over again that it prefers the heavy handed response, pounding an already battered and suffering population. As for the prospect of engaging in talks, something that would occur to any half-way sensible person, a whole plethora of excuses are perennially trotted out: they are a “terrorist organisation”, they “refuse to recognize Israel” (nothing is said of Israel not recognizing them and in fact actively setting out to destroy them and Palestinian society). All this comes amid despicable calls by Likud chairman Netanyahu for more collective punishment of the whole population.

Instead, not only is the noose tightened on the long-suffering population who are being starved and subjected to further violence, but Hamas is being undermined by US supplied arms, money and training to the rival faction Fatah. Albeit in an Israel-slanted article, yesterday’s WaPo featured an article mentioning that the Bush administration had recently approved $40 million to train the 4000 troop-strong Palestinian Presidential Guard under Fatah leader Abbas’s direct control. (Fatah Troops Enter Gaza With Israeli Assent: Hundreds Were Trained in Egypt Under U.S.-Backed Program to Counter Hamas). Bush administration plans to topple the Palestinian National Unity (Hamas+ Fatah) Government was also featured recently in the Asia Times: Document details ‘US’ plan to sink Hamas)

Recommended recent links (2006-7):

Gaza City (1 min)

Gaza air strikes footage 17 May 07 (2:16)

15 comments on “Divide and rule in Gaza

  1. peoplesgeography
    19 May, 2007

    Would that it was “only” divide and rule. Sadly, it is more like divide and destroy in this case. :|

  2. Servant
    19 May, 2007

    regarding “causing some property damage and light injuries”

    While this is an accurate statement during this current round in the context of this report, it is inaccurate in the context of probability and time. I think we hurt our cause for justice if we appear to be condoning violence. The ends “should” never justify the means.

    Obviously you are not condoning violence, but you are minimizing the actions of the Palestinians in contrast to the proportion of force used by Israel. Both sides are using violence and neither side are justified in my opinion.

    In Palestine’s cause we can understand that resistance is not illegal, but we can make the case that the form of resistance is less effective than other means to resist.

    And of course what we do not know is whether the sappers aren’t under Israeli control. Hamas has ordered a cease fire and they seem very capable of controlling their ranks compared to the disorganized and U.S. armed Fatah.

    There is plenty of well documented evidence of Israeli subterfuge to create the appearance that it is being victimized to get the propaganda value and to preempt the possibility of real peace to get the land. Someone at DailyKos called it a systematic “slow transfer” (from memory) wherein the inexorable harassment of Palestinians has the same result as if they were all put on trains all at once and shipped out like the victims of other genocides.

    I think we need to take care not to minimize the potential impact behavior of the Palestinians resorting to violence. I think it hurts our side of the argument by making it appear that we are justifying violence.

    The advice of India’s famous architect for independence can be promulgated here. It is better to receive an injury than to inflict an injury which provides the rationale the oppressor will certainly use to justify further repression. Which was also the final consensus reached by the forum of youth in Plato’s Republic. Ultimately it is better to suffer an injury yourself than to inflict injury (injustice) on others.

  3. peoplesgeography
    19 May, 2007

    Exceptionally well said. Point taken.

    I’ve noticed the “light injuries” is an admission we see even in the right-wing Jerusalem Post:

    Nine Kassams were fired at Israel on Friday. Two scored a direct hit on a home, lightly wounding several people.

    In that same article, the prospects look ominous. A “high-ranking officer” is quoted as hinting that the IDF operations could continue “even if Hamas stopped firing rockets.”

    Israel is not “conducting a dialogue” with Hamas, he said, and added that IDF operations were not necessarily dependent on the continuation of rocket attacks.

    “We’re not just attacking real estate. We want to make Hamas pay for the terror,” he said.

    The madness continues.

  4. Servant
    19 May, 2007

    And I did not mean to beat you up by repeating the premise near the end. This little window they give you to type in is horrible for editing. I think I’ll write my homilies in notepad from now on if they’re going to be so long. But one never knows when one sits down to think how long the thought will last!


  5. Jack
    22 May, 2007

    Hi Ann,

    Even though Servant gave me a sound beating in the post, The Story of Money Animation: ‘Money As Debt’, I have to agree with him (her?) somewhat. I’m beginning to see violence as less relative (even though I tend to reference proportions when I comment-ha!).


  6. Emmanuel
    22 May, 2007

    Qassam rockets can be deadly. In fact a woman was killed by one today, and she is far from being the first fatality.

    Collective punishment of the Palestinians is not the answer, but targeting armed militants and vehicles with Qassams in them is the right thing for Israel to do, though this is only a partial and short-term answer.

    It seems right now as if even speaking to the Hamas gov’t would do no good. According to the media, there are rival factions within Hamas, with those lobbing rockets at Israel no longer taking orders from Hanniyeh.

    It’s a frustrating situation.

  7. peoplesgeography
    22 May, 2007

    The Israeli woman is the first Israeli fatality in this round, along with eight Palestinians just in the last Israeli strike. Certainly, home made Qaassams have struck people on occasion before, and both sides have deplorably been indiscriminate and struck civilians (I don’t buy the IDF rhetoric of the non-existent “purity of arms”, and a “militant”‘s house was struck that turned out to be a stonemason’s house just in the last day.

    Like previous comments here (Servant, Jack), I am concerned that violence begets more violence.

    I think targeting rocket launchers is a short-term strategy but also, I will add, a counterproductive one in the long-term. Put another way, I think it is an ineffectual band-aid strategy that will serve to produce even more animosity and determination to launch rockets through the deaths and errors of the past few days. It doesn’t at all address the root causes of the problem.

    That is in part why I disagree that talking to Hamas or the PA wouldn’t do any good. That is an excuse at best, a refusal at worst.
    We recall that a Palestinian unity government bringing the factions together was in fact achieved, however shaky it was, and became shakier in large part because it was undermined at every turn, with US arms and or Israeli government facilitation of Fatah. This is in the terrible spirit of “those who pull out the peoples eyes condemn them for being blind”.

    Good faith talks can almost always help, as well as refraining from playing one faction off against another in an already battered and vulnerable PA; it can only come back to haunt and harm Israel as a boomerang effect of its own actions. You will remember that Hamas was elected democratically because of their extensive social programmes and lack of corruption. Israel could have recognised them as the legitimate democratic expression of the Palestinian people, but instead chose to actively set out to destroy them. Non-recognition is one thing, setting out to sabotage and destroy quite another. Yes, I know what’s in Hamas’s charter but the difference is that one side is actively acting out on this (destruction of the other, both with starving and punishing the whole population as well as killing dozens in the last few rounds) and for the other it has mostly only been rhetoric.

    Gershon Baskin, a zionist and Israeli, wrote a reasonable piece in the J-Post today. He is also frustrated by the militancy and lack of good-faith commitment to peace on the Israeli side. Even if I do not agree with his zionism, would that we had more of the zionists like him and Richard Silverstein in the US. At least they recognise that this occupation and attendant strikes are sinking the ship of the Israeli as much as the Palestinian enterprise, and threatening to spill over into the whole region. The occupation harms us all, and sooner or later the two sides will have to talk to one another, witness Ireland. Why not do it sooner rather than much later, with the terrible cost in the death toll, and possible destruction of both protagonists?

    Baskin gives me some hope. The difference is that his view is not an establishment Israeli one. When his wisdom percolates up to the powers that be, and it can only happen with a concerted grassroots movement, can the glimmer of hope become more of a concrete reality.

  8. Dave On Fire
    22 May, 2007

    Nelson Mandela once said the nature of the struggle is defined by the oppressor. I abhor violence, and whenever another option is available I would take that other option. I would question whether there is another option for the Palestinians.

    They have tried to engage the democratic process on both sides of the “border” only to be all but outlawed in Israel and undermined by an American-Israeli-armed coup in Gaza (followed by a lethal sanctions regime). They [Hamas] have held to a ceasefire for months on end, and pushed throughout that time for negotiation in the face of Israeli rejectionism.

    The allusion to Gandhi has been made, but I remember last year when Hamas leaders organised people to stand in front of homes marked by Israel for demolition-from-the-air; a tactic very reminiscent of the Mahatma. The condemnation of this non-violent disobedience was abject and almost universal, and the consistent undermining of the Palestinian government makes it almost impossible to coordinate campaigns of mass disobedience.

    I’m not saying all peaceful options have been exhausted yet, but it’s the way things are going. And without the option of peaceful resistance, the Palestinians’ choice will be stark and simple: surrender to an enemy bent on their destruction, or take up arms. In desperate and disorganised times, I suspect both options will win converts.

  9. peoplesgeography
    22 May, 2007

    Well noted, Dave, thanks for the comment. I think you are right about these two polarising possibilities and the structurally diminished chances, if you will, for peaceful civil disobedience as documented here, for example. We recall too that even Human Rights Watch at one point somehow saw fit to condemn the right to civil resistance by Palestinians, as highlighted by Jonathan Cook.

  10. Emmanuel
    22 May, 2007

    I agree with Baskin’s piece, though I see nothing new there. That has been the stance of moderate Israelis, including myself, for years.

    Talking, even through unofficial back-channels, is always a good idea. I just doubt how effective it will be.

  11. peoplesgeography
    23 May, 2007

    The problem is the lack of preponderance of people with your position rather than the fact it has been an enduring one. A meaningful peace settlement might then be more easily achievable if this were the case. Unfortunately, we seem to be stuck with a nation of Bibi supporters.

  12. righthand
    28 May, 2007

    The attack on Gaza was well signposted.
    “It’s possible that Olmert will try to evade responsibility for Israel’s defeat in Lebanon by waging war on the Gaza Strip,” PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas told reporters in Gaza City. “Olmert is facing a serious crisis and this could be his way to salvage himself.”

    Arab media trumpet signs of Israel’s defeat | Jerusalem Post
    ON MAY 1st. 2007!!! and …

    “President Abbas is very interested in the latest developments in Israel,” he added. “He is concerned that the crisis will negatively affect the peace process. We are also concerned that Olmert might embark on a military adventure in the Gaza Strip to cover up for his failure.”


    Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip said they did not rule out the possibility that Israel would try to compensate for its “defeat” in Lebanon by “stepping up its military aggression” against the Palestinians.

    Remember, this is in the Jerusalem Post on MAY 1st 2007. The title is misleading for a good article
    righthand, Ireland

  13. righthand
    28 May, 2007

    It the lead up to the latest invasion of Gaza, I was bemused by the variation there was in the names of the persons firing the missiles. This article in Haaretz explains it for somewhat better…

    Kawasmeh’s resignation / Anarchy wins in Gaza – Haaretz – Israel News | May 17 2007 |
    >*This division is only schematic, since often (and very possibly most of the time), someone employed by one of the official services also belongs to a party militia, and when needed, he can also be found in the ranks of his family’s private army. Thus the same person can belong to several different organizations simultaneously, or move from one to the other. He receives a weapon and a little money from his commanders in each organization.

    >Young men in Gaza have little to do except join one of these groups. Members of these groups are almost always unemployed, and the organization or militia is the only place where they can give content to their lives and feel a sense of belonging. Only within these organizations do they feel that they are worth something.”

    righthand, Irish

  14. peoplesgeography
    28 May, 2007

    Prophetic indeed, righthand, thanks for the comments. “Olmert might embark on a military adventure in the Gaza Strip to cover up for his failure.” I think that about hits the nail on the proverbial head.

    Economic strangulation and prevention of economic development by the Israeli government militarises the population as is noted in your quote. As long as there are no jobs and no economic future, there can no peace or justice. A good redevelopment program, including letting in developers such as Sam Bahour who desperately want to help revitalise the area but whose visas are blocked, would give these young people hope, dignity and belonging.

  15. righthand
    28 May, 2007

    “Economic strangulation and prevention of economic development by the Israeli government militarises the population as is noted in your quote.”

    Yes, and what bugs me is that the EU is party to this by fulfilling its part of the boycotting the democratically elected Hamas and so by extension, the Palestinian people. By extension, the EU is party to the crimes against the Palestinians. It’s bad enough that we – the EU – have to guard Israel’s borders – unappreciated – but we are now beating up on the real victims of the Middle East.

    President Truman got it right …”Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on top, they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath.”

    …or beggars on horseback syndrome as we see it in Ireland. And he said …”The Jews have no sense of proportion, nor do they have any judgment on world affairs … The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish.” He was really warmed when he said …

    “You cannot satisfy the Jews anyway … They are not interested in the United States. They are interested in Palestine and the Jews … The Jews aren’t going to write the history of the United States—or my history!”

    Today, we cannot say similar without being accused of being anti-Semitism. We are expected to not say ‘boo’ about their outrageous behaviour while they kill women and children.

    The co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Price, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, had the ‘balls’ to confront the EU directly at the “50 years of the EU: Nobel Prize winners celebrate at the European Parliament” event. She lambasted the EU for its support of Israel. What a guest. Their revenge? Her speech as reported was heavily edited to exclude her criticism. It was only on page 7 that there was an audio of her speech. Pity is that the ‘juicy’ bits are near the end so you must listen to it all first. A typed version would be more useful. Any chance? Or an audio? I cannot find any coverage in British or Irish media and only once prior. – Breaking News – NI peace prize winners in Brussels | Last Updated: 09/05/2007 07:12 |

    European Parliament – News – Headlines – Focus – 50 years of the EU: Nobel Prize winners celebrate at the European Parliament | 16-05-2007 – 12:51 |
    {Should I know how to embed code on this site. You might email me. Edit this, if you can, please. Can I edit my own errors?}

    Hi Righthand, Just sent you an mail, and long form url fine. I’ll help edit especially long urls so they can be accessed.
    Cheers, Ann

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