[News] Palestine - Massacre in Slow Motion

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 13 12:22:31 EDT 2009


March 13 / 15, 2009

An Interview with Haider Eid

Massacre in Slow Motion


More than a month after Israel's assault on Gaza ended, life for 
Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians continues to be a daily struggle. 
Israel maintains a suffocating siege that blocks the flow of basic 
staples, plunging the vast majority of residents into abject poverty.

But a ray of hope has emerged in the form of a growing international 
struggle--from Canada and the U.S., to Europe and South Africa--to 
hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and 
Palestinian human rights. On March 21, justice for Palestine will be 
a main slogan at an antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C. 
organized to mark the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Haidar Eid, a professor of English, political commentator and 
longtime activist, is a resident of Gaza City and has provided an 
ongoing eyewitness account and analysis of Israel's war.

THE SHOOTING part of Israel's war is now over, according to the 
media. Yet Israel continues air strikes on targets in Gaza every few 
days. And in addition to the bombings, Israel's siege remains firmly 
in place, stopping all manner of critical goods from getting into 
Gaza. Can you describe conditions now?

THE COURAGEOUS Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has talked about the 
hermetic siege of Gaza that has been in place for some three years 
now. Prior to the war, Pappe called this siege "slow-motion 
genocide," and he was absolutely right.

Even before the war, more than 350 terminally ill people died because 
Israel refused to allow them to leave Gaza for essential medical 
treatment. Israel refused to issue them travel permits to be treated 
in Egyptian or Jordanian hospitals. I'm talking about people with 
kidney failure, heart problems, cancer.

The war transformed the slow-motion genocide into real genocide--I 
don't know what else to call it. During the war, more 1,440 people were killed.

We thought that the end of the war would also mean the end of the 
medieval siege imposed on Gaza. But unfortunately, that hasn't 
happened since the end of the Gaza massacre--and I really don't want 
to call it the end of the "war," because the war has continued but in 
different forms.

Israel failed to achieve any of its three objectives that it declared 
at the beginning of the war--topping the government of Hamas, putting 
an end to the launching of rockets, and establishing a new security 
arrangement in Gaza.

Since they failed at this, they have been trying to achieve 
politically what they could not militarily--with the help of the 
U.S., even under the Obama administration, with the complicity of the 
European Union and with the help of some Arab regimes.

This is why all the proposals to reconstruct the Gaza Strip being 
discussed at the recent international donors conference at Sharm el 
Sheik all come with so many strings attached. In fact, these strings 
make reconstruction impossible.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Tel Aviv and 
Ramallah, she talked about conditions for reconstruction. Condition 
number one is for the Hamas government and the resistance groups in 
general to recognize the state of Israel. Number two is to recognize 
previously signed agreements between the Palestine Liberation 
Organization (PLO) and Israel, which ultimately means recognizing the 
state of Israel also.

But there are some big questions that come along with this, which the 
U.S. and the mainstream media prefer to avoid. In particular, what 
Israel are the Palestinians supposed to recognize?

Israel is the only member of the UN that does not have recognized 
borders. Does the apartheid wall represent the border of the state of 
Israel? Or is it the 1967 border? Recognition of Israel under this 
situation allows for the ongoing expansion of Israel's borders.

Number two, Israel is also the only country on the face of the earth 
that has no constitution. Israel instead has Basic Laws. The first 
basic law defines Israel as the state of Jews all over the world. You 
have a theocratic state instead of a state of all of its citizens. 
This raises the question of what happens to 1.2 million Palestinians 
who are considered citizens of the state of Israel, but they are not Jews.

Also, what happens to more than 6 million Palestinian refugees living 
in the diaspora? Not a single agreement by the PLO and Israel, with 
America as a moderator, mentions the right of return, although UN 
Resolution 194 calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to 
their homeland, to their villages, to the cities and towns from which 
they were expelled. And Resolution 194 calls for compensation for the 
injustices they have suffered.

But these are things that Israel wants the Palestinians to concede 
before talks even begin. As Marx said, history repeats itself, first 
as tragedy, second as farce. Now, we have seen the donors' 
conference, and a visit from Hillary Clinton, during which she 
uttered not one word of sympathy for the plight of Palestinians. This 
is tragedy and farce.

Palestinians are paying a heavy price. This is the continuation of 
the genocidal war launched by Israel against Gaza and supported by 
the international community. And the talks that are supposed to 
reconstruct are merely further means to carry out Israel's agenda.

THE U.S. and Israel also call on Hamas to "renounce violence," but 
they never recognize the incredible hypocrisy of this demand. Israel 
consistently uses overwhelming violence against the Palestinians, and 
the U.S. supplies the weapons that allow Israel to do so.

ABSOLUTELY. WHAT kind of weapons does the resistance movement in Gaza 
have? Crude homemade rockets, and some Grad rockets smuggled through 
the tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. But now the tunnels can't be 
used. Israel has repeatedly bombed them.

Because Israel has enforced its siege of Gaza, these tunnels have 
also been used to bring essential goods into the Strip. For example, 
I haven't been able to drive my car since the war ended, because we 
can't receive any gas from Egypt, which had to be smuggled through the tunnels.

We are talking about the fourth-strongest military in the world, with 
250 nuclear warheads, F-16s and helicopters, against a largely 
defenseless population. We are not talking about two equal parties.

According to international law, Israel is illegally occupying the 
West Bank and Gaza. Israel is illegally prohibiting more than 6 
million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and towns.

What we are calling for--myself as part of Palestinian civil society, 
as an academic, as an activist--is simply the implementation of UN 
and Security Council resolutions and international law. Under 
international law, we are guaranteed a state and the right of return 
for refugees.

By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, the official Palestinian 
leadership made an agreement that violates our rights and 
international law [by bargaining away these essential national 
rights]. It has now become a habit for Israel and the U.S. to expect 
the weaker party, the Palestinians, to give more and more concessions.

One of the biggest mistakes that the Palestinian leadership made was 
to assume that the U.S. was acting as a fair broker. But in fact, the 
U.S. has been entirely biased--because of the pro-Israel lobby in the 
U.S., and because I don't think you can separate the interests of 
U.S. imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.

The U.S. attacked and occupied Iraq and committed genocide against 
Iraq's civilians. It killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis--because of 
oil, in pursuit of its interests in the region, and to protect the 
state of Israel.

The Americans have failed miserably in Iraq. Israel failed miserably 
in Lebanon in 2006. And then, they tried to target what they consider 
to be the weakest pocket of resistance in the Middle East, namely 
Gaza. Fortunately, that failed. Israel tried for 22 days to bring the 
resistance to its knees, but could not.

That is why they are trying to achieve politically what they failed 
to militarily.

THE CONDITIONS attached to reconstruction aid at the Sharm el Sheik 
summit and the visit of Hillary Clinton are intended to politicize 
reconstruction by channeling money and support to the Palestinian 
Authority (PA) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Then Abbas, after 
meeting with Clinton, warned Iran not to "interfere" in Palestinian 
affairs. Can you talk about what's going on here?

THE RECENT dynamic in the Middle East is that Israel, the pro-Oslo 
forces among the Palestinian political leadership, and several of the 
reactionary Arab regimes along with the U.S. are trying to remake the 
consciousness of Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular.

The Arabs and the Palestinians have always viewed Israel as the enemy 
for kicking two-thirds of the Palestinians out of their homes in 
1948, for occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and for launching 
a series of genocidal wars against the Palestinians.

So Israel and the U.S. are working to portray Iran and its Shia 
leadership as the new enemy of the Palestinians and the Arabs, 
especially the Sunni Arabs. In other words, they have been promoting 
identity politics and sectarian divisions exactly as the Americans 
did in Iraq. This approach failed in Lebanon, but Abbas is still 
working with the U.S. and Israel to carry this out with respect to Gaza.

Iran is not supporting just Hamas. Iran, since the fall of the 
U.S.-backed Shah in 1979, has given support to the Palestinian 
resistance, for example, by allowing the Palestinians to set up an 
embassy in Tehran.

Iran does provide some military assistance to the Palestinian 
resistance, as Iran has also helped the resistance in Lebanon. It is 
important for us to understand that if Palestinians are to continue 
their struggle for national rights, they need the support of Muslims, 
Arabs and freedom-loving people all over the world.

The support from Iran does not come with strings attached, as it does 
from the U.S., the EU and elsewhere. We have a joint project, and we 
have common goals--fighting American imperialism in the Middle East 
and liberating Palestine. That's why the U.S. and its allies, 
including several Arab regimes, have been targeting Iran as the enemy 
of Arab and Muslims in the Arab world.

To return to some of the strings attached to the "reconstruction 
aid," I don't think any Palestinian with a shred of dignity could 
accept them. Why should we accept aid predicated on the idea that 
what happened to Gaza was a natural disaster--as opposed to a 
man-made disaster created by the state of Israel to annihilate the 
Palestinian resistance and Palestinian society?

The people of Gaza have been punished because of their democratic 
choice in 2006 of a party, Hamas, which does not support the Oslo 
Accords and calls for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Although I do not support Hamas ideologically, it was the democratic 
choice of the Palestinian people. And most people who voted Hamas 
into government are not Hamas supporters, but wanted to vote for an 
organization that is not corrupt and that does not support the Oslo Accords.

Since the Oslo "peace process" began in 1993, right up to the 
present, we have not seen an independent Palestinian state. On the 
contrary, Israel has increased the number of settlers in the West 
Bank from 190,000 to more than half a million, and has expropriated 
more than 25 percent of the land of the West Bank by building the 
apartheid wall, by enlarging Greater Jerusalem, and by enlarging 
existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Therefore, Israel has made the establishment of an independent 
Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine an 
impossibility. I think ordinary Palestinians realize this, which is 
why they support the resistance--not only Hamas as an organization, 
but all resistance organizations, such as the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic 
Jihad and so on.

FOR A long time, the assumption within Israeli, U.S. and PA 
diplomatic circles was that there was progress toward implementation 
of a two-state solution. The election of the new Israeli 
government--with Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister and 
marked by extreme anti-Arab racism and open rejection of the 
two-state solution in favor of a vision of a "Greater Israel"--seems 
to represent a real turning point. How do you see this playing out?

ISRAEL HAS already made the two-state solution impossible, and we 
definitely need to begin discussing an alternative program to the 
fiction of the two-state solution. The first thing to do is to 
dismantle the Palestinian Authority.

The PA was a product of the Oslo Accords, and it sends the wrong 
message to the international community and to solidarity groups all 
over the world. The existence of the PA suggests that what exists in 
Palestine are two equal parties--the Israeli state with its army and 
the Palestinian state with its army.

We need to get rid of the PA in order to correct the equation. The 
relationship that exists is not between equals, but between an 
occupier and an occupied, an oppressor and an oppressed.

By dismantling the PA, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank can 
form a national front that can lead Palestinian resistance against 
occupation--as we had during the first Intifada, or uprising, in 1987.

The Gaza massacre was like a political tsunami that was supposed to 
change the map of the entire Middle East, not just Palestine. It has 
exposed the Oslo Accords as a hoax--They were never supposed to lead 
to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and they 
never supported the security of Palestinian civilians of Gaza and the 
West Bank.

Ultimately, they led to the transformation of Gaza into the largest 
concentration camp in the world. And they led to the transformation 
of the West Bank into three bantustans--one in the north that 
includes Qalqilya, Jenin and Tulkarem, one in the middle with 
Ramallah, and one in the south with Hebron and Bethlehem.

Most Palestinians now realize this and are way ahead of their 
leadership for a very concrete reason--because the Oslo Accords 
created a new Palestinian bourgeoisie whose interests are linked to 
the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the protection of 
American interests in the Middle East.

The problem, I think, is that there isn't a single political 
organization among the Palestinians that clearly calls for the 
establishment of a secular democratic state in historic Palestine on 
the model of South Africa or Northern Ireland. That is, we need a 
political organization that calls for a state for all its citizens, 
regardless of religion, sect and ethnicity.

I believe that we are moving toward a third Intifada that will 
largely depend on the common resistance of the Palestinian people 
and, crucially, the support of a global boycott, divestment and 
sanctions (BDS) movement.

To name just a few of the inspiring examples of BDS activism around 
the world, there have been more than 28 campuses occupied by students 
in Britain; several campuses occupied in the U.S. and the decision by 
Hampshire College to divest from Israel; and efforts by several South 
African solidarity groups.

We want to have an international BDS campaign modeled on the 
anti-apartheid movement that ultimately led to the end of white rule 
in South Africa in 1994 and the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.

THERE DOES seem to be real enthusiasm for building such a movement to 
challenge the Israeli occupation and develop meaningful solidarity 
with the Palestinian cause. But some people still wonder whether a 
BDS campaign will cut off "constructive engagement" that would be 
essential to a solution to the conflict. What do you think about this argument?

THE QUESTION of dialogue between Israel and Palestinians can be 
settled this way--since 1993, there have been negotiations between 
Israel and the PA, and the outcome is a massacre in Gaza.

And as a basic principle, it doesn't make sense to me to have a 
"dialogue" with a far superior occupying force without taking into 
consideration the ways in which resistance can produce the conditions 
necessary for achieving something with this dialogue.

Michel Foucault, the French philosopher, said that where you have 
authority and power, you also have resistance. One of the problems 
with the official leadership in Palestine is that it placed all its 
eggs in the basket of negotiations and dialogue, without taking into 
consideration the question of resistance.

This is one of the reasons that Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas' current within 
the PA, lost the elections. What we have reached is a situation not 
unlike South Africa in the mid- and late 1980s, when the opponents of 
the anti-apartheid movement latched onto this argument, especially 
after Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher said that the West should 
have ties with South Africa as part of a policy of "constructive engagement."

In fact, most anti-apartheid activists and solidarity groups thought 
it was nonsense to talk about such engagement because the balance of 
forces favored the oppressor.

The same thing pertains in Palestine. When you have negotiations, the 
powerful party interprets whatever agreement that is struck in terms 
that enshrines their own interests, rather than the interests of the occupied.

Because of the huge gap between the Palestinian victims and the 
Israeli occupiers, we need the intervention of the international 
community, by which I do not mean official bodies, but civil society 
organizations, churches, mosques, clubs, student groups, labor unions 
and so on.

These were the forces that boosted the anti-apartheid movement 
against South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s. I remember very 
clearly that when Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, he called on 
all supporters of black South Africans not to lose the momentum 
against apartheid, and not to bring the movement to an end until he 
was elected the first president of a multiracial and multicultural 
South Africa.

I can see the same thing happening in Palestine. Because of this 
imbalance of power, we need the intervention of the international 
community. I don't think that the Palestinians will be able to fight 
the Israelis alone, because nobody can fight such an overwhelming 
military force on their own.

The anti-apartheid movement against South Africa depended on four 
pillars--the armed struggle, the mass mobilization inside South 
Africa, the political underground and the international BDS movement. 
The catalyst was created by the global anti-apartheid movement.

Unfortunately, the political leadership here--whether on the right or 
the left, whether Hamas, Fatah or the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine--do not have such an internationalist consciousness.

This internationalist dimension is coming from civil society 
organizations. That is why in 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil 
society organizations issued a call to the international community to 
boycott the state of Israel and to sever all diplomatic, military and 
economic ties with apartheid Israel.

The only thing we can rely on is the power of the people.

Eric Ruder writes for the <http://www.socialistworker.org>Socialist Worker.

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