years, the Israeli occupation authorities favored the Islamic movement
in the occupied territories. All other political activities were
rigorously suppressed, but their activities in the mosques were
permitted. The calculation was simple: at the time, the PLO was
considered the main enemy, Yasser Arafat was the current Satan. The
Islamic movement was preaching against the PLO and Arafat, and was
therefore viewed as an ally.
Suddenly the camera was pointing upwards towards the dark sky. The
screen was pitch black. Nothing could be seen, but there was a sound to
be heard: the noise of airplanes, a frightening, a terrifying droning.
was impossible not to think about the tens of thousands of Gazan
children who were hearing that sound at that moment, cringing with
fright, paralyzed by fear, waiting for the bombs to fall.
MUST defend itself against the rockets that are terrorizing our
Southern towns," the Israeli spokesmen explained. "Palestinians must
respond to the killing of their fighters inside the Gaza Strip," the
Hamas spokesmen declared.
a matter of fact, the cease-fire did not collapse, because there was no
real cease-fire to start with. The main requirement for any cease-fire
in the Gaza Strip must be the opening of the border crossings. There
can be no life in Gaza
without a steady flow of supplies. But the crossings were not opened,
except for a few hours now and again. The blockade on land, on sea and
in the air against a million and a half human beings is an act of war,
as much as any dropping of bombs or launching of rockets. It paralyzes
life in the Gaza Strip: eliminating most sources of employment, pushing
hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation, stopping most
hospitals from functioning, disrupting the supply of electricity and
who decided to close the crossings – under whatever pretext – knew that
there is no real cease-fire under these conditions.
is the main thing. Then there came the small provocations which were
designed to get Hamas to react. After several months, in which hardly
any Qassam rockets were launched, an army unit was sent into the Strip
"in order to destroy a tunnel that came close to the border fence".
From a purely military point of view, it would have made more sense to
lay an ambush on our side of the fence. But the aim was to find a
pretext for the termination of the cease-fire, in a way that made it
plausible to put the blame on the Palestinians. And indeed, after
several such small actions, in which Hamas fighters were killed, Hamas
retaliated with a massive launch of rockets, and – lo and behold – the
cease-fire was at an end. Everybody blamed Hamas.
Hamas rule? That sounds like a chapter out of "The March of Folly".
After all, it is no secret that it was the Israeli government which set
up Hamas to start with. When I once asked a former Shin-Bet chief,
Yaakov Peri, about it, he answered enigmatically: "We did not create
it, but we did not hinder its creation."
years, the occupation authorities favored the Islamic movement in the
occupied territories. All other political activities were rigorously
suppressed, but their activities in the mosques were permitted. The
calculation was simple and naive: at the time, the PLO was considered
the main enemy, Yasser Arafat was the current Satan. The Islamic
movement was preaching against the PLO and Arafat, and was therefore
viewed as an ally.
the outbreak of the first intifada in 1987, the Islamic movement
officially renamed itself Hamas (Arabic initials of "Islamic Resistance
Movement") and joined the fight. Even then, the Shin-Bet took no action
against them for almost a year, while Fatah members were executed or
imprisoned in large numbers. Only after a year, were Sheikh Ahmed
Yassin and his colleagues also arrested.
almost as a branch of the Zionist organization. The logical conclusion
for an Israeli government seeking peace would have been to make
wide-ranging concessions to the Fatah leadership: ending of the
occupation, signing of a peace treaty, foundation of the State of
Palestine, withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a reasonable solution of the
refugee problem, release of all Palestinian prisoners. That would have
arrested the rise of Hamas for sure.
logic has little influence on politics. Nothing of this sort happened.
On the contrary, after the murder of Arafat, Ariel Sharon declared that
Mahmoud Abbas, who took his place, was a "plucked chicken". Abbas was
not allowed the slightest political achievement. The negotiations,
under American auspices, became a joke. The most authentic Fatah
leader, Marwan Barghouti, was sent to prison for life. Instead of a
massive prisoner release, there were petty and insulting "gestures".
was systematically humiliated, Fatah looked like an empty shell and
Hamas won a resounding victory in the Palestinian election – the most
democratic election ever held in the Arab world. Israel boycotted the elected government. In the ensuing internal struggle, Hamas assumed direct control over the Gaza Strip.
the past, too, military action has been taken during election
campaigns. Menachem Begin bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor during the
1981 campaign. When Shimon Peres claimed that this was an election
gimmick, Begin cried out at his next rally: "Jews, do you believe that
I would send our brave boys to their death or, worse, to be taken
prisoner by human animals, in order to win an election?" Begin won.
(operation "Grapes of Wrath"), everybody was convinced that he had done
it for electoral gain. The war was a failure and Peres lost the
elections and Binyamin Netanyahu came to power.
and Tzipi Livni are now resorting to the same old trick. According to
the polls, Barak’s predicted election result rose within 48 hours by
five Knesset seats. About 80 dead Palestinians for each seat. But it is
difficult to walk on a pile of dead bodies. The success may evaporate
in a minute if the war comes to be considered by the Israeli public as
a failure. For example, if the rockets continue to hit Beersheba, or if the ground attack leads to heavy Israeli casualties.
timing was chosen meticulously from another angle too. The attack
started two days after Christmas, when American and European leaders
are on holiday until after New Year. The calculation: even if somebody
wanted to try and stop the war, no one would give up his holiday. That
ensured several days free from outside pressures.
reason for the timing: these are George Bush’s last days in the White
House. This blood-soaked moron could be expected to support the war
enthusiastically, as indeed he did. Barack Obama has not yet entered
office and had a ready made pretext for keeping silent: "there is only
one President". The silence does not bode well for the term of
MAIN LINE was: not to repeat the mistakes of Lebanon War II. This was
endlessly repeated on all the news programs and talk shows.
strategic concept is the same: to terrorize the civilian population by
unremitting attacks from the air, sowing death and destruction. This
poses no danger to the pilots, since the Palestinians have no
anti-aircraft weapons at all. The calculation: if the entire
life-supporting infrastructure in the Strip is utterly destroyed and
total anarchy ensues, the population will rise up and overthrow the
Hamas regime. Mahmoud Abbas will then ride back into Gaza on the back of Israeli tanks.
this calculation did not work out. The bombed population, including the
Christians, rallied behind Hizbullah, and Hassan Nasrallah became the
hero of the Arab world. Something similar will probably happen this
time, too. Generals are experts on using weapons and moving troops, not
on mass psychology.
blockade was a scientific experiment designed to find out how much one
can starve a population and turn its life into hell before they break.
This experiment was conducted with the generous help of Europe and the US.
Up to now, it did not succeed. Hamas became stronger and the range of
the Qassams became longer. The present war is a continuation of the
experiment by other means.
may be that the army will "have no alternative" but to re-conquer the
Gaza Strip because there is no other way to stop the Qassams – except
coming to an agreement with Hamas, which is contrary to government
policy. When the ground invasion starts, everything will depend on the
motivation and capabilities of the Hamas fighters vis-à-vis the Israeli
soldiers. Nobody can know what will happen.
AFTER DAY, night after night, Aljazeera’s Arabic channel broadcasts the
atrocious pictures: heaps of mutilated bodies, tearful relatives
looking for their dear ones among the dozens of corpses spread out on
the ground, a woman pulling her young daughter from under the rubble,
doctors without medicines trying to save the lives of the wounded. (The
English-language Aljazeera, unlike its Arab-language sister-station,
has undergone an amazing about face, broadcasting only a sanitized
picture and freely distributing Israeli government propaganda. It would
be interesting to know what happened there.)
are seeing these terrible images, picture after picture, day after day.
These images are imprinted on their minds forever: horrible Israel, abominable Israel, inhuman Israel.
A whole generation of haters. That is a terrible price, which we will
be compelled to pay long after the other results of the war itself have
been forgotten in Israel.
there is another thing that is being imprinted on the minds of these
millions: the picture of the miserable, corrupt, passive Arab regimes.
Only from there can food arrive to sustain life and medicaments to save
the injured. This border remains closed at the height of the horror.
The Egyptian army has blocked the only way for food and medicines to
enter, while surgeons operate on the wounded without anesthetics.
are accomplices to the crime, they are collaborating with the "Zionist
enemy" in trying to break the Palestinian people. It can be assumed
that he did not mean only Mubarak, but also all the other leaders, from
the king of Saudi Arabia
to the Palestinian President. Seeing the demonstrations throughout the
Arab world and listening to the slogans, one gets the impression that
their leaders seem to many Arabs pathetic at best, and miserable
collaborators at worst.
will have historic consequences. A whole generation of Arab leaders, a
generation imbued with the ideology of secular Arab nationalism, the
successors of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, Hafez al-Assad and Yasser Arafat,
may be swept from the stage. In the Arab space, the only viable
alternative is the ideology of Islamic fundamentalism.
is missing the historic chance of making peace with secular Arab
nationalism. Tomorrow, It may be faced with a uniformly fundamentalist
Arab world, Hamas multiplied by a thousand.
TAXI DRIVER in Tel-Aviv the other day was thinking aloud: Why not call
up the sons of the ministers and members of the Knesset, form them into
a combat unit and send them off to head the coming ground attack on Gaza?