The new year has dawned in the midst of increased repression by Israel of Palestinians under its occupation. In the occupied West Bank alone, 30 Palestinians have reportedly been killed even before the month of January has ended. This statistic is the tip of the fitful spirals of violence instigated by Israeli military and security forces’ deadly actions against Palestinians accused of, or actually engaged in, resistance to the Zionist state’s killing spree.
Since the advent of the most right wing government ever in power in Israel, tougher Israeli measures against the hapless Palestinians loom.
When the Israeli military are unable to reach underground Palestinian fighters, they increasingly resort to targeting their families. Apart from arrests of family members or even neighbours of resistance fighters, their homes are demolished without exception. A perusal of the news emanating from occupied Palestine in recent days illustrates the Israeli policy of targeting innocent families and friends of resistance fighters in an abhorrent attempt to lower the morale of the fighters and persuade them to give up the struggle.
On the evidence so far however, this draconian repression has failed in this objective. If anything, the unjust bloody actions of the Israeli state have stiffened the resistance to its inhumane settler colonialist apartheid policies.
The Palestinians have been betrayed by the Arab states who have, or are in the process of recognising Israel and making peace with it (and more). The Muslim world that never tires of parroting rhetoric about unity with their co-religionists has fallen silent. So what awaits the forlorn hopes of the Palestinian people for a better future?
This question cannot be answered without being aware of how things have come to such a pass. Zionism, an ideology wedded to the return of the Jewish diaspora scattered all over the world (an historic event dating back to Roman times), found a sympathetic ear in imperial Britain towards the end of World War I.
The Balfour Declaration accepted the ‘right’ of Jews to return to their historical homeland, ignoring all that history had wrought between the Jews’ departure from Israel and the 20th century.
Britain, the pre-eminent imperial power of the day, saw the Balfour Declaration’s support to the Zionist programme of setting up the state of Israel on Palestinian land as the thin edge of the wedge to control the strategic Middle East (and later its oil wealth). Jewish immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate between the two world wars succeeded in providing a considerable, and growing, Jewish populace on Palestinian soil.
Following the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II, the west succeeded in taking advantage of the mood of the times to establish the state of Israel on Palestinian soil after a brief, and on the side of the Arabs, ill-prepared resistance.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has revealed its expansionist nature by successively expanding its territory after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973. The Zionist entity therefore has in practice justified its description as a ‘dagger in the heart of the Middle East’. After 1973, Arab regimes at regular intervals have recognised the Zionist entity and signed peace treaties with it. Some are even now on the verge of taking the plunge.
And what of the Palestinian struggle to reclaim their land from the clutches of a Zionist state that ironically, has shifted the fallout of the Holocaust in Europe onto the shoulders and fates of the Palestinian people who had nothing to do with that horrible abomination? From 1948 to 1968, the Palestinian movement remained under the shadow of, and within the control of, Israel’s neighbouring Arab regimes.
Particularly after the Free Officers’ seizure of power in a coup in Egypt in 1952, the Palestinian resistance was housed in and subject to the policies of that country and regime. To his credit, Nasser never betrayed the Palestinians, despite the setbacks in the 1956 and (especially) 1967 wars. His successor Anwar Sadat used the relatively better military performance of the Arab armies against Israel in 1973 to lubricate and justify selling out the Palestinian cause at the altar of perceived Egyptian interests.
After the 1967 war, in which Israel captured (and later illegally annexed) the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula, the Palestinian struggle emerged in a new light in the shape of Al Fatah led by Yasser Arafat.
The latter’s wisdom in recognising the concrete peculiarities of Palestine’s dilemma informed and convinced all the Palestinian armed resistance groups to unite under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The exception perhaps was George Habbash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which while recognising the problem of the Palestinian struggle having to make do without secure bases of its own either inside or outside Palestine, saw the solution in capturing power (first?) in Jordan, which hosted then some 40 percent Palestinians among its population.
This deviation by the PFLP was captured in their slogan: “The road to Tel Aviv lies through Amman”. PFLP carried out spectacular actions during the 1970s, including the decisive ‘Black September’ 1970 hijacking of two airliners to Amman, where they were eventually blown up.
This incident provided pro-western King Hussein of Jordan the excuse and opportunity to crack down on the Palestinian resistance in his country as a whole. To our eternal shame and embarrassment, a certain Brigadier Ziaul Haq commanded the tank brigade deployed in Jordan to safeguard the monarchy against helpless Palestinian refugees in their camps as part of a bloody massacre.
These cataclysmic events forced the PLO to relocate to Lebanon, from where too it was finally displaced by Israeli attacks and invasion after a whole period of civil war that aligned the progressive Lebanese forces with the Palestinians against the fascist Phalange and similar groups. Having been exiled to Tunisia, Arafat embarked on a pragmatic course of diplomatic and political efforts in the face of this catastrophic defeat and retreat.
The US, as the chief and most powerful backer of Israel in the western bloc, became the focus of this strategy based on the idea of a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, i.e. Israel and a suggested Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The 1993 Oslo Accords provided the legitimacy to this idea, but it never bore fruit because of extreme right resistance to it within Israel.
After Arafat was poisoned to death by suspected Israeli agents, the PLO under Mahmood Abbas has presented the spectacle of a helpless satrap of Israel, often clashing with, and even attempting to repress, other Palestinian groups still wedded to armed resistance. Desperate as the Palestinians under Israel’s occupation are, the credibility of the PLO under Abbas is today a precarious commodity.
The lesson? What is right, just and better cannot always be had, and certainly not easily. The Palestinian people today are faced with a stark choice: either surrender to Israel’s rule or continue with their armed resistance to the extent possible, diplomacy having failed and left them alone and in the lurch.
We in Pakistan need to raise our voice consistently at the atrocities visited in the past, and continuing to be visited in the foreseeable future, on the beleaguered people of Palestine.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023