January 24, 2009

"Palestinians poised for victory"

Heart warming stuff in these dark cold days. But that's what Richard Falk is saying in The Nation. I've got to say I have some gripes with some of what he is saying but I it is a very positive article, especially when the zionists are pulling out all the stops to distort media coverage in their favour and they have even got the BBC helping them starve Gaza. Falk is considering who has won in this assault on Gaza and he doesn't think it's Israel.

He starts with the impression the assault has made on the Palestinians:
Reports from the West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian diaspora suggest widespread anger at the Palestinian Authority for its passivity and a rise in support for Hamas, even among secular Palestinians, in appreciation of its determined resistance to the brutality of the Israeli occupation and military operations. If Hamas becomes the dominant political force in all of occupied Palestine when the next elections are held, Israel will be the loser.
When will those elections be held? Will Hamas be able to organise for them or participate in them? Also, there is nothing here about Israel's yen for ethnic cleansing. The choices out of Fatah and Hamas are a bit devil and deep blue sea-ish. If Abbas wins, Israel has a supine bullied and/bribed Palestinian administration of occupied territory. He could even pretend that he has a state and accept the ethnic cleansing from within the pre-67 borders that the Israeli moderate leader, Tzipi Livni, mooted just a few weeks ago.

On the other hand, if a resistance group wins, the zionists could cry (and shoot, don't forget) about their want of a "partner" (yeah, right!) and use resistance to the occupation to justify the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and Gaza.

Still, there is good news on the diplomatic front:
Qatar and Mauritania, among the few states in the region that had accepted Israel, broke relations, and the European Union has suspended moves to improve Israel's status as a trading partner. The Turkish prime minister even suggested expelling Israel from the United Nations....

...voices, ranging from the UN's high commissioner for human rights to the president of the General Assembly, are for the first time calling for a war crimes investigation. The Malaysian Parliament has unanimously called on the UN to establish a special war crimes tribunal.
I don't know what it takes to establish such a tribunal but I'm guessing there'll be powerful states with veto powers putting the kibosh on this idea.

Richard Falk even suspends disbelief momentarily to give Israel the benefit of the doubt over its motivation:
Even if Israel's claims of defensive response are accepted at face value, this is excessive use of force. There are also widespread reports that Israel has used legally dubious weapons like white phosphorus, dense inert metal explosives and depleted uranium. And finally, through its rigid control of exits, Israel has denied the people even the right to flee the fighting, a violation of humanitarian law that lends credibility to the claim that Israeli occupation policy essentially imprisons Gazans.
So if Israel's not lying it's still committed war crimes.

There is then a useful discussion of the holistic impact of war, any war involving any protagonists:
Winning militarily but losing politically should not surprise students of modern warfare. After all, the United States won every battle in Vietnam and yet eventually lost the war. The same was true for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and indeed it was the general pattern in decolonization struggles. In such wars the militarily dominant side not only loses the war but generates a deep crisis at home and experiences a tarnished international reputation. What these counterinsurgency or neocolonial wars have in common is that "the enemy" is merged with civilian society; the fighting abandons the restraints of international humanitarian law; and by killing helpless civilians, the occupying or colonial power is perceived as committing war crimes.
And in Israel's case?
This has been the case in Gaza, with worldwide outrage inflicting on Israel a major defeat in the battle for public legitimacy, which in the end is often decisive in shaping the outcome of major conflicts.
And what about its main backer?
Neither the United States nor Israel has discovered the limits of military power in the contemporary world. The leaders of both countries seem unable to learn the lesson of recent history: that occupation in the postcolonial world rarely produces the desired results at an acceptable cost. It is from this perspective, despite a horrific price in lives and suffering, that the Palestinians may be slowly winning the "second war," the legitimacy war, whose battlefield has become global. Perhaps the most impressive victory in a legitimacy war was won by South Africa's anti-apartheid movement.
Now here the guy's worrying me and he then worries me some more:
If the Gaza conflict brings the Palestinian struggle for self-determination to the top of the global justice agenda, it will be a major victory for Hamas. Of course, Hamas is not the African National Congress, and Israel is not South Africa. The Palestinians lack the sort of inspired leadership that Nelson Mandela and other ANC figures provided.
Fair comment, Hamas is not the ANC. The ANC could claim to represent all South Africans regardless of their skin colour, skin colour being for apartheid what religious practice or heritage is for zionism. Hamas does not represent nor does it truly seek to represent all of the people of Palestine. But "Israel is not South Africa", what did he mean by that. Did he mean that the apartheid regime was more open about its system than Israel has ever been? Did he mean that when the apartheid regime started negotiating it did so in good faith? Did he mean that the apartheid regime accepted a truth and reconciliation commission and Israel can tolerate neither truth nor reconciliation? I am worried he might mean that Israel is "normal" without the occupation but I don't know what he meant because, sadly, he didn't say.

So what does the future hold?
legitimacy wars have no clear boundaries and involve subtle shifts of public opinion that can alter the overall political climate in decisive ways. I believe the Gaza conflict, especially against the background of Israel's prior siege and its 2006 Lebanon misadventure, is approaching that tipping point. Despite the frightful punishment inflicted on Gaza's people, despite the bitterly divided Palestinian leadership, despite the cruelties of more than four decades of occupation, the Palestinians are poised to achieve victory.
Now that could be very nice indeed but what does Falk want to happen?
The fragile cease-fire poses new challenges and opportunities. There are hopeful scenarios, but they depend on leaps of imagination that have been lacking on both sides. Hamas could confirm its willingness to behave as a political actor and stop firing rockets at civilians. Israel could recover in the legitimacy war by dealing directly with Hamas and taking its offer of a long-term cease-fire seriously. Israel could also show a willingness to engage in peace talks based on the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative. Even at this late stage of the conflict, such alternatives offer both Israelis and Palestinians a promising, if perilous, escape route from the inferno.
I should have left this with the "Palestinians poised for victory" so let's just repeat for the squillionth time that Israel is a colonial settler state based on ethnic cleansing and racist laws so it can never recover legitimacy, it never had any. It could go back up in the estimation of some but if it remains a state on most of Palestine where Jews from anywhere have more rights than native non-Jews, Israel might have a legitimate image, but the reality will be very different.

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