We should keep in mind two important elements of the frustrating continued uncertainties surrounding the situation in Gaza: What is this war about, and how are the main actors performing?
The first is that this is not just about Israel vs. Hamas in Gaza, as mainstream Israel-American media and politicians depict it, but rather about the deeper rights and demands of both Palestinians and Israelis. Most analysts and politicians have focused on whether either Hamas or Israel have “won,” “lost,” or come out of this latest round of fighting in a tie. That kind of very short-term analysis is useful in the span of days or weeks at a time, but the actual determinants of the ongoing clashes will likely remain the longer term drivers that have shaped this conflict for some four generations, effectively since the 1930s, when the conflict between Zionism and Arabism first ignited in Palestine.
We do not know what will happen tonight or tomorrow, because events are moving quickly. I write this a half hour after the Friday 8 am deadline for the 72-hour ceasefire to expire, and all kinds of possibilities are likely to occur. These include renewed low-level fighting, all-out warfare, or an informal continued ceasefire followed by more negotiations, after both sides show their determination to kill each other until their demands are met, while they bizarrely refuse to acknowledge that repeated warfare has not achieved any of their key demands.
The attempt by Israelis-Americans mainly to focus only on Hamas’ options, tactics and aims is a mistaken diminution of the entire Palestinian national struggle for self-determination, rights and statehood. They do this probably because it is easier for American-Israeli propagandists to highlight Hamas’ militancy rather than to grapple with the fact that all Palestinians — and most of the world, actually — support the demands that Hamas has articulated and that have been negotiated by the all-inclusive Palestinian delegation in Cairo. So the next time you hear or read an Israeli-American journalist or politician talk about the position or demands of “Hamas,” simply substitute for “Hamas” the term “the Palestinian people” and you will get a more accurate reading of the situation.
Hamas receives disproportionate attention because it and its militant colleagues are the last Palestinians standing who use armed resistance to fight back against Zionist colonization, siege, assassination and savage attacks. Hamas’ militancy sets it apart from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh and others who have acquiesced to Israeli demands, but Hamas’ political demands are shared widely by all Palestinians. Those demands, especially lifting the siege of Gaza, releasing prisoners and ending the Israeli occupation and Palestinian refugeehood, are the core issues that must be resolved for the Palestinians to coexist with an Israeli state. This is where the focus must remain, not only on whether Hamas does this today or that next week.
The second important aspect of the current situation — spanning both the last month and the last two decades — is that the defining characteristic of the six major political actors has been resounding and repeated failure, i.e., the Israeli government, the centrist and leftist Israeli political camps, the Fateh-led Palestinian government under Mahmoud Abbas, the armed resistance movements led by Hamas in Gaza, the United States, and the European Union. In the four critical domains of war, peace, diplomacy and development, these six actors have generated a track record of collective incompetence that is as stunning as it is sad.
The default condition in the West Bank-East Jerusalem thus remains Israeli occupation and colonization alongside Palestinian acquiescence, and in Gaza it is Israeli siege alongside Palestinian armed resistance. Neither of those situations is sustainable or desirable, but current approaches to conflict resolution have failed to achieve any long-term breakthrough — primarily, in my view, because the Israeli-American view of the conflict favors Zionist colonial supremacy over equal rights for both peoples, which prohibits Israel from acknowledging legitimate Palestinian rights and the United States from acting as an effective mediator or even just a credible facilitator.
The Palestinian side, with the sleep-walking Arab regimes competing for the Docility Award of the century, has been incompetent in mobilizing the enormous support and goodwill for their cause that exists in the world, and channeling it into an effective diplomatic process.
When these two dominant realities converge — focusing on Hamas instead of wider Palestinian national rights, while all the principal actors pursue their certificates in diplomatic incompetence — the result is the current narrow focus on military action by Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Until all parties move out of this constricted and distorted view of the conflict and tackle the wider conflict between Zionism and Arabism, we should only expect more bloodshed, destruction, suffering, and political failures.
Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. On Twitter: @ramikhouri.
Copyright © 2014 Rami G. Khouri—distributed by Agence Global