Gaza’s Dual Response

This time, the Palestinian resistance is firing back.

By Abdel Bari Atwan

The Gaza Strip amounts to only two per cent of the historic territory of Palestine. But this tiny enclave’s inhabitants are showing 400 million Arabs and half a billion Muslims what it means to stand up courageously to Israeli and American arrogance in defence of their rights, land and holy places — and they are not awaiting any gratitude or praise form anyone.

The barrage of missiles fired from the blockaded enclave is not only a reaction to Israel’s suffocating and deadly siege. It also constitutes a dual response: first to the ‘Deal of the Century’ aimed at inaugurating a Greater Israel, and secondly to the Arab normalisers who have anointed Netanyahu as their leader and protector.

Since the latest Israeli assault began a few days ago, I have been in constant touch with relatives, friends and contacts in the Gaza Strip. Everyone I have contacted has said the same thing: Don’t worry about us. We are not afraid. We will maintain our resistance to the end. It is the Israelis who are desperate for a cease-fire, not us.

Freih Abu-Middein, the former Palestinian minister of justice, said: “Life is carrying on as normal. Kids are out in the streets spotting incoming warplanes and outgoing missiles, and people are counting up the Israelis’ losses and the failures of their Iron Dome.”  He added: “Gaza’s people’s problem is not with Israel. It is with the [Palestinian] Authority in Ramallah, which talks like a ‘neutral’ and calls for international protection while vying with the occupier to starve Gaza into submission. And it is with the Arab [governments] who are mediating to stop the fighting – not out of concern for the Palestinians or to spare their lives, but out of concern for the Israelis and to spare their settlers’ security.”

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The question of which side started this latest war is not important. The key new feature is that this time Palestinian resistance groups are boasting that they decided to respond forcefully to Israel’s depredations: its snipers’ serial killings of peaceful protestors; its failure to comply with the de-escalation agreements; and its tightening of its stifling siege on two million people.

The leaders of the resistance in Gaza – like the majority of its inhabitants – came to the firm conclusion that the only language Israel understands is that of force. This was a lesson learned long ago from many earlier experiences, irrespective of the courage and sacrifice it entails.

This latest war has already achieved some important accomplishments, which will be augmented if it continues:

n  It has eroded Israel’s much-vaunted deterrent power. Now, it is the resistance that can set the agenda and the rules of engagement.

n  Hundreds of thousands of Israelis fled north from their settlements in the south – and the numbers could multiply if missiles continue reaching Tel Aviv or beyond.

n  Israel is about to stage two events: the Eurovision Song Contest which has a global audience of two billion; and the anniversary of its establishment as a state.  It would suffer a worldwide PR disaster if the war continued for another two weeks, shattering its carefully cultivated international image and exposing it as a vicious occupying power and as a fascist state that commits war crimes and stokes regional instability – as well as an unsafe place to be in.

n  It has hugely embarrassed the Gulf and other Arab regimes that are busy normalising relations with Israel. They thought their citizens would acquiesce to their submission to the US and Israel, accepting Arab weakness as a fact of life and abandoning the culture of resistance. But they were proven wrong. With Israel’s weaknesses being exposed – as well as those of the US in its inability to enforce its ‘zero oil exports’ diktat against Iran – these normalising governments are also being exposed: along with the stupidity and short-sightedness and political and moral bankruptcy of their leaders.

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One can only wonder how the head of the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) and the government of his country Saudi Arabia must feel. Just two days after announcing that an Israeli Jewish delegation had been invited to a conference to they are organising in Mecca, they see Israeli warplanes wreak death and destruction on Palestinian civilians and 600 missiles showering down on Israeli town and settlements. Yet both the ICO chief and the Saudi government claimed they would never normalise relations with Israel until a modicum of justice for the Palestinians had been achieved.

The Palestinians are fighting back this time. Their missiles have confounded the hi-tech Iron Dome and struck Israeli military targets, most recently a troop carrier hit by a Kornet rocket, while the ‘civilised’ Israelis target pregnant women.

It is painful to see Egypt acting as a mediator in this war. Egypt has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the enclave, as the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian administration when the Israelis occupied it. Its previous mediation attempts ended in humiliation, when Israel failed to abide by earlier de-escalation agreements, tightened the siege, suffocated Gaza economically, and began routinely shooting defenceless demonstrators in the Marches of Return. It should not be playing this role.

The resilience of the people of Gaza and their ability to stand fast and resist is admirable, and often truly astonishing under the circumstances in which they are forced to live. Their bravery and perseverance and continued defiance of the Israeli occupiers, at a time when others are kissing their feet, is a cause of justifiable pride.

May all the martyrs rest in peace – to mention only a few, the young pregnant woman Falastin Abu-Arrar, her 14-year-old relative Siba, Qassam Bigade commander Hamed al-Khudari, and members of the Madhoun and Abu-Armaneh families. The list goes on. We do not expect or await attention or sympathy from this blinkered world. Only more missiles directed at Tel Aviv, or a cease-fire on the resistance’s terms.

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