Last night in Birmingham something remarkable happened. At least 1,000 people turned out to a meeting at the Council House. Following one of a series of well–attended vigils near to the Bull Ring there was a march along New Street. A large committee room had been booked, but given the size of gathering it had to be transferred to the Council Chamber with rooms 3 and 4 used for overspill. Even then there were hundreds left outside.
As the e-mail I received from Bi’lin shows the response from around the world does make a difference to a beleaguered people and I print it below.
Israeli leaders intensified their blitzkrieg following intensive aerial “shock and awe” that killed hundreds of civilians. This was intended to subdue not only the 1.5 million impoverished and starved Palestinian but the larger human community around the world and reengineer the political map. After nine days, it is worth taking time to do some analysis in the middle of constant events (demonstrations, vigils, interviews with media). Those of you occupied doing actions for Palestine may not have time to read this while others have specifically asked for it. To make it easy for all, let me start with conclusions and then explain to those who want to read on:
a) when this aggression ends (and it will), Israeli army and leaders will not emerge victorious,
b) the political map will indeed change but not in the ways that Israeli leaders, US leaders, or even some Arab leaders predicted or planned,
c) we Palestinians have an opportunity to make sure that the sparks of unity already in the air turn to a fire of unity that will change the power structure in the Middle East in a way that will really bring justice to Palestine and defeat political Zionism and its collaborators and benefactors but only if we recognize our mistakes as individuals and political factions (including Hamas, Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, etc).
To be honest with ourselves, we must recognize that what Israel counted on materialized in a few cases: ineptness of the UN security council under threat of a US veto (itself under threat of the Zionist lobby), ineptness of the Arab league, the collaboration of many Arab governments, the apathy of large segments of the Israeli public, predicted local attempts to contain the anger in the street (from Cairo to Ramallah to Baghdad etc), and success of Israeli and Zionist forces and well financed propaganda not only in preventing reporting from the ground in Gaza but in controlling the message in much of the supine western media. Some of these initial predictables are beginning to crack after 9 days of massacres that could not be hidden. But there were other more significant failures of the Israeli blitzkrieg.
Let us review these:
1) Gaza resistance and steadfastness comes as number one surprise for the planners. Despite the massacres, it is amazing to watch the spirit. Just one image of a child no more than 10 year old with an open large wound in his belly exposing his intestines but he does not scream, does not yell.. he is talking (obvious pain only in his eyes and facial expression but with no tears), maybe just anger and a question mark to the camera directed at the world. That is Gaza today. In other images women calling not slogans against the occupiers and the war criminals bombing them from the sky but calls to the Arab and Islamic people “WaMu3tasima” (call of anguish, call for aid that goes to the history of the requirement of Muslims and Arabs to aid those who are in need).
2) Massive popular solidarity with Gaza inside 1948 Palestine (current state of Israel), including thousands demonstrating in Tel Aviv, and over 100,000 demonstrating in Sakhnin (Palestinian citizens of Israel).
3) Massive demonstrations in the West Bank that included clashes with Israeli forces despite attempts by Palestinian police to intervene. Just in the Bethlehem area, we have had at least two events (vigils or demonstrations) daily since the start of the blitzkrieg.
4) Massive demonstrations in the Arab world even when these demonstrations were banned, demonstrators beaten or arrested by governments beholden to fake peace treaties that do not protect rights or dignities of the people. Demonstrators demanded cutting all diplomatic and economic ties with Israel and a real unity and solidarity.
5) Massive demonstrations in thousands of locations in the rest of the word that really could not be ignored even when Zionist editors tried to minimize their impact.
6) Massive pouring of material support for Gaza (for example a campaign in Saudi Arabia collected 32 million just in the first 48 hours).
7) The presence of the internet and the failure of Israel to break all access of reporting and communication with Gaza. Millions of people are now learning firsthand what is going on (your receiving this email with its links is just one of the examples).
It might be too simplistic to say that rational human beings draw rational conclusions and that tribal/emotional human beings go down the path of irrational behaviors. Some claim to look pragmatically at things and yet draw the conclusion that it is inevitable that Palestine will be vanquished in favor of the Zionist Jewish state of Israel. Hence we are asked to accept the Bantustan called a state on 9% of historic Palestine AND without sovereignty. They remind us that of Hegel’s words that “what we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.
As Palestinians we must also say “mea culpa” and take some responsibility for the state of affairs. We Arabs and Palestinians have been the victims of western imperial and Zionist designs and colonization for 100 years. Yes, most of our problems could be directly connected to that. But yes also, some of our “leaders” have been less than desirable to say it charitably (this applies to other Arabs). And our leaders do originate from among us so we must work on that. But we must be clear that our societal weaknesses do not justify or excuse the slaughter or ethnic cleansing of our people. In 1948 we did not have good leaders because they were all massacred and exiled in the 1936-1939 uprising but even if we did, this does not justify our ethnic cleansing or dispossession at the hand of Zionists who had well-organized and strong leadership (Ben Gurion). The slaughter of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII similarly cannot be said to be justified by weak Jewish leadership and strong Nazi leadership. History is not kind to aggressors and in this case history will be written differently. An army that shells a market place causing this kind of destruction will not be successful at surviving any more than any other fascist army in history (see the graphic video of the minutes after the Israeli attack on the marketplace in Gaza at: http://muslimtv.magnify.net/video/ISRAEL-CARNAGE-CIVILIANS-CHILDR ).
Need we be reminded of the terrorist actions of Zionist groups like the Hagannah, the Irgun, and Stern (all forerunners of the current Israeli terrorist army). Over 2000 attacks on Palestinian civilians killing over 15,000 occurred before Israel was declared a state. In the six weeks that preceded declaring Israel a state, 33 massacres were committed by the prestate Jewish forces including the famous massacres of Tantura and Deir Yassin.
Over half the Palestinian refugees (and thus half the 530 Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed) were driven out before May 14, 1948 (Israel’s founding). After that date, with far more superior in arms and manpower than any opposing force (largely haphazard formations of Arab forces that came in to stop the ethnic cleansing), the nascent state proceeded to expand its territory beyond what was recommended in the partition resolution of the UN general assembly. In so doing, once the cease fire was declared instead of Palestine we had a state of Israel on 78% of Palestine and a collaborationist Jordanian regime occupied the 19% leaving a small sliver controlled by Egypt called the Gaza strip. In that strip, the refugees from over 150 towns and villages ethnically cleansed were squeezed. Israel of course expanded more by occupying the remainder of Palestine in 1967. With population growth, the Gaza desert ghetto became home to 1.5 million
The late Professor Edward Said wrote about Gaza in August, 2002:
“Every Palestinian has become a prisoner. Gaza is surrounded by an electrified fence on three sides: imprisoned like animals, Gazans are unable to move, unable to work, unable to sell their vegetables or fruit, unable to go to school. They are exposed from the air to Israeli planes and helicopters and are gunned down like turkeys on the ground by tanks and machine guns. Impoverished and starved, Gaza is a human nightmare. Hope has been eliminated from the Palestinian vocabulary so that only raw defiance remains. Palestinians must die a slow death so that Israel can have its security, which is just around the corner but cannot be realized because of the special Israeli “insecurity.” The whole world must sympathize, while the cries of Palestinian orphans, sick old women, bereaved communities, and tortured prisoners simply go unheard and unrecorded. Doubtless, we will be told, these horrors serve a larger purpose than mere sadistic cruelty. After all, “the two sides” are engaged in a “cycle of violence” that has to be stopped, sometime, somewhere. Once in a while we ought to pause and declare indignantly that there is only one side with an army and a country: the other is a stateless dispossessed population of people without rights or any present way of securing them. The language of suffering and concrete daily life has been either hijacked or so perverted as, in my opinion, to be useless except as pure fiction deployed as a screen for the purpose of more killing and painstaking torture – slowly, fastidiously, and inexorably. That is the truth of what Palestinians suffer.”
Things have become much more difficult six years later. Gazans I talked to say direct and quick death by sophisticated weapons has now become just another alternative to the slower death by starvation but they all want to live in freedom and will not succumb to terrorism anymore. Why would people who are not facing these horrible choices stand and watch and imagine negotiating with such an “army with a state” (as an Israeli leader called Israel)?
The aggression as in basic laws of physics will generate reactions. Did we not see that over the years Palestinians and Arabs learned how to fight better? When I use the term to fight I do not just mean the violent resistance (with its various forms, some forms that individuals may not agree with) but all forms of nonviolent resistance and methods of wars (such as the media wars, the wars of ideas etc).
But could we do better? Could we learn to fight better in the media arena? After working over 15 years in the Western media I ask myself why we cannot do better. Why is it that during the critical periods of the latest uprising we had a PLO representative in Washington who was not the best communicator (or at least had good communication team who would write his talking points)? Or with Hamas spokesm,en speaking to excite their membesr instead of making their case. Why do we not use Palestinians of very high caliber in communication (people like Hanan Ashrawi and Ali Abunimah and hundreds of others) that could transmit to the West the reality of what is going on here? Why do we talk about Fatah and Hamas need to reconciliate when hundreds of Palestinians living in the same country do not even talk to each other because they have different ideas about tactics? It would be interesting to see how many leaders of Palestinian communities abroad and in refugee camps called for their rivals to meet, asked for forgetting their differences, starting new leaves etc.? It will be interesting to see if our differences will reemerge like they did after the brief unity over the massacres in Jenin and Nablus in 2002 and 2003?
I know some people by now are saying this is not the time when our people are massacred to do such questioning. But our people have been getting massacred for 100 years by Western backed Zionists and we are all (all factions, all individuals) mature enough to learn from our mistakes and evolve. Need we remember the long list of oppressions and uprisings (192-21, 1929, 1936-1939, 1947-1950, 1956, 1967, 1970-1977,…)? Don’t we remember that the sacrifices and the successes of things like the 1936-1939 uprising, the 1968 Karama battle, the brilliance of the first uprising of the stones 1987-1993 (largely nonviolent uprising) and many many more? From all of these things did we not learn some lessons? Were some of these lessons not lessons of better organizing, more actions and less talk? Did we not modify and change and evolve AND SURVIVE? And was that survival not in itself a thwarting of the most entrenched ethnic cleansing machine that attempted to remove us all from our land? Was it not that resistance that kept five million Palestinians still living in our historic homeland despite the most sophisticated power structure of any colonial history in the last 500 years?
And why do some of us (humans that is, all humans) despair or even collaborate with the enemies of peace and justice? For Israelis and those who want to live in peace, would it not be better to get educated about the original injustice of ethnic cleansing and begin the process of true reconciliation and restorative justice? For Zionized Western media, why do you think you can keep a lid on the anger of and keep oppressing the aspirations of 10 million Palestinians, 300 million Arabs, 1.5 billion Muslims, and nearly 6 billion human beings who aspire for JUSTICE with peace? Why do you consider war a solution to anything?
Among Palestinians, did we not always find older generations that got tired and wanted to fold or at least wanted to hold the younger generation from stepping forward to take responsibility? Isn’t it the time to drop everything and gather as PALESTINIANS (not as faction or political ideologies or competing Palestinians for positions and visibility), every day, speak to each other in humility and in brotherhood/sisterhood to resolve the differences? Can’t we all pick up the phone and email others and simply invite them for a physical meeting and if not possible virtual meeting? And for those who are not Palestinians, what can you do to ensure such reconciliation happen and that you are not helping divisions but helping unity? For all of us, the question remains whether to light a candle or curse the dark.
Other links and resources
The Jewish ethical tradition means embracing Palestinians, too.
(In Arabic) Azmi Bshara analyzes the current situation
Thank you for you continued support,
Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Commitee in Bilin
Head of Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bilin
Mobile- (00972) (0) 547847942
Office- (00972) (2) 2489129
Fax- (00972) (2) 2489129