Palestine: A Fait Accompli – Aasim Zafar Khan

History is a strange bedfellow. Spend a night with her and in the morning you emerge with all your beliefs broken, your foundations shaking, and all that you once held as true finally open to the possibility of being lies.

What’s happening in Gaza is nothing new – a rerun, if you will, of a midday television drama first aired decades ago. Briefly, it goes like this – 2004: Operations Rainbow and Days of Penitence. 2006: Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds. 2008: Operation Hot Winter. December of ‘08: Operation Cast Lead (or Gaza War). March 2012: Operation Returning Echo. October 2012: Operation Pillar of Defense. 

And now we have Operation Protective Edge. 

Most of the operations mentioned above were in response to rocket attacks from within the Palestinian territories, on targets inside Israel. But as has routinely been confirmed from soldiers within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), many of the Palestinian attacks were the result of deliberate, intense and repeated provocations by the Israelis. They wanted the rockets to come so that they could then do what they do best. 

However the current operation, protection edge, has much in common with the war of 2008. The focal point of the conflict then was an IDF soldier by the name of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas personnel and used as leverage for the release of Palestinian prisoners. This here is a common tactic employed by the weak against the strong. However, the Israeli response was so overwhelming, and so inhumane, that one would think that Hamas had learnt their lesson. 

Evidently not. The Palestinian blood being spilt today, is by Israeli weapons sure, but smeared on Hamas’ hands.

And this is where history comes into play. 

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 with the purpose of creating an independent state of Palestine. It’s largest faction was a secular and left-wing nationalist party known as Fatah, and included other parties such as The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) to name a few. Hamas was born in 1987, on the back of the first intifada led by the PLO. 

The credit for the internationalisation of the Palestinian cause rests solely with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. However, when the first intifada culminated in the Madrid and Oslo accords, it left many Palestinians disappointed, as the PLO admitted to Israel’s right to exist in peace and rejected both violence and terrorism.

Hamas refused to buy in, and its continuous actions against Israel won them a decisive victory in the Palestinian parliament elections of 2006. But their refusal to recognise the state of Israel and committment to non-violence soon lead to sanctions from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations as well. This here is the point from where on Fatah and Hamas went their separate ways. 

While the rift between Fatah and Hamas is best left for another piece, the conflict resulted in Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, a battle which left hundreds dead, and effectively shattered the already broken shard of glass that is Palestine, into two. 

All this while, Mahmud Abbas, the chairman of the PLO, and a Fatah member, remained president. However, after Hamas‘ electoral victory in ‘06, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu first refused to talk to Abbas since ‘he didn’t represent Hamas’. Later, when Abbas formed a unity government, Bibi refused again, saying Abbas had unified with terrorists. Now, it’s back to square one again, with Bibi saying talks can only happen if Abbas breaks with Hamas, even though he won’t then represent Hamas, which continues to control the Gaza Strip.

In short, Hamas’ short-sightedness on the matter of political unity and its stubborn refusal to accept certain demands of the west have cost the Palestinian cause dearly. And it all works rather well for Israel. A unified Palestinian front would have much greater international acceptance than what it currently has. The rockets Hamas routinely fire into Israeli territory have absolutely no affect other than to undermine the cause of Palestinian freedom. 

Is a state for the Palestinians still a possibility? Is the two-state solution tangible? According to the Israeli prime minister, no. In a recent press conference, Bibi said that in theory he supports the idea, but it becoming a reality is now impossible. 

Israel’s politics have always been on the right – most far, some not so, but all definitely right. It becomes highly unlikely that two parties, both right winged in their own politics, can ever reach a mutually acceptable situation. Which is precisely why Clinton, Peres and Obama all wholeheartedly embraced the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority under Arafat as their peace partner. But it all went to boot. 

Despite generous amounts of international aid, and a large portion of the international community sympathetic to their cause, the PA failed miserably in uplifting the sorry lives of the Palestinians, the very state out of which Hamas was born and later bred. The right wingers in Palestine thrust their dirty knives repeatedly into the PA, for selling out the dream of ‘retaking Palestine’ and settling for a two state solution.

Today, even that is highly unlikely. 

At the same presser, Netanyahu also said that "I think the Israeli people understand now what i always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the river Jordan”.

A bit of geography then. The Gaza strip is blockaded by Israel on the north-east, east and south east. Egypt stands guard at the south and south west, and has recently closed its borders. And in the west and north-west is the Mediterranean sea. The West Bank is worse. It shares an immense border with Jordan, but Amman has a bloody history with the Palestinians (black September, anyone?) The entire region is surrounded and secured, if you will, by the Israelis.

Earlier in the year, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his security advisor General John Allen had put forward a security proposal that would enable Israel to withdraw from most of the west bank, but Israel’s defense minister told a private gathering that "the proposals weren’t worth the paper they were written on”.

A separate state for the Palestinians has always been a romantic dream across the Muslim world. But the operative phrase is not a separate state, but a romantic dream.

Such is the fate of Palestine.