Another day in the Empire: Palestine is still Palestine, yep; so let's get some internal analysis, huh

"It is not among the duties of resistance movements to court popularity from outside powers..."

--Azmi Bishara

It has been a while since I really made much note of the Palestinian situation, which is too bad because obviously it's a big deal. These photos were posted by Nizam on Flickr. I kinda stole em...

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A Palestinian demonstrator hurls a stone at Israeli soldiers during clashes after the weekly Friday prayers in the village of Beit Omar village near the West Bank town of Hebron, 16 February 2007.

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A young Palestinian stone thrower is dragged away 16 February 2007 by Israeli border policemen during scuffles in the eastern district of Jerusalem.

A friend just pointed me to a new blog, American Palestinian New Generation, where in turn I found some more interesting material.

A subtle irony: since of course the American media never discusses anything about Palestine in broad or realistic terms, in one mere post on this site we can easily outpace the entirety of months of the U.S. media with just a couple blockquotes. These two pieces are lengthy, but they are definitely a useful internal social and military analysis - that applies everywhere from Iraq and Lebanon to Los Angeles.

I'm going to cross post some material from a couple Palestinian websites. One is al-falasteenyia:

The Psychosocial causes for the Palestinian Factional War

By: Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj 14 February 2007

(comment from the blog operator: ) excellent article by Dr. El-Sarraj...he's done some great work in the past. He argues that this ongoing violence is a natural consquence of the imposed Israeli 'diet', among other things...

Many questions even after Mecca meeting remain … what has become of us? Our people have suffered for 59 years from displacement, homelessness, discrimination, impoverishment and expatriation, but they withstood that suffering and never killed each other; so what happened to us? The late Arafat rejected a plan to kill Abu Nidal, who had already killed a number of Palestinian leaders, and said, “If we start this series of killings, we will never stop.” So what happened? I have heard stories about new forms of cold-blooded and callous murder, and about Palestinians denigrating and holding as infidel other Palestinians or accusing them of heresy and bigotry as a prelude to ostracizing or murdering them. I have also heard numerous stories about children who have been horrified and traumatized and have fallen victims to nightmares, loss of appetite, insomnia and fear of street-walking. What is happening to us? How could things amount to assaulting homes, mosques and universities?

Politics and political difference alone do not provide the answer. There are several additional social and psychological factors for what is befalling this society. A safe and stable environment is one that produces normal children, while the environment we have been living in since the occupation is one in which violence proliferates and becomes rampant.

I- Torture

After the 1967 Israeli occupation, a legitimate national armed resistance movement emerged involving multitudes of freedom fighters. I can recall that, while I was working at Al-Shifa hospital in the early seventies, we received several murdered and injured freedom fighters every day. Reacting to that resistance and in order to contain and destroy it, Israeli forces arrested tens of thousands of Palestinians and subjected them to systematic and various forms of torture as documented by research teams of both Palestinian and Israeli institutions acting in the area of defending human rights.

The effects of torture extend from the individual to his community. Research has found that a high percentage of torture victims become prey of mental illness which transform victims into problems for their own selves as well as for their own families. The commonest problem arising from torture is the violence which the victim directs to women and children, which in its turn makes the home a battlefield. The reason for such phenomenon is that the torture a young man is subjected to makes him harbor a desire for revenge by violent means and subsequently he unconsciously resorts to identify with the Israeli torturer. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the methods of torture used in Palestinian prisons are the same as those used in Israeli prisons; they have at times even been more atrocious and resulted in deaths among several prisoners in the early years of the PNA takeover. Indeed, in many instances, the Palestinian investigator was an ex-victim of Israeli torture. This phenomenon has created a cycle of internal violence. We note here that many Hamas members were tortured in Palestinian prisons. Feelings of immense hatred and desire for revenge started to build up and heighten culminating in accusations of infidelity leveled at leaders of security organs. All of these factors led to a state of polarization and division which has aggravated by Hamas coming to power. Now it seemed that some were willing to retaliate and take revenge from those who tortured them, a desire which was intensified by the fact that Hamas government was besieged and there spread a feeling that it was targeted and conspired against and that some Fatah leaders were accomplices in such conspiracy.

II- The First Intifada

Despite the glorification we attribute to the “children of the stone” whom we hold as examples of heroism, we cannot ignore the fact that they are flesh and blood and that they have been victims of various forms of violence. In our work at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program we conducted a research on three thousand Gaza children. The study has found that those children were subjected to several traumatic and violent experiences including beating, bone-breaking, injury, tear gas and acts of killing and injury, all of which experiences have left indelible effects on their psych. Yet, to many, the most excruciating experience was seeing their fathers beaten helpless by Israeli soldiers without resistance. Such an experience will ultimately transform a whole generation into something different as the second intifada showed; for the children of the first intifada are themselves the men of the second intifada. Those young men who are pursuing revenge and killing and are at times seeking even their own death are the selfsame children who cherished so many dreams of a better life but saw them fade away and fall apart the moment they saw their fathers fall helpless and defenseless victims of arrogant force incarnated in the Israeli soldier. No wonder then that the Palestinian child will see his model in that Israeli soldier and that his language will be the language of force and his toys and games will be the toys and games of death.

III- The Effects of Ongoing Violence

Israel systematically assaulted the Palestinian people in all aspects of their lives and it even escalated its aggressions during the second intifada as it resorted to a policy of house demolition; infrastructure, farm and facilities destruction; extrajudicial killing and mass detention of activists and systematic torture. Psychological research worldwide has shown that ongoing armed conflicts result in what is known as chronic social toxication which makes people and children less sensitive and more ruthless, less rational and more impulsive, less conversant and more violent. More significantly, new groups are formed of individuals who are alien to the family system and to the social fabric and who are powerful and violent enough to be capable of heinous killing. Ultimately, those individuals are viewed as untouchable masters and examples to be followed by the disadvantaged and vulnerable. The outcome of this is that brute force, not morality, emerge is the example to be followed.

Another effect of such social toxication is the phenomenon of social disintegration and disunity which is manifest in the decline of the father’s authority with all the moral values it embodies; and in the young men’s tendency to search for a new identity which they seek to be assertive and different from that of their vulnerable and downtrodden parents. There emerged the new form of identity provided by Islamic organizations and armed militias which in many cases supplanted national and filial belonging and rendered many persons alienated from their community.

IV- The PNA Performance [Palestinian National Authority --Dan]

The PNA performance has had a tremendous psychological impact on the Palestinians. Throughout its term of office, the PNA regime has been characterized by absence of law and justice, violation of human and individual rights, contravention against public lands, disrespect for reason, disregard of accountability and penalty amounting to rewarding of offenders, spread of favoritism and nepotism which created heightened feelings of bitterness, exasperation and hatred among the disadvantaged and destitute. All of these factors made the Palestinian citizen feel that only force in its different forms is the only resort.

The PNA added insult to injury as its security organs penetrated families. This reciprocally allowed families to penetrate security organs which became controlled by Fatah leaders as well as by heads of a large Gaza family. This resulted in gross security violations and social disorder, and culminated in numerous instances of law-breaking and aggressions against public and individual rights and property. In all circumstances, aggressors were backed either by their faction, family or a security organ and sometimes by all of them, which made power concentrated in the hands of influential individuals in the large authority apparatus. This eventually resulted in more disunity and division among those same families, and new armed and rival groups emerged by virtue of the official authority support; only to turn against that authority one day and dauntlessly assault some of its major symbols.

In this regard, it is noticeable that the Palestinian people’s performance in the first intifada was characterized by an overwhelming sense of solidarity, resilience and commitment to moral values, all of which seemed to be nonexistent in the second intifada which has been dominated by chaos, disintegration and division. Some observers attribute such change to the presence of the PNA and to its inability to assume a leading role, as well as to its acting as a barrier between the resistance and occupation. Its corruption and weakness made it easy for both parties to beat it.

V- Absence of a common enemy and uncontrolled arms

The actual non-presence of a common enemy in Gaza diverted the furious and enraged feelings of revenge from their natural path and redirected them into the Palestinian community among individuals, families and the factions contending for power and their militias. Under deteriorating social, economic, political and psychological conditions, it is only natural, as we have already warned that violence will prevail in the Palestinian society and among its individuals and groups. This situation further worsened with the proliferation of arms and plenitude of funds in the hands of contending parties and militias. Those factors on their own, however, cannot account for those bizarre acts of revenge, torture and killing committed in the recent clashes between Fatah and Hamas and which reflect inveterate grudge and hatred. Therefore, there is need to consider the other reasons.


The systematized repression and torture that the Palestinian people was subjected to under the Israeli occupation, the poor performance of the PNA as embodied in the absence of law and justice and maladministration all led the youth to seek and cling to a new identity which is different from that of their helpless parents and which holds that naked force is the only means to avenge themselves over the suppression they have long been subjected to.

The formation of those political, partisan and religious identities and the view that ultimate force is the model of heroism are the major cause of the status quo of Palestinian armed conflict which finds its fuel in many causes such as division, hatred, and vindictiveness of a generation that rebels against the declining family system and the chaotic PNA.

Fascinating stuff. Clearly a worthy subject to reflect on. Also reminds me a bit of typical American gangster social situations.

In place of appeasement: It is not among the duties of resistance movements to court popularity from outside powers, writes Azmi Bishara

For a people either rootless or under occupation, the Palestinians have made more than their share of diplomatic initiatives. The norm, one would think, would be for an occupied people to fight for liberation until they win or else maintain resistance, compelling the international community or the occupying power to come up with solutions to situations that are no longer tenable. The norm, then, is for the resistance to either accept the proposals and throw down its arms, or to reject them and keep on fighting until it is presented with more reasonable ones. The actions of the resistance, moreover, are presumed to be guided throughout by a central aim: liberation and the realisation of self-determination.

In the Palestinian case we see the reverse: they have come up with so many initiatives and proposals that the Palestinians, themselves, find it difficult to recall the aims of their struggle; not only the original aim but the latest one too. In the process they have lost the distinction between strategies and tactics, between tactics and self-deception, and between tactical goals and pleasing others. Not that their attempts to please others have been very successful; rather, they have whetted the appetite of others, who believe such attempts that are a sign of weakness, to up their demands. Israel will never agree to Palestinian ideas because it finds them pleasing; it will agree only if implementing these ideas suits its interests or if it is forced to agree. For example, when suicide bombings reached their height during the second Intifada, Israeli capital and big business forced their government to choose between resuming the peace process until a settlement could be reached or building the separating wall. The government chose the wall.

The Palestinians and Arabs have put forward more than enough initiatives and proposals for settlements and interim phases. Israel has consistently refused to take them up; clearly, it is waiting for more, undoubtedly out of the conviction that with every new proposal the ceiling of demands will lower. Surely it is about time for the Arabs to wait for Israel to come to them with proposals or initiatives that they can either accept or reject, as opposed to letting themselves be pushed around by the logic of unilateralism and the construction of separating walls. In the meantime, if they need some kind of unifying inspiration, they can always draw on the Palestinian national consensus document, which represents the broadest common ground, as well as the resolutions adopted by the PLO in successive National Council sessions. Since neither Israel or the US are about to produce an acceptable proposal for a solution in the foreseeable future, the Palestinians, especially following the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, should drive home the message that they, too, have no further proposals to make and that it is not their job to make proposals but rather to fight against the occupation, against the separating wall, against the Judaisation of Jerusalem and other national objectives.

Jerusalem, for example, does not exist in a vacuum. Its representatives in the Palestinian National Assembly were arrested and there has arisen no properly organised and financed leadership to take the place of Orient House and the neighbourhood people's committees. What happened? Somewhere down the line people stopped thinking in terms of the national rights of Jerusalem as a Palestinian Arab city and in terms of its inhabitants as a part of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian national project, and began to think in terms of Israeli civil rights. Sixty per cent of the children in Jerusalem go to schools that fall under the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem. The brutality of the circumstances they face inevitably force us to demand their rights -- by which we mean their Israeli rights -- from the Israeli Ministry of Education. However, as necessary as this process is, because it is taking place outside the framework and compass of the Palestinian national project it has merged into the process of the Israelification and annexation of Jerusalem and its people. I suppose, therefore, that I should not have been all that surprised, recently, to see a group of 12 school children from East Jerusalem on a visit to the Knesset as part of their civics programme, as if they were Arab students from inside the Green Line.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, as an architectural structure, is in danger, but Palestinian and Arab Islamic sovereignty over it is in greater peril; it has been virtually non- existent for some time. The people who are presumed to exercise this sovereignty -- the Palestinian people inclusive of Palestinian society of Jerusalem -- are also imperiled. The Arabs inside the Green Line pray there regularly and do their best to maintain it as a mosque but they are Israeli citizens and cannot exercise the rights of sovereignty. As admirable as their efforts are, they are not a state, nor even a state in the making. They are citizens of the occupying power itself. The transformation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, through closure and through the absence of an Arab challenge, into a mosque for Arabs inside the Green Line is hardly a bulwark against the peril. Is world opinion aware that Israel refuses to allow Muslims from the West Bank and Gaza access to one of Islam's most holy shrines, thereby violating their fundamental rights of worship? Yet the liberation of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and the exercise of Arab and Muslim sovereignty over the sanctuary are curiously absent from all the Arabs' political and diplomatic moves connected with the "peace process". So, too, for that matter, is the protection of Arab society in Jerusalem, of the sanctity of their persons and of the Arab identity of Jerusalem, inclusive of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

If we add to this the erosion of the status of Jerusalem and the reduction of Palestinian refuges from a vital and primary component of the Palestinian cause to a collection of humanitarian causes of varying severity depending on the countries in which the refugees are living, we find that the Palestinian cause has been abbreviated to negotiation over a Palestinian state, as Bush and Olmert define it. The dependency on the "peace process" -- with the heaviest emphasis on "process" -- has left an enormous gap in Jerusalem, in the Palestinian Diaspora and in the Palestinian national project as a whole. "The process" has become an aim in itself: some politicians feel that their political careers and lives are not worth living if they don't meet an American official on a shuttle tour to the region, don't get themselves photographed with him or her, don't comment on the importance of their meeting and don't reprimand the US for its pro-Israeli bias at least once a negotiating season. The process similar to that of an extended family: it leaves stray waifs if it breaks down and plays Cupid for others until some calamity has the lovers bewailing their miserable lot in the coffeehouse. The process is everything, and those connected with it will be sure to tell you that America is in earnest this time; contrary to the general impression, they have detected a new sense of responsibility in whatever American official they have met. They will also tell you to be on guard against those who are working to give America an excuse to wash its hands of this region, and will be quick to remind you of Arab demagoguery and brinkmanship. The Arabs are the ones who lost Palestine, and while they are on the subject they'll open the whole historical record of black marks against Syria and Iran and against everyone who hasn't recognised Israel, and against the Arabs in general, those who are pressuring the Palestinians to sacrifice their national rights exempted.

Now that the Palestinians have made the transition from the chant, "Down with Zionism", to "Say no to internal warfare" two Palestinian delegations headed off to Mecca. They are under great pressure to come to an agreement over means to avert conflict, which both teams presume to be a form of crisis management. However, certain parties see this as a strategic opportunity to dictate the rules of the "game of nations" to Palestinians living under occupation, on the grounds that the agreement must be capable of securing the lifting of the blockade. The only interpretation of this stance is that the blockaders were right and the proof is that the blockaded party has "come to its senses" and changed its position. The inevitable corollary, of course, is that the politics of might works, that "might is right".

This will have important implications for the future of the "political process". Some members of the delegations have already threatened to call for early elections, which under the current state of tension is tantamount to a call for civil war.

Only a united front in standing up to the blockade can halt the blockade. The blockade loses its point if its architects can find no one in Palestine to capitalise on the blockade to build up an opposition powerbase and exploit the wretchedness of the people to foment anger against their elected government. [true! --dan]

Since the signing of the National Concord that was based on the Prisoners' Document the scramble to climb aboard the political dictates train has been the cause of each new clash that followed a truce. Under the circumstances of the blockade any agreement produced as the result of arm-twisting, blackmail, threats that the blockade will persist and calls for referendums and elections becomes the basis for yet further demands, triggering another bout of violence. If one's intentions are good there is nothing to be proud of in succeeding in bringing about new elections and quite a bit to be ashamed of in refusing to accept the results of legitimate elections. But establishing one's good intentions entails abandoning the logic of imposing conditions under the banner of the blockade and building upon a common political agenda of the nature of the National Concord. Indeed, this document is very suitable as a platform for a Palestinian government. That Hamas contributed to it and agreed to it represents nothing less than a revolution in its thinking and political outlook. Hamas had never been party to the drafting of the original National Charter, nor its subsequent amendments. The resolutions adopted by successive National Council assemblies, and the substance of the document itself, represents an enormous compromise on Hamas's own charter and, indeed, its electoral platform. That should be sufficient for the purpose of reaching an understanding internally.

If the purpose of some is to placate powers abroad, though, the path to the next round of domestic conflict is well marked: an agreement tailored to lift the blockade, authorisation of the PA president and his advisors to commence negotiations, agreements arrived at secretly with Israel, the announcement of these agreements accompanied by the threat that if Hamas refuses to accept them there will be a call for new elections or for a referendum, and so on. That there are pressures in this direction is clear from the announcement of a forthcoming meeting in Jerusalem between Olmert and Abbas, with Rice attending. If Olmert comes back from these, and subsequent talks with Israel and the US, with proposals that fall short of the minimum Palestinian demands and then threatens to put them to a referendum the Palestinians will be tearing at each others throats again. If, on the other hand, the Palestinian unification agreement rests on calls for a halt to the blockade and a halt to violations in Jerusalem and other such demands, it will strengthen the Palestinian people's ability to resist he occupation.

To produce and adhere to such an agreement requires that Palestinian leaders alter their way of thinking and acting. They must completely de-bug their operating platforms and eradicate the viruses that have programmed them into the tactics of dictating conditions in order to appease outside powers. If the agreement that resulted from the Mecca meeting is to succeed -- and there is no question that it must -- they need to learn to work together towards the fulfillment of common Palestinian objectives instead of playing to an audience outside.

In this regard it would be useful, and undoubtedly spare considerable acrimony, if they put the business of who receives what ministerial portfolio into proper perspective. It makes little difference, for example, whether the minister of foreign affairs belongs to Hamas or to Fatah as long as he is clearly subordinate to the president, as the ultimate foreign policy decision-maker. If, on the other hand, the decision-making process is a shared one between the government, the presidency and parliament, then it would be preferable if the foreign minister belonged to neither this faction nor that. Such independence would enhance his credibility and efficacy in implementing decisions that are the result of a balance and it will facilitate his reception abroad.

The same need not apply to the minister of interior. In all democratic countries, the minister of interior or security, as is the case of the minister of foreign affairs, is generally a member of some political party or other. Which party is of little consequence. Accepting the political affiliations of ministers is part and parcel of democratic life in which political parties form the primary identities involved in the political process. What is important is that the security apparatuses themselves are non-partisan. In the post-Oslo period Palestinian security services have been Fatah-based, in constitution, allegiance and lines-of-command. These services must be unified, neutralised politically and rehabilitated so as prevent partisan considerations from affecting internal appointments and operations. In this case there would be nothing wrong with a Hamas minister of interior, especially if such an appointment formed something of a counterweight to a Fatah president in his capacity as supreme commander of security forces. Conversely, it means nothing to have an "independent" as a minister of interior if the security forces themselves are not non-partisan and unless a distinct line has been drawn between security forces whose task it is to safeguard security and security forces as a surrogate army for the suppression of the resistance.

Well that wraps up that little problem, don't it? It's really a pity that the American establishment is so damn racist. Clearly Palestinians have a lot of interesting angles on political realities, and maybe they could finally help fish us out of the Iraqi clusterfuck and the general onrushing apocalypse...

Oh wait we gotta get some more West Bank settlements to setup the Rapture. I forgot about how important that is to Baby Boomers calling the shots these days.

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