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Gaza: The Price of Protracted Occupation


1. The Urgent need for other terminology

One can look at the current crisis in Gaza, upon daily politics, and short-term perspective. The outcomes of such a perspective are: First: The Palestinians fire rockets towards Israel, and the Palestinians took captive an Israeli soldier. Second: The Palestinians should be punished for their aggressiveness by different means including the targeted killing of their "terrorists", intensive artillery shelling, closing the energy pipelines that supply them with fuel mainly in Gaza Strip, bombing their electricity power stations... The punishment for civilians in this regard will be considered sometimes as unfortunate side effects of the actions against the "terrorists" for which the terrorists themselves bear responsibility, while at other times it will be considered as a "proportionate" and "legitimate" response to the Palestinian attacks against the Israeli civilians (eye for eye and tooth for tooth). In yet a third explanation, the collective punishment is interpreted as a tool to separate between the "terrorists" and the people, and to make the people revolt against the terrorists. Third: Thus the Israeli acts are retaliations to the Palestinian aggressiveness, therefore they are part of Israel's right to defend itself.

This kind of short term daily analysis that is expressed in political rhetoric, and a huge amount of daily political analysis made by "experts," is misleading, unable to interpret, and therefore unable to provide with a solution. Moreover it is a creator of pessimism, more blame, justification of one sided acts against the other, also it creates pessimism and all the backgrounds needed for the continuation of demonisation, the continuation of the technical approach to deal with the other defined as: "More use of power will make them surrender!"

2. Human Shared Security terminology versus the security terminology

The previous type of approach is the one that makes the issue "our security versus theirs." It is not possible, with such an approach, to get to a shared vision of security: Security for both sides in equal basis as human beings first and foremost.

In order to get to this shared security vision, one should change the terminology, by returning to the simple fact of occupied/occupier, colonized/ colonizer, which was and still the main characteristic of the Israeli Palestinian relations. If this relation will be ignored in practice, or if Israel withdraw its occupation from Gaza in order to sink more in it rather than getting rid of it, the two sides will be getting nowhere except to more suffering and more bloodshed.

3. The protracted occupation

Beyond the short term daily political analysis, the Israeli Army and the Israeli settlers left Gaza, but kept occupying it by control from outside, and by restricting all the movement for the sea, land, and air. And yet, Israel is surprised why some Palestinians are shelling Sderot? The alternative for Israel will be leaving the Palestinians to take their natural right of self determination, which is not a gift or a grant from Israel, but a natural right born with every human being!

The rhetoric of "We gave them Gaza therefore they should be thankful to us instead of shooting us," is not helpful, and leads to despair, therefore the right thing to do is to recognize that Gaza is still occupied, and also to recognize that Gazans are not disconnected form their people in West Bank which is still also occupied. With recognition of such very simple facts it will be easier to understand realistically what is going on without the feelings of despair and helplessness, also upon this understanding the discourse will not continue to be revenge on Hamas and the terrorists, but a discourse leading to a process that will bring back the Palestinians their natural rights of self determination as the only way to get rid of their terrorism/resistance, in contrast to all the partial solutions that failed to get to a real solution.

The writer tries here to analyze and understand, with no relation to his own personal position against all types of violence, and in support of nonviolence strategies of resistances.

4. The illness of two sides

"Ill treatment" is the name for the ways that both sides are handling their protracted conflict. On their side the Israelis became obsessed with chasing the "terrorists," the "targeted killings," as a tool to get to a situation where the other side will comply with the Israeli unilateral plans, also obsessed with a notion of security that includes getting rid of "them" by the walls and wires, while controlling them from outside.

The Palestinians, distorted by occupation, became for their part obsessed with being refugees and victims of victims who feel that they are not responsible for their acts. The "fighters" among the Palestinians became obsessed. with the acts against Israel and the hopes to become famous "shaheeds," and similar phenomena. The Palestinians became so obsessed with the occupation/resistance formula, that it is difficult for them to adapt to any other process. The outcome of this was that the Palestinians succeeded only in building a failed state system during the Arafat period and in fostering the emergence of warlords.

It is time again to reread the studies of how occupation distorted the occupied: the writings of Aime Caesar, Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi are of great importance in order to understand all of this, as well as the Van Leer Institute's work on "comparative occupations" in the last year.

5. Ways ahead

The problem is: What ways lie ahead?

One of the ways is in action: Continue the violence against the other with Israeli illusion that the Palestinians will surrender, will remove Hamas Government, then "Israel will appoint Abu Mazen the general director of Israeli affairs in the West Bank and Gaza" (Tzvi Barel- Ayyam Newspaper 3/7/2006, Ha'aretz 2/7/2006). The mirror image for such position is some Palestinians belief that Israel can be defeated because of ineffective rockets fired towards Israel.

This way is a recipe for creating the environment where terrorism and extremism will grow and flourish. Unfortunately this recipe is there, practiced everywhere every day all around the Palestinian territories.

The alternative in the short run would be something like an agreement of mutual and reciprocal lull (Tahdiya), that includes the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, release of Palestinian prisoners, and stop all types of reciprocal violence and killing.

When the lull starts, negotiations upon Hudna (long term case fire), might take place between the two sides, where each side will bring their conditions to the table, negotiate them, till the two sides get to a Hudna agreement that will be signed.

If such an agreement will be signed, then a third step might be made in getting the two sides to the table in order to agree on the procedures of how to implement the previous agreements including the Clinton- Parameters, Moratinos non-paper, and the Road Map. In order to avoid the pitfalls of the previous partial processes, the two sides might move directly here to the permanent status issues, achieving an agreement on the steps leading to a two state solution, bringing this agreement to referendums in both societies, and bringing the agreements to implementation after that.

The realignments/convergence plan will not be helpful in this direction if it will be only unilateral without any agreement on the steps to be taken, and without coordination with the other side.

The whole idea here is to show how to move from a mere conflict management approach based on the assumption that peace is not possible (the reciprocal violence, and the realignment as examples of such approach), to a temporary conflict management approach that leads to conflict transformation. That can be accomplished through the move from the Tahidya and Hudna as conflict management tools achieved by bilateral agreement, to a conflict transformation process through engagement between the two sides leading to a two state solution. The assumption here is that the reciprocal Tahdiya, then Hudna, will pave the way for engagement in order to get to a transformation of the conflict.

Walid Salem

Walid Salem is the director of Panorama, the Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office. He is also the author of books and articles on such issues as democracy, citizenship, youth rights, civil society development, Israeli-Palestinian peace-building, and the right of return. Together with Paul Scham and Benjamin Pogrund, he is author of SHARED HISTORIES: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue, Left Coast Press, 2005.

This article is Copyright 2006 by MidEastWeb for Coexistence and by the author. It has been edited and adapted for MidEastWeb Web Log http://www.mideastweb.org/log. Please forward this article by e-mail with this notice, Reproduction at other Web sites, syndication or use in printed publications of any kind requires express written permission from MidEastWeb for Coexistence and the author.

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by Moderator @ 07:12 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 5 comments

I guess it is too much to hope for a Palestinian article devoid of all Palestiian rhetoric, even as he criticizes the state of mind that creates that rhetoric.

But the fina section outlines pretty well necessary steps to reach the objective of peace and two states. However, this analysis requires even more detail and even more reference to the pitfalls along the way, both around the negotiating table and outside.

Posted by Micha @ 07/06/2006 02:16 PM CST

Walid Salem sets out a particular argument on the presumption that were the IDF to step away from the borders with Gaza to allow free movement over them then all would be fine. Were he describing a state like Belgium he might be right, but Gaza / Palestine is not a stable coherent state. Palestine has an impotent government incapable of asserting its authority over the various armed factions. These factions might claim allegiance to Hamas but it is not evident that this extends to working coherently towards the creation of Palestinian state. Far from it in fact, the armed factions seek to do little more than to continue the conflict, and in my opinion they do so because their livelihoods depend upon it.
Walid Salim overlooks the fact that no state can allow a porous border to exist with what at best can be described as an anarchaic assembly of armed fiefdoms committed to the destruction of that state. Further Mr. Salim overlooks that the majority of Palestinians voted for war against Israel. Despite all the opinion polls that run contrary to this, they are without authority in comparison with the majority vote for the current Hamas government.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 07/06/2006 09:33 PM CST

Untangling Mideastern Gridlocks

(extract from our still - or more than ever - valid Iconoclast memo of 2004: www.solami.com/deadlock.htm)

In car traffic, overlapping claims to the right of way – for whatever cause - invariably produce either gridlock or an accident. Once the hardware is thus entangled, the traffic flow will not be reestablished by either rhetoric or gesticulations. Only someone’s enlightened engaging the reverse gear will do that.
In politics here and there, overlapping land claims lead to similar deadlocks. It takes someone wiser and more courageous than others in order to effectively open the way out for everybody. In the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in particular, that someone need not be the originator of the gridlock. And in a longer-term perspective, the Palestinians may even benefit most from a properly designed and implemented initiative of their own. One which would deny their current adversaries the punching bag they apparently need for survival. To mutually beneficial ends, they might thus accept to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq by temporarily setting up there an internationally recognizable Palestinian state in exile - of course without prejudice for their return to Palestine.

Posted by Iconoclast @ 07/06/2006 09:47 PM CST

I agree with a lot of what iconoclast wrote in the first part about gridlock. I think that the Gaza crisis is a Mexican standoff, which is inside the standoff of the peace process, which is inside the standoff of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I also agree with Rod Davies that opening the borders of Gaza in the absence of mechanisms to ensure peace is irresponsible. Walid Salem is quite right in delineating some of the problems, but he forgot that we tried negotiations and got the "second Intifadah" and that Mahmoud Abbas expressed no willingness or ability to stop the terror groups, for all his commitment to "peace."

On the other hand, we have to ask WHY nobody in Israel and apparently nobody in EU and USA seem to be concerned about the blockade of Gaza and the results it would inevitably produce and IS producing.


Posted by Moderator @ 07/07/2006 02:22 PM CST

Israel is contributing to the standoff. The Palestinians are not going to stop terrorism out of self interest, nor can they pressured into doing it by force. Accept it and move on. Insisting on this course of action of military pressure and demands, even if partially justified, is not going to go anywhere. If we assume that a gridlock is not in Israel's interest, another approach is necessary. Some form of negotiations seem to be the preferable course of action, probably with the Hamas, if the objectives of deescalation, ending the occupation, and maybe even peace are sought.

The fear of a repeat of what happened in camp david andthe following intifada is understandable. But a third intifada will not be avoidedby remaining in a standoff.

Posted by Micha @ 07/08/2006 04:14 AM CST

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