Gaza: The Third World’s Spain
I have always regarded the Palestinians as the most inspirational people in the world. This epic declaration may raise a few eye-brows at first; after all, the Palestinian struggle is perhaps at its most divided stage, with its former leadership (i.e. the PLO) actually colluding with the enemy, the majority of the world and especially Arab governments, watching as silent witnesses to the ensuing massacre of innocent Palestinians. The massacre itself follows 2 years of a brutal siege of Gaza that denied the basic necessities of life to 1.5 million people in one of the world’s most densely populated places, as well as one of its poorest. Nevertheless, I stand by my declaration; who else has faced a foe as formidable, well-armed, disciplined and most importantly, backed unconditionally by the biggest superpower in the world? Who else was colonized precisely at the moment when the era of decolonization began for the rest of the world? Yet, what other national liberation struggle has demonstrated that the right of a people to live with dignity, honour, free from the squalor of refugee camps and the terror of settlers and soldiers is still a desire worth fighting for, better yet, sacrificing entire generations for. This is a tribute to the most heroic struggle of our times, one that has lessons for the entire Third World, i.e. for all us wretched of the earth, to use Fanon`s phrase.
First, a word about the enemy; It is for more than one reason that the United States unconditionally supports Israel. The geo-strategic advantages aside, Israel reminds the USA of its own past, one based on the genocidal expulsion and eventual extinction of the native population. Israel too is a settler colonialism, a pioneering one that seeks to exclude and virtually eliminate the Palestinians as a people. Its ruling ideology, Zionism, is based on establishing the superiority of the settler population vis-à-vis the Arabs. An ideology that has been declared as racist even by the United Nations, it nonetheless forms the basis of the Israeli state. The most important part of this Ideology, however, is its ability to build upon the European guilt stemming from the Holocaust, to always present Israelis as a beleaguered, persecuted people, who have to use force to prevent another holocaust from taking place, even as they themselves perpetrate a holocaust against the Palestinians. Thus, the shamelessness with which the current Israeli establishment was able to justify the massacre of 400 people (and counting) for rocket attacks that have killed a grand total of 1 person in Israel (which itself was a retaliation to Israel`s constant disrespect for the ceasefire). At the same time, Israel continues to expand settlements on Palestinian land, declared illegal by the United Nations, the aim of which is to complete the expulsion of the Palestinians from their lands, that began 60 years ago. If we discount the struggle of the vanished native American peoples against white settler colonialism, no other liberation movement has encountered an adversary like the Palestinians have faced.
Now for the present situation; the roots of the present crisis lie in the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections. While many (including Israel) interpreted it as a proof of the ‘radicalization’ of Palestinian movement, I saw it as proof of the Palestinians commitment to democracy, casting aside a corrupt, ineffectual and compromising leadership for a new one. Hamas showed great political maturity by inviting the much discredited PLO to form a national unity government. Yet, America and Israel were not willing to let this budding democracy from functioning. They had already chosen that they wanted to negotiate only with their stooge, i.e. the PLO under Abbas. Thus, Israel refused to accept the results of the elections, broke the coalition government, armed the PLO’s goon Ahmad Dahlan to take over Gaza. When Hamas retaliated, and recaptured Gaza with the help of its people, Israel began a plan to literally starve 1.5 million people into submission with a siege. It is the failure of all these plans to break the Hamas, which now expresses the will of the Palestinian people, that has led to the latest assault.
This brings me to the final point I wish to make. The Palestinian cause is not one that can be expressed in any millenarian religious ideology. It is not a cause of Muslims, it is a cause of all the oppressed people of the world and it contains valuable lessons for all of us. Apart from the more abstract notions of freedom, liberty, the right of a people to their land, the Palestinian cause tells us something more concrete about the post-colonial experience; the continued presence of American Imperialism in shaping our lives, the will of the people hardly finding expression in the conduct of their representatives, the denial of democracy through corrupt, dictatorial regimes, whose route to power comes via Washington. What we need to learn from the Palestinian people, however, is the need to struggle against the formidable foe, armed to the teeth, against men, women and children armed with stones. Today, as Israel mounts a horrendous attack on the Palestinians, one that threatens to eliminate them, we need to stand by the resistance movement, not only for their sake, but for our very own. Eqbal Ahmad once explained why the Palestinian cause stirs the emotions of people around the world by showing how it touches us on a primordial level. “Our painful colonial past, neo-colonial present and the dangerous perspective of our future, all converge on the question of Palestine” he said. It is for this reason that we must stand by the Gazans, for if Gaza falls, it will take with it many of the dreams that have inspired, even sustained many of us in the Third World; Gaza must not fall!