Israeli war planes struck the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has roughly 7.5 million people, Gaza roughly 1.7 million. Israel bombed and destroyed Gaza’s only airport and refuses to let Gaza port operate. It still places severe restrictions on Gaza imports, and lets Palestinians there export almost nothing of what they make. Nearly half of Gaza families were forced out of what became southern Israel by militant Jewish nationalists, and many still live in refugee camps. They could walk home in an hour if allowed to. Instead they are kept in a huge open-air cage.
Gaza’s population is roughly that of Houston, where 217 people were murdered last year. Gaza’s Palestinians are far, far less violent. A few young militants send tiny home made rockets (not katyushas) over the border and almost never hit anything. (Occasionally they smuggle in a real rocket; but those don’t typically hit much either.) The Israelis justify their air strikes and other actions with reference to what they call terrorism but Palestinians call resistance. Israel offers the Palestinians nothing for making peace, and even punishes the suckers who sometimes negotiate.
The Israelis have 400 nuclear warheads, a fleet of F16s, and the best military in the region. Palestinians in Gaza have virtually nothing.
The other big news from Palestine is hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners in Isreli jails. It is a good symbol for the situation. The Israelis have kidnapped and jailed the Palestinian population. Palestinian politics and activism is one big prison riot.
What Israeli authorities seem unable to understand is that the Palestinians will never disappear and will never get used to their prison. The F-16 air strikes on a pitifully weak people (often directed at the gulag of Palestinian refugee camps) may make some Israeli officers feel macho. But they just fuel more violence, and aren’t a policy.
It is true that their captivity to Israel and the poverty imposed on them (they are less well off now than in the 90s) has allowed Muslim fundamentalist HAMAS to come to power there. Desperation does not produce moderation. Here are the remarks last Friday of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, as summarized by the USG Open Source Center:
“At 0954 GMT, the Gaza-based HAMAS-run Al-Aqsa Satellite Television Channel in Arabic carries live a Friday sermon from the Al-Shati Grand Mosque in Gaza delivered by HAMAS Leader Isma’il Haniyah.
Haniyah starts by welcoming visitors to Gaza Strip and says that visits by individuals from other countries “confirm the bonds of brotherhood and faith and confirm the crucial nature of the Palestinian cause and the centrality of the struggle against the Zionist project which perches upon this holy land.”
Haniyah dedicates most of the sermon to commemorating Palestinian Land Day. He begins by recounting the events in 1976 that led to confrontations between Israeli forces and Arab Israeli protestors. Haniyah identifies Land Day as the first occasion in which Palestinians living inside Israel rose up against the “injustices” of the Israeli authorities.
Haniyah says that there will be no “concessions or bargaining over land considering that this is the essence of the struggle against the occupation.” He condemns settlement activity and the perceived encroachment on Palestinian lands and holy sites. He adds that the Land Day “reinforces the unity of the Palestinian people” within Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and abroad.
He continues: “Today, as we mark this anniversary, we reaffirm our rejection of resettlement, displacement, and bargaining over the land of Palestine.” He adds: “There can be no replacement for the land of Palestine.” He rejects the idea of resettling Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. He denies claims by the media outlets that residents of the Gaza Strip are “looking for a place to be resettled in the Sinai Peninsula.” He says that it was the Gaza residents who in 1954 confronted plans to resettle the Strip residents in Sinai.
Haniyah says that Palestinians are under various kinds of pressures to give up their land, including the recent visit by US President Barack Obama. He says that the visit served to reaffirm US policy fundamentals “toward Israel, Zionist national security, the supremacy of Zionist capabilities and power,” and reinforcing Israel’s position amid the transformations taking place in the region. He says that the Arab uprising have caused Egypt, which used to be a s trategic asset for Israel, to become “a strategic asset for Palestine, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, the Palestinian resistance, and Gaza.”
Haniyah Addresses the Palestinian Authority, which he says still believes in “illusions” and “still thinks well of the United States.” He cautions the PA of “falling once again into these political traps.” He claims that the PA receives funds in exchange for delaying Palestinian national reconciliation.
He then pays tribute to Palestinians living inside Israel, saying that they “defend Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestine, and every grain of Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic holy land.” He says that even after 64 years since the start of the occupation, “we do not acknowledge the legitimacy of its existence.” He adds: “We are determined to continue along the path of perseverance and resistance”
With regard to Palestinian reconciliation, Haniyah says: “We are prepared to make all the necessary concessions as long as they do not affect the fundamentals and rights in order to regain Palestinian national unity.”
Haniyah ends the sermon by calling on the worshippers to sign a petition that lists the fundamental demands of the Palestinian cause…”
I don’t care for Hamas or Haniya, but they are a product of an unjust policy. The Palestinian prison riots will end when the captivity of the Palestinian people ends.