There is a song lyric I can’t get out of my head. It’s from “West Bank”, a song I wrote, posted, and promptly removed from the internet (I will likely be performing it, along with another song about the situation in Palestine at an event at El Mocambo on September 1st, if you’re interested). The lyric is as follows:
And sure the PNA’s corrupt; the collaboration it should stop
but I hear when the war comes back, they will stand and fight the Zionists
The lyric is about my conflicting feelings towards the PA – on the one hand, there is a lot of corruption, and collaboration with the zionist agressors, and they have all but abandoned the popular Palestinian demands which are now perhaps better articulated by the BDS movement. Even Fatah supporters I met in the West Bank were opposed to a Palestinian state, and saw the virtue of such a move only tactically (and, tactically, there are a lot of problems with creating a Palestinian state). Worse, the PA soldiers have sometimes taken on the task of repressing popular and non-violent resistance against Israel, most famously during the Gaza massacre of 2008-9. But, at the same time, you know (or rather, you learn) that those soldiers will form the resistance against the invading Israeli army if there is another Israeli invasion of the West Bank, and for that you respect them.
I feel a similar conflict this week – not about the PA, but about Hamas and its armed forces. I don’t subscribe to a fundamental Islamist politics, and moreover I think any form of theocracy is an extremely problematic form of social organization. But there is a fundamental principle – people have the right to armed struggle against those who occupy or attack their land. And since I recognize Gaza as Palestinian territory, I believe Israel has no right to occupy it (blockade is a form of occupation), and I think that their armed forces have the right to strike back when Israel carries out attacks on targets in Gaza. That doesn’t mean I approve of all their activities – I don’t think they have any right to strike civilian targets, even when Israel is striking civilian targets in Gaza. But I do think they have a right to fire on Israeli warships firing on Palestinian fish-boats, and engage Israeli troops if they fire across the border, or if they attempt to cross the border into Gaza.
When Israeli bombed Gaza in retaliation for an attack which in no way obviously carried out by people in Gaza (the attack came from the Sinai, and there are many militant groups operative there that are not Palestinian, thanks to the demilitarization of the region in the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty), Hamas certainly had the right to strike back if there was no diplomatic solution – and, while I could be wrong about this, I don’t think anything Hamas could have reasonably offered Israel would have prevented the continuation of the bombing over thursday and friday. So, it follows that Gazans have the right of resistance by force.
Just because they have the right, does not mean they should exercise it. Because of the nature of collective punishment in asymmetric warfare, certainly every military attack by the Alqassam brigades, even legitimate ones against military targets, will result in many of Gaza’s civilians being killed by Israeli retaliation. But that isn’t my choice – it’s a choice the people of Gaza have the right to make, and insofar as they do make it, I respect them. I probably wouldn’t like many of the people in the Alqassam brigades – it would probably be much easier for me to have a beer and relax with IDF soldiers (which is something that happened while I was in Palestine, although it’s something that makes me feel quite queazy in retrospect) than with any Islamist militants – but respect isn’t about personal friendship, or feelings, or sharing values; it’s about making a decision on a moral principle.
The back and forth attacks between Gaza and Israel have continued for several days, and Alqassam has formally ended the defacto 2 year truce. There could be a real danger of further escalation, and a ground war in Gaza – the Israeli civilian leadership would be very happy to distract its populace, which was in a state of mass peaceful revolt against Israel’s neo-liberal policies (but mostly not against its zionist policies or occupation or racism). Looking at my twitter feed today, it looks like there is already a war – there is certainly a lot of bombing and shooting. The majority of people in Gaza already have post-traumatic stress disorder – this is a war on a traumatized people who live in a prison camp. As North Americans, living in countries which express unconditional support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, it is our duty as national and global citizens to pressure our governments to not allow Israel to commit another massacre in Gaza. We should stand with the people of Gaza, and instead of falling into the “there are problems on both sides” game we should stand in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, insofar as they observe laws of war, because in this conflict theres is legitimate defence against agression.
EDIT: As usual, I can’t write these posts quickly enough. I’ve received word that Israel’s channel 2 is reporting that tanks are being moved by the IDF to the border with Gaza.
EDIT: Just heard that Israel’s cabinet has approved land, naval and air escalation. I hope it’s not true. If so, full scale war looks immanent.