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Gaza: the wretched of the earth resisting

Hamas’s steadfastness might prompt Israel to further escalate the attack

30. July 2014
by Wilhelm Langthaler

Israel’s ground assault on Gaza is meeting severe resistance – as has been the case many times before. Despite massive destruction and a death toll exceeding one thousand – mainly civilians – the resistance and Hamas remain combative. They rejected a capitulation agreement put forward by Egypt and endorsed by Israel. Lifting the embargo remains the central and immediate Palestinian demand as the base for a ceasefire. This is legitimate and must be supported by democrats across the globe.

1) Israel needs to present a success

The current attack on Gaza has been growing into an outright showdown to tilt an equilibrium that is no more acceptable to either side. In this extremely asymmetric war one can assume that if the Zionist Goliath does not succeed in substantially weakening Hamas, the battle might turn into an affirmation of the Palestinian David.

Israel has been proclaiming the destruction of Hamas, the political and military force dominating the resistance, at least for the past two decades – to no avail. Also this time there is no indication that would suggest such an outcome. The Palestinian resistance has been a world-shaking event ever since serving as an emblem of anti-imperialist popular struggles.

This is one of the reasons why the Israeli Army well after the beginning of the campain started to put out statements saying that its main goal is to destroy tunnels that cross the borders of the Gaza strip. Since the beginning of the blockade with the electoral victory of Hamas these tunnels have been serving as the lifeline for the civilian population. That they partially have also been used for military purposes is not only ethically legitimate, but also a right according to international law as the armed resistance against occupation is a general legal right.

The Arab Spring especially in Egypt had de facto ameliorated the situation of Palestinians in Gaza. That included a gradual political and military consolidation of the resistance as well as Hamas. One could also read the rationale behind the Israeli attack as to aggressively destroy these gains and to restore the situation before 2011.

2) Favourable political conditions for Israel due to Arab counter-revolution

The demise of the Arab spring, its transformation into a sectarian civil war and first of all the restauration of the Egyptian military regime has led to an increasing isolation of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas which hail from the same roots. The few remaining allies are Turkey and in the Arab world just the oil mini-state Qatar. The Syrian civil war also prompted the degradation of relations with Tehran. Hamas is now suffering the most severe international isolation since its electoral victory of 2006.

One expression of this pressure was the formation of the so-called unity government along with Fatah, the henchman of the west and indirectly Israel. Only the fact that the Israeli leadership constantly rejects any compromise with Hamas whatsoever, and consequently also dismissed the Palestinian unity government, allows Hamas this balancing act between resistance and regional order. Thus one can find in Hamas’s pre-conditions for a ceasefire the demand for “non-interference into the Palestinian reconciliation”.

3) Ground offensive

Israel made clear that they would not confine themselves to the usual bombings from the air, the default mode of imperial aggression. The destruction of the tunnel system and military infrastructure of the resistance requires infantry operating on the ground. This offers to Hamas and the other guerrilla forces the unique chance to inflict losses on the attacker. Reportedly they have been quite successful so far in doing so. Even according to the Israeli army after more than three weeks into the military operations they were neither able to dismantle the bulk of the tunnels nor to visibly weaken the resistance.

In contrast to other western societies a vast majority of the Israeli population does endorse the war and the ruthless subjugation (or even the complete annihilation) of the Palestinians. To this end they are ready to accept losses. But that also means that they want to be presented with military success.

On the other side, the Palestinians as an incarnation of the wretched of the earth are aware that resistance is possible only by an exorbitant disparity of victims – according to the principle to throw stones at combat aircraft in order to incite the hearts of the people. Martyrdom, however, requires even more a political rationale. The majority of the Palestinians – and not only those crammed into Gaza – support the resistance and refuse to capitulate as demanded by Sisi’s agenda. History teaches them that only by resisting they can come out of this enduring nightmare and break their chains.

Under these conditions it is likely that Israel will intensify its aggression and thus further raise the political stakes.

4) Obama’s (vain) attempt to contain the consequences of radical Zionism

The Egyptian dictator Sisi floated the idea of a ceasefire without lifting the blockade of Gaza, without a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and implicit continuation of tunnel destruction. He excluded Hamas and launched the authority in Ramallah as a “mediator”. This would be but a capitulation by Hamas. Not by accident Netanyahu at once endorsed the plan. Israel and Egypt are once again the closest allies against Hamas with the support of nearly the entirety of Arab states.

Qatar and Turkey play the role of Hamas’s advocates. They demand the lifting of the embargo, direct negotiations with Hamas and thus its partial de-facto recognition.

Kerry’s attempt to reflect some of these demands and to negotiate with those two states immediately led to furious reactions in Tel Aviv. They responded by stepping up their assaults trying to create facts on the ground. Here, however, a general line of the Obama group is expressed seeking to dampen the escalation and to integrate the Muslim Brotherhood into the system as it had been attempted in Egypt before. The head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn, was quoted as saying that the US didn’t not want to destroy Hamas, for what will come afterwards might become even more dangerous. Behind is an assessment that the old regional order remains highly fragile despite Sisi’s counter-revolution. Without indirect rule, devolution and integration of Islamic forces further explosions cannot be contained. Actually both the Jihadi control over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq on one hand and the increasing strength of Shiite, pro-Iranian axis on the other hand are clear signs of that tendency.

It should, however, not be neglected that within the US elites the unconditional support to Zionism also in its most radical variant remains dominant despite the fact that Obama’s line appears to be more rational with regard to maintain US global supremacy.

In any case the Kerry scheme is a token that the political cost for the radical Zionist position is increasing. Maintaining the embargo inevitably means growing tensions for the global system and especially its regional order.

Sooner or later the blockade will fall, shattering Zionism and imperialism altogether. If it does not happen this time, the resistance will contribute to a future change.