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Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh

An old story says that a woman used to complain much to her husband about living with her children in one room which was too narrow for them and for their needs. As the husband lacked money and did not have the means to improve the situation of his family, he decided to teach his disturbing wife a lesson.

One day, he brought some hens packed in a box and asked his wife to find a place for the box which his friend has left as a trust; the wife burst into anger yet she had to surrender to her husband’s persistence. The next day, he brought ducks and geese and insisted that his wife find a place to keep them, and then he brought a dog on the third day and a donkey on the fourth. Despite her anger and complaints, the wife could adapt to the fait accompli as she had no better alternatives.

  Amidst the smells and noises of the animals, the miserable wife started to dream about “liberating” her house and restoring what the “animals” have stolen from her rather than expanding the house and she decided to “struggle” by all “peaceful means” to achieve her just demands. 

  After a while, the husband returned the donkey to his owner; thus, the wife was overjoyed for getting rid of its kicks, smell and braying, so she started to make room for two of her kids. Later, the husband returned the ducks and the geese then the hens while the wife was celebrating her successive victories.

  The happy afflicted woman thanked her husband for the spacious house he has provided for her amid a feeling of triumphalism after restoring “her legitimate usurped rights”.
 The theme of the above story is that the experience of what is worse might lead one to accept the bad rather than looking towards the best.

Burning into the Consciousness

  Human behavior throughout history used this idea in different contexts to dedicate tyrannical policies such as dealing with slaves or lower social classes, or dealing of Intelligence with opposition forces. In addition, this policy was used by colonizers in their colonies and it is the same policy used by the Israelis against the Arab countries and the Palestinian people with its resistance factions. 

The hegemonic power of the enemy together with the willingness to avenge the resistance forces through collective punishment against civilians, shedding blood and house demolition, turning the clock back by centuries, siege and humiliation, destruction of sources of livelihood, preventing the freedom of movement and health services besides launching detention and torture campaigns… all these are tools the Israeli uses as an attempt to psychologically defeat the Palestinian and make him feel impotent so that he gives up to the fait accompli.

“Burning into the consciousness” might be the expression fit to describe the above situation where this term was first used by the former Chief of Staff of the Israeli army Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon. 

  Describing “the burning into the consciousness” process could be indeed controversial because of the grey area between this case and the heightening of the consciousness. However, the main difference between them is represented in the fact that heightening of the consciousness means the resort of resistance to the use and innovation of new tools, and its capacity to interact with the surrounding environment and the changing circumstances in a better way, provided that this does not lead to the deviation or retreat from its primary goal. While on the other hand, “burning into the consciousness” means forming new convictions and policies which deviate from the intended target and dwarf it to be eventually consistent or non-conflicting with the terms of the enemy or within the ceiling which it accepts.

Comparing Burning into the Consciousness and Heightening of the Consciousness

When the Zionists established their Israeli entity on around 77% of the land of Palestine thus displacing about 60% of its population in the 1948 war, Palestinian and Arab concern was mainly focused on liberating Palestine and abolishing the Israeli entity. When the PLO was established in 1964, it was concerned with this target as well.

  After the disastrous war of 1967, the Arab arena witnessed the spread of such slogans as “eliminating the consequences of the aggression” and retrieving the West Bank and the Gaza Strip together with Sinai and Golan Heights while forgetting or dismissing the goal of liberating entire Palestine.

  Mixing the sense of victory with falling hostage to the state of “burning into the consciousness” due to the experience resulting from conflicts or war, might lead to deceptive feelings about potential gains and imposition of will on the enemy. These feelings will be in parallel to retreat and concession actions that are justified and covered by increased popularity, triumphalism and self–confidence. The actions will be further dedicated by the absence of opposition movements, weakness of self–criticism, pursuit of the achievement of quick gains, dwarfing objectives while seeking to get the “saddle” after failure to possess the “donkey.”

  The October 1973 war was presented to the masses as an Arab victory; however, it was the last Arab war. It was later followed by the spread of the conviction of Arab regimes about the impossibility of defeating Israel or eliminating it, especially with the imbalance of power in the light of the absolute American and Western support for Israel. 

  Thus, while celebrating the October victory, the Arab regime was heading towards settlement and recognition of Israel (like what Sadat did in Egypt) rather than accumulating the achievement towards the liberation process. 

Did the Arabs have to celebrate the “wonderful victory” or lament the deterioration of the liberation project? Was what happened a heightening of the consciousness or a setback?

  On the other hand, the Arab regimes which decided to boycott the Egyptian regime after signing the Camp David Accords in 1978 and accused it of treason and collaboration are the same regimes which soon followed the Egyptian model and adopted the peace settlement project later.

  In its turn, the Palestinian revolution faced pressures, wars and enormous challenges from friends and foes alike, and its experience was an amalgam of the heightening of the consciousness and the burning into the consciousness.

  At the beginning, Fatah movement, together with some revolution factions, believed that its guerilla operations across the border would force the Arab regimes to fight the battle against Israel, yet this theory soon collapsed after the 1967 war. 

When it tried to establish the rules of Palestinian guerilla warfare fighting in the ring countries that are surrounding Israel, Fatah found itself in a quagmire of taming, subjugation, and attrition imposed by Arab regimes whichrefused any encroachment on their sovereignty. Thus, guerilla action was exhausted from outside because of hostile regulations and environment more than it was exhausted by the Israelis themselves.

At the beginning, the burning into the consciousness of Arab regimes was enhanced by the enormous losses and huge price which they would pay in case they allowed guerilla action on their territories. Moreover, the inability to work from outside the borders was burned into the consciousness of the Palestinian forces due to the possibility of conflicts, blood shedding and power depletion in case of engagement with the Arab regimes.

Accumulated experience of the PLO and the tracks imposed on it made it accommodate to the status quo on the pretext of preserving achievements and benefiting from available opportunities. Yet, this realism made it a body liable to dwarfing, “dragging and forging” in addition to encouraging enemies and opponents to exercise more pressure.
 Thus, after armed struggle was the only way to liberate Palestine according to the Palestinian National Charter, it became only one way according to the Ten Point Program of 1974. It was now possible to establish the Palestinian entity on whatever part which is liberated or evacuated by Israel. This would allow the PLO’s involvement in the peace settlement process as one means of “struggle.”

Later, the PLO faced subjugation attempts through the Lebanese civil war besides the Israeli invasions for Lebanon, and in particular the invasion of 1982. The latter led to the ouster of guerilla action from Lebanon and ending the Palestinian resistance operations towards occupied Palestine from outside. 

This pragmatic trend prevailing in the PLO was enhanced by the Organization’s inclination towards “falling” in more realism which burned into the consciousness of the PLO. Thus, it does not make any attempt to defy reality and change it but rather it surrenders to it in order to benefit from the available opportunities. It moves within the ceiling and limits of the compulsory tracks set by opponents and enemies. Thus, the PLO leadership did not deal with the blessed Intifadah which erupted in 1987 as an accomplishment to build on in the liberation process, but rather as an opportunity to get involved in the peace settlement process. 

While people were enchanted with the outbreak of the Intifadah, the PLO presented one of the major concessions in its history. During the 19th session of the Palestine National Council, in November 1988, it accepted for the first time the partition of Palestine and agreed to recognize Security Council Resolution 242 which deals with the Palestinian question as a refugees’ issue, while it covered its concession with the announcement of “the rise of the Palestinian state” that lacks seriousness.

The pragmatic trend leading the PLO ended up declaring its belief in peaceful settlement while denouncing violence and armed struggle, in addition to giving up on the principles and red lines dedicated in the Charter which was the basis for establishing the PLO. Then, in the 21st National Assembly of 1996, this trend announced the abolition of the articles on which the PLO establishment was based.

 On the level of the PLO leadership, three notions burned into its consciousness:

1. Dealing with Israel as a reality which could not be changed, thus giving away most of historic Palestine.
2. The adoption of the idea of saving what is saved and achieving what can be achieved since time is not on the side of the Palestinians and Arabs and what is now presented on the peace settlement table is better than what would be presented in the future.
3. The feeling that armed resistance, revolutions and uprisings are futile and have no role in restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, changing the balance of power or forcing the Israelis to make concessions. 

President Mahmud ‘Abbas and his team represent those who do not believe in armed resistance and consider armed uprising as an absurd process which has only led to negative consequences. He believes in peace settlement as a strategic choice and that there is no alternative for the peace settlement track except the peace settlement track itself.

On the other hand, the miserable state of burning into the Palestinian consciousness was countered by a heightening in the Palestinian consciousness which enabled it to survive in the face of the overwhelming Israeli hegemony. This heightening was mainly represented in the following aspects:

1.  Holding onto land and adhering to it, regardless of circumstances, refusing migration and displacement and insisting on staying even after massacres, house demolition …and others. 
2. Recognizing the necessity that Palestinians assume the responsibilities of the struggle rather than waiting for Islamic or Arab regimes to liberate their lands.
3. Realizing the importance of the internal Palestinian role in the process of resistance and shifting focus of resistance work from outside to the inside after closing borders in the face of the Palestinians.
4. Development of innovative means in resistance work as well as in self–immolation operations, improvement of resistance rockets besides the development in the political, social, media and mobilization work in favor of the resistance.

Perhaps, the present resistance trends, particularly Hamas and Hizbullah, should have been wary of falling hostage to some aspects of burning into the consciousness state. This process is the result of the overwhelming size of the force the enemy employs and the wide destruction and killing it causes.

Despite the failure of the Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006 and the resistance major achievement in repelling the aggression, Israel has achieved one of the goals of the war which is a quiet northern front. While it was easy for the resistance to decide on launching an operation across the border, it now has to think well before such an action after the war.

  The same applies to Hamas which used to reject the truce except temporarily and under certain conditions. Thus, when the six-month truce ended on 19/12/2008, Hamas launched around 50-70 missiles per day from the GS demanding lifting the siege and using its right to resistance. 

However, since the failure of the 2008/2009 Israeli offensive on GS and the success of the resistance in forcing the Israelis to withdraw, the Strip entered an effective, undefined truce and Hamas could no longer use missiles as a tool for lifting the siege. Consequently, the Israelis could achieve one of their goals which is the calm on the Gaza front, thus saving around a million Israelis the danger of missiles yet without having to lift the siege of Gaza.

Confronting Burning into the Consciousness

What helps resistance avoid falling a hostage to cases of burning into its consciousness?

The most notable points, after trusting in God, are the following:

– Adherence to the principles and preserving supreme goals without changes or concessions.

– Allowing self–criticism and accountability in case of failure.

– Living the suffering of the masses and their aspirations.

– Not being deceived by some quick gains of superficial nature such as having political relations and connections, in addition to some forms of financial support and backing which entail concessions.

– Differentiating between available opportunities and deadly traps such as the slogan “luxury under occupation,” seeking to establish authority before liberation and aligning with the enemy or external powers to settle accounts with competing national forces.

– Identifying the weaknesses of the enemy and laying hands on the gaps in its political, military, economic and social structure and seeking to go past these gaps to promote resistance tools. In addition, realizing that the enemy has its sufferings and crises based on the Quranic verse “if ye are suffering hardships, they are suffering similar hardships” (Al-Nisa’: 104) and consequently to maintain hope about the possibility of change and liberation with the coming days and generations.

Last but not least, it is required that the resistance not fall hostage for psychological defeat. It must sense the meanings of dignity, pride, truth and justice. It must not allow the enemy to penetrate its ideological and intellectual structures, tamper with its principles or limit its aspirations and hopes.

Dr. Mohsen Moh’d Saleh is an Associate Prof. in Modern Arab History with special emphasis on the Palestinian issue. He has authored, co-authored, and edited many articles and publications in this field. He is currently the General Manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations in Beirut.

The Arabic version of this article appeared on website on 22/8/2010

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 3/9/2010