By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The exceptional performance of the resistance in Gaza Strip (GS), and the astonishing resilience of the Palestinian people there, was a source of pride and respect for the supporters of the Palestinian issue. In GS, the Palestinian resistance led by Hamas has once again proven itself to be a distinctive phenomenon in an Arab environment that has been marred for a year now by frustration, because of the bad outcome of the revolutions and movements for change.
Our region has seen a counterrevolutionary wave that sought to tarnish and corrupt everything good in the uprisings of the peoples aspiring to depose their corrupt tyrannical regimes, and build new free governments that can fulfill the dignity of the nation. This counterrevolutionary wave sought not only to strike the moderate Islamic movement (what is known as “political Islam”), which was elected by broad segments of the peoples to lead them, but also to smear, stifle, and weaken Palestinian resistance, which is dominated by Islamic factions. None was happier with this outcome than the Israelis, who benefited strategically from the counterrevolutionary wave, whether because of the blow to the Islamic movement, because of the siege against the Palestinian resistance in GS, or because of the widening Arab division and weakness, and the projects for ethnic and religious extremism and fragmentation.
It is in this climate that the resistance has given people hope and boosted their morale enormously with its remarkable performance. It reminds us that Palestine still brings us together, and that the compass must be reset toward seeking out the best, rather than the worst, of this nation; when it comes to the making of people, self-development, capacity-building, and the liberation of land and holy places.
Despite the unjust and cruel Israeli and Arab siege against Hamas and other resistance factions in GS, and despite the meager and modest capabilities, GS did not waste any time. It presented its model for what people should be and its model for resistance and administration, developed the resistance’s infrastructure, trained tens of thousands of freedom fighters, and developed military industries that surpasses those of richer, larger, and more populated Arab countries that also have more extensive foreign relations. Despite the smear campaigns, and the blockade by the new regime and its allies in Egypt, the resistance did not lose its bearing, and its capabilities and capacities continued to be directed against the Israeli occupation.
In this battle fought by the resistance under the name the Eaten Straw (al-‘Asf al-Ma’kul) or what the Israelis have dubbed Protective Edge, the resistance has accomplished a number of qualitative achievements relative to the previous rounds of Intifadahs and armed conflict, most notably:
1. The resistance, specifically Hamas, was able to develop its rockets, which now have a range up to 160 km. These rockets are also now more accurate, and can carry a larger payload. Away from the claims by some defunct revolutionaries that these rockets were “absurd” or the equivalent of “fire crackers,” strong will developed these rockets’ range. They started at a range of few kilometers, and evolved into a phenomenon that forced around one million Israelis to flee to bomb shelters during Operation Cast Lead (al-Furqan War) in 2008/2009, three million in Operation Pillar of Defense (Operation Stones of Baked Clay) in November 2012, and the whole Israeli population—six million Israelis—in the current conflict.
2. The resistance has been able to penetrate the Israeli side by land, sea, and air. It has come up with new surprises on the battlefield, such as with the use of unmanned drones, and the Zikkim military base infiltration by Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades naval commandos. The resistance has also been able to strike Israeli tanks and vehicles with Kornet anti-tank missiles.
3. The leadership in GS (Hamas) has been able to preserve its command and control structure, which was not disabled or taken out, and has been able to continue to run ministries, institutions, and resistance operations effectively. No “heavy losses” have so far been inflicted on the resistance leadership as happened previously.
4. The Israeli side has lost its power of initiative and its ability to implement shock-and-awe tactics from the outset as before.
5. The Israeli side is almost “blind” when it comes to intelligence information on the ground, as the leadership in GS learned the lessons of previous experiences, and has been able to crack down on and dramatically restrict collaboration with the Israelis. This has limited the list of possible targets for the Israelis, despite their overwhelming superiority in armament and air power, and made them scramble to hit civilian, economic, and government targets, without being able to hit the resistance forces, their weapons stockpiles, or rocket emplacements.
6. The resistance has rallied broad segments of the public opinion and the people around it, despite the hideous and barbaric crimes of the Israeli forces.
7. The Israeli side has been mired in a state of confusion, having failed to impose its terms.
What the resistance has done in this battle is to “cleanse” all the bad deeds of the corrupt media bribed by Arab regimes, in their attempt to smear and demonize the resistance throughout the past several months. Hamas, which has set and maintained its bearing, has proven that its efforts and innovation were and continue to be in the field of resistance primarily, and that accusations of terrorism and meddling to serve partisan agendas and cause trouble were disingenuous. Hamas has proven that those who engaged in smear campaign against it were committing a crime against the resistance and Palestine, as they attempted to corrupt and mislead the Arab and Muslim incubator of the Palestinian issue and the noble Palestinian resistance.
Now, the resistance is once again rallying Arab popular support, as the enemies of the resistance program lose hundreds of millions of dollars that they invested to mislead people and distort the facts. The masses no longer accept for GS to be besieged under the pretext of combatting terrorism, or for its people to be denied the most basic needs to live and move based on false accusations, or in order to serve certain agendas and settle local scores. The Arab masses will put increasing pressure on the regimes to take more positive steps towards the Palestinian resistance; otherwise, these regimes would be providing further justification for a new explosion of public anger against them.
On another level, this battle has exposed the state of paralysis and deterioration suffered by the “moderate” axis vis-à-vis Palestine. It exposes the nauseating amounts of money, to the tune of billions of dollars, which have been spent on supporting the counterrevolutionary wave seeking to suppress the will of the people, while money is withheld from the people of Palestine except for crumbs to support their steadfastness and end their siege.
This battle also proves to what is known as the “Refusal Front” that Hamas and the resistance forces know their way and that their bearing is precise, that they did not fall under the wing of this or that party, and that they have not allowed anyone to use or enlist them for their own purposes. It proves that while some “resistance” groups were preoccupied by local or regional agendas, and exhausted much of their capabilities in local conflicts and in supporting regimes fighting their own peoples, and in agendas that, for many, can only be explained from a sectarian perspective, Hamas remained loyal to its line and track.
The exceptional performance of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other resistance factions must have a positive impact on putting the Palestinian political house in order. The unfortunate performance of the national reconciliation government led by Rami Hamadallah, and the deplorable statements and attitudes of President ‘Abbas, reflected a sentiment within the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah that Hamas had come to them against its will. They thought that it sought reconciliation because of its weakness and exhaustion, as a result of the Israeli blockade and Egyptian measures. This government ignored more than 40 thousand Palestinians who have toiled in GS for years. It deprived them of their rights and salaries for despicable political calculations, while it continued to pay salaries regularly to people who have been sitting at their homes for years, only because they are loyal to Fatah or the PA in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, ‘Abbas reaffirmed the “sanctity” of security coordination with the Israelis, and that the national reconciliation government was his government that recognized Israel and the agreements signed with it, and renounced “terrorism.” He even claimed that Hamas’s conditions for a ceasefire were exaggerated. While Palestinians bled in GS, and mosques, homes, schools, and infrastructure were being destroyed, the Palestinian envoy to the UN Ibrahim Khreisheh proclaimed through Palestine TV in Ramallah that the rockets fired by the resistance were a crime against humanity!!
I do not understand how the government in Ramallah constructs its entire mindset on the basis of weakness, extends a collaborating hand to the occupation, and coordinates in security matters with Israel including in cracking down on freedoms and resistance fighters; while its security officers hide in their homes and offices when the Israeli forces raid Palestinian villages. And yet, this government portrays itself as the best party to run the heroic GS, which has strongly fought back against the occupation.
The approach that espouses weakness in Ramallah must end. The time has come for the factional partisanship spirit to stop reigning the reconciliation government. It is time for a real partnership to begin in earnest in building a national Palestinian project; without waiting for permission from Israel, the United States, or regional powers preoccupied with fighting their own peoples or with cracking down on Islamists and movements for change and reform. The least that the government in Ramallah can do in such circumstances is to stop security coordination with the Israelis, and end its restrictions on freedoms in the West Bank.
Hamas has demonstrated that it is not weak, and that it is not in a state of exhaustion or collapse. In this battle, it is resetting the internal Palestinian compass along with other resistance factions, by entrenching the centrality of resistance action in relation to Palestinian decision-making, and is also pushing towards a reassessment of all tracks of the peace process and its outcomes.
It does not seem that the Israeli and Palestinian sides want the conflict to be a protracted one. However, the Israeli side, which wanted to impose its agenda and its own terms, has completely failed till now. The resistance, which had not started the battle and was assaulted, decided that the battle should not end before it obtains the bare minimum for the people of GS; to live a decent life, including measures like lifting the blockade and opening the crossings. These were articles in the ceasefire agreement of 2012, and they require real guarantees to be implemented and respected. However, the Egyptian side more than anyone else is required to end the siege from its side. To be sure, GS is part of the Arab world and the first line of defense for its national and strategic security. Weakening or striking GS only serves the occupation, and gives it further incentives to sustain its blockade.
Finally, Gaza Strip has proven to be a “school” for the whole world. It has proven that real change starts with “humans,” and that liberation begins by liberating people. Believing, patient, persistent, and innovative people are the key to liberation.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 26/7/2014