By Joharah Baker
The article recently published in Vanity Fair entitled “The Gaza Bombshell” has gotten tongues wagging among the Palestinians in particular. The article, which basically accuses the United States of instigating a civil war in Gaza last June, more or less confirms what we have all suspected long ago. The Americans are up to no good.
The Palestinians have always been extremely critical of US policy in Palestine, for very good reason. They are even more critical of those Palestinians who cater to American desires in the region, considered by some as tantamount to treason.
The most recent bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, which claimed almost 120 Palestinian lives in the course of less than a week, is evidence that all is not well, neither in terms of the international community’s attitude towards the Palestinians nor between the Palestinians amongst themselves. The ordinary citizens, men, women, children and babies are, as always, those caught in the middle and the ones who pay the highest price.
The Israeli incursion, which began on February 27 and which tore up northern Gaza was the most brutal and indiscriminate Israeli military operation since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2006. Israel claimed it was forced to enter Gaza in a bid to halt the rockets that have continued to rain down on Israeli territory, recently killing one Israeli man in Sderot. While it is true that Palestinian armed groups have continued to fire rockets into Israel, even reaching as far as Asqalan (Askelon), in politics there is always more than meets the eye.
For one, the rockets have not stopped. The day after Israel withdrew from northern Gaza on March 3, several rockets were fired into Israel in a show of what Hamas claimed was a “victory.” Israel understands perfectly that in the marshland of Gaza where it has no standing other than its self-retained right to invade and blockade, it is virtually impossible to secure a complete halt to armed activity.
The Israelis are not stupid. But neither are the Americans, who insist that peace is their most coveted desire in the Middle East. Why then have these intentions resulted in one of the bloodiest chapters of Palestinian history? Because the hands thrust in the middle of this conflict are hardly clean.
According to the Vanity Fair article, the Americans orchestrated the “civil war” last June by pulling the puppet strings of Mohammed Dahlan, longtime Fatah veteran and a highly controversial figure in Fatah-Hamas relations. The grand plan was to basically ignite clashes between Hamas, not yet in control of the Strip, and Fatah in a bid to deliver one final blow to the Islamic movement and sweep it off the political map of Palestine for a good long time.
As we all know, things did not go exactly as planned. On the contrary, the whole manipulation backfired with Hamas ousting Fatah forces and taking control of the entire Strip. Since then, the United States has had one goal in their sights – getting Hamas out of the way. Perhaps for the same reasons, perhaps for others, President Mahmoud Abbas and his West Bank government are striving for the same goal.
Consequently, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is back in the region yet again, regurgitating the same old policy of negotiations being the only way to peace, briefly referring to the innocents slain in Gaza as saying the United States is “concerned” over the loss of lives. Naturally, Rice doled out a hefty portion of accusations against Hamas, putting blame for the most recent bloodbath squarely on them. Never mind that the balance of military power is not even comparable, with Israel being the strongest army in the region and one that does not shy away from using its brute force against a mostly unarmed population. Yes, rockets are shot into Israel, a method one could argue may be completely counterproductive to the Palestinian cause at this point given the dynamics at play. However, these rockets, which have barely killed a handful of Israelis over the six years they have been in active operation, are nowhere comparable to Israel’s mighty military machine.
So, it is not really about the rockets, is it? The United States, the self-proclaimed defender of freedom and democracy in the world, has brought nothing but havoc, destruction and internal strife not only to the Palestinians but to the region as a whole. One only has to look to Iraq, once a beacon of civilization and natural wealth, to see what American hands are capable of.
While it may be easy to cast blame for our current misery on the United States, especially after such an accusatory article as the one in Vanity Fair, we Palestinians must take the lion’s share of responsibility for our fall from grace. Yes, the United States may have fanned the flames of factional dissent, but we fell for the bait head first. The United States’ scheme would have never left the walls of the White House if it did not have Palestinian wings to aid its flight. And Hamas, so dead set against sharing power with their brethren, will stop at nothing to ward off any change in Gaza’s status quo, even if that means the Strip’s 1.5 million people must suffer under a crippling blockade and endure invasion after invasion and funeral after funeral.
The United States is clear in its unsaid policy in the Middle East, which is to install governments that suit its own interests, governments without the word “resistance” in their lexicons. The United States may say it wants peace in the region – who is so twisted to declare they are anti-peace? But it is peace on their terms, a peace conditional on Israel’s acceptance and one where Hamas is no longer in the equation.
It is difficult to envision a situation where the United States would no longer intervene in this conflict given its close alliance with Israel and its superior standing globally. However, it is not so difficult to fathom a Palestinian-Palestinian alliance where the United States is not given the opportunity to manipulate the situation or use any of us as pawns in their regional game of dominance.
The recent events in Gaza have proven to us all that in the current situation no one can claim any kind of victory, regardless of what some in Gaza may say. A united front that exudes a unified strategy towards our conflict with Israel will strengthen us internally and externally and strip the United States of at least some of its power over our own fate. With the way things stand, no one could possibly be proud.
-Joharah Baker is a writer for the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. (This article was originally published in MIFTA.org)