By Ahmed Yousef
The bombing in Dimona on February 5, was the first ‘martyrdom’ operation committed by Hamas for over five years. For some time we have been warning the world that the relentless pressure on our people would eventually tell. In the last two months, over a hundred people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza strip, including many civilians, women and children. Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo. Only a few weeks ago we saw the appalling sight of over forty women and children seriously injured by an Israeli F16 dropping an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza City a few meters from a wedding party. This kind of atrocity, piled onto the daily death toll, has finally tested the patience of Palestinians, and after lengthy restraint, revenge was inevitable.
To many in Israel and the West, this act will be judged in isolation. They will say n doubt that it justifies the inhumane embargo on the people of Gaza and the arrests of over 500 people and daily torture of innocents in the West Bank by both Israelis and the puppet government imposed on us by the US. What they seem to forget is that just in the last two years 2,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military action and thousands more injured. The cold-blooded fact is that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israelis is now over 40 to 1.
The Hamas led government has consistently called for a long-term ceasefire. For nine months before the election that brought us to power, we observed a unilateral ceasefire ensuring that no rockets were fired from Gaza by our movement. We observed this policy during the first six months in government despite the fact that our words and actions were summarily dismissed by the Israelis and their US allies. If the people of Sderot want to know why rockets continue to land around them, they should ask their own government why they have continually rejected our calls for a ceasefire and continued its policy of daily incursions and reckless targeting that put the whole population at risk.
We have tried consistently to create some kind of reconciliation with Fatah. But every attempt has been ignored by Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen. The Israeli and US threat that they will cease negotiations if he co-operates with the lawfully elected Hamas government has led to a political impotence in Ramallah. This makes our citizens deeply cynical about the peace process. It makes them feel that Israel is simply exploiting the situation and Abu Mazen. The cranes and bulldozers are still busy in the settlements on our land in the West Bank. Neither is there any sign of the numerous checkpoints that are crippling our economy and social life being dismantled. While Abu Mazen and Olmert talk of a final agreement, the ‘apartheid’ wall continues to be erected on land that should be part of any future Palestinian state.
If our people can see no genuine and realistic political or economic horizons and their attempts to establish a genuine truce are consistently rejected, it is inevitable that they will turn to resistance as the only outlet for their anger and frustration. What happened at Rafah two weeks ago is a sign of what is likely to happen on a much larger scale if the people can see no end to the relentless pressure and aggression that is part of our daily life here in Gaza.
While in the past, we acknowledged the right of Abu Mazen to negotiate on behalf of our people we believe that he has forfeited this mandate, as he no longer commands the respect of the majority of our people. Given the facts on the ground and the total mistrust that now prevails on all sides, we believe neither Israelis nor Palestinians are ready for final status negotiations. It would be disastrous if the international community were to try to impose this especially whilst we remain divided as a Palestinian people. We have consistently suggested that the best solution to our problems is a long-term ceasefire that provides both sides with the space and opportunity to address our differences in an atmosphere of calmness and normality.
We can have little optimism for the immediate future when it is impossible to see any clear light at the end of the tunnel that we are now forced to inhabit.
-Dr Ahmed Yousef is a senior political advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Gaza City. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com