By Joharah Baker
Unfortunately, Israel never fails to bring us back to the dismal reality in which we live just in the nick of time. For months now, Palestinians across the board have been watching a train-wreck in waiting, a civil war at the brink of eruption along with the demise of our entire national cause. The Mecca Agreement signed between Hamas and Fateh in early February was a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise increasingly hopeless situation whereby the two sides pledged to lay down their arms and sit together at the table.
While there have been developments in this regard – national unity talks have so far proceeded uninterrupted since the agreement – bursts of factional violence have still continued to take place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Ironically, it is Israel that has brought us to our senses, reminding us of what we are fighting for and why now more than ever, it is extremely crucial for us to stand as one.
On February 25, Israeli occupation troops raided the West Bank city of Nablus in a predawn incursion under the cover of a 120-strong military force. The army, which claimed it had gone into Nablus to arrest a list of wanted men and uncover explosives factories, has yet to withdraw, even though troops did pull back for a few hours yesterday before returning Wednesday morning.
The incursion is being considered the largest Israeli military intervention in Nablus for over six months and it has yet to end. As of this morning, the troops were back in full force, especially in and around the old city, which is the most densely populated area of Nablus and also reportedly the most resistant.
Most of the activists on the wanted list are members of Fateh’s military wing, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Israel, which has so far been largely unsuccessful in finding these men, will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives. Sources inside Nablus have reported that Israeli troops are making house-to-house raids and arresting the relatives of these wanted activists in a bid to pressure them to surrender.
The residents are currently enduring house raids, arrests and curfews. Even the city’s three main hospitals have been surrounded by Israeli forces and roadblocks set up to hinder any movement to and from them. Schools have been shut down and three schools in the vicinity of the old city have been transformed into military camps where residents are being detained and interrogated on the whereabouts of those precious few who Israel continues to hunt down.
Amid all of this pandemonium, there is a theme of unity that has swept throughout Nablus, which is not only admirable but is also lesson-worthy. Leaders from all factions have instructed the people not to heed the pleas of the occupation to hand in their men and activists have stood side by side on rooftops fighting off the occupying forces.
For the past three days, there has been no sign of infighting in Nablus, only a strong sense of unity and a realization that ultimately, the only real enemy threatening the Palestinians is the Israeli occupation. People have also realized that the only way an entire city will be able to endure the harsh blows of this power, whose true goal is to bring the resistance to its knees, is to link arms and minds and weather the storm as one strong and united front.
This lesson has also been driven home in other parts of the West Bank. On Wednesday morning in Jenin, three members of Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, were assassinated by undercover Israeli special forces, including the Brigades’ West Bank commander, Ashraf Saadi.
Immediately after the assassinations, Palestinians from the Jenin Refugee Camp took to the streets in rage, primarily members of Al Quds and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. On the political scene, this would never have happened with such ease. Historically, the Islamic Jihad has always opposed many of Fateh’s principle stances, including the latest Mecca Agreement, which they said they could not endorse because it entailed an acknowledgement of previously signed agreements with Israel.
On the streets, however, these differences were irrelevant. When Israel strikes, like its atrocities of the past two days, it is a jarring reminder to us that we have much bigger fish to fry than bickering over who will take this or that ministry.
Israel is even hinting at another possible army operation in the Gaza Strip, this time under the pretext of the “continued strengthening of Hamas”, according to Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz.
For months now, Gaza has been ravaged by internal strife, armed rivalry between Hamas and Fateh claiming the lives of dozens of Palestinians. Just last week, five people were killed in a politically-motivated family feud in Khan Younis even though leaders from both factions have prohibited the spilling of Palestinian blood.
The point is, if the social fabric of Gaza remains this frayed and torn if and when Israel attacks, the Palestinians will not stand a chance. It is not just human lives that will be at stake. Along with the death and destruction that inevitably accompanies any Israeli operation, this time our national cause, our aspirations and our longtime dream of having our own state will be on the line, because it is far easier to destroy a divided house than to break down the walls of a united one.
It is truly unfortunate that it takes a major Israeli army incursion and the assassination of three young men to wake us from our slumber, but if we have learned our lesson once and for all from these events, then we have at least found the proverbial silver lining to this cloud. It is too early to determine, however, and the people of Nablus still have immediate hardships coming their way. But each major success is reached one small victory at a time, and emerging from this most recent Israeli onslaught united and unbroken, ready to resume our national struggle from a place of power, is a definite sign that we as a people are on the right track.
-Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.MIFTAH.org)