By Hasan Afif El Hasan
By the late 1960s, former colonial empires were moving away from occupation and colonization, Israel has been marching in the opposite direction. The relationship between the occupier and occupied is always based on fear and violence, humiliation and pain, suffering and oppression, and a system of masters and slaves. The Palestinians in the occupied lands and in the besieged Gaza are on the receiving end of the Israeli occupation and oppression. Israel changed the names of both the land and the people. Palestinian lands Israel seized in 1967 go by many different names in Israel: “the liberated territories”, “Judea and Samaria”, “the Administrative territory”, “the territories”, and “beyond the Green Line.” Very few if any call it what it is, “the occupied territories”, and the Palestinians are referred to only as “Arabs.”
Israel continues its occupation and the brutal pressure its army put especially on the Gaza Strip, where nearly two million Palestinians, mostly refugees, live in appalling conditions. And despite the Western media claim that Israel is a democratic civilized society, it seems there are very few individual Israelis who do not agree with their government inhumane policies that they are asked to execute. When the Palestinians launched the first uprising twenty years after 1967 war for obvious reasons, or when the besieged, starved, bombed and abused Palestinian refugees in Gaza had no choice but to fight back with the limited means they have, the Israelis and the Western media claim the Palestinians’ reactions came as surprise. They dehumanized the Palestinians!
When in 1988 the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist, it effectively gave up on their claim to 78 percent of historic Palestine, the Palestinian people are determined not to allow the Israelis eat into the remaining 22 percent. They expect their leadership not to compromise further. And in their frustration on the ground, they fought against the cruelty of occupation and siege as their legitimate right given the lessons of history that the colonialists only give in when under pressure.
Majority of the Israelis and members of their extreme right-wing government adopt the view that Palestine including the occupied territory is theirs, inherited from “God”, and they don’t believe in giving up land for the Palestinians to establish their independent state. The Israeli journalist and writer Meron Rapoport wrote recently: “[Israel’s] Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely stunned foreign diplomats last week by explaining Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as the fulfillment of a divine promise to the Jewish people.”!
Minister of Education Nafali Bennet insisted that Israel should annex 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, known as “Area C” in the Oslo Agreements, where few Palestinians live. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Bennet believe that “the only way to guarantee sustainable coexistence with the Palestinians is by granting them only limited self-governance in 40 percent of the West Bank.” That is less than 9 percent of historic Palestine.
Israel should learn from the World’s history that arrogance and over-confidence by aggressive regimes can backfire and hurt the aggressor. Germany and its wars in the 1930s, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, and the US 2003 invasion of Iraq are just few examples of failures due to over-confidence.
If anyone had any reason to be confident in late 1930s and early 1940s, it was the Nazi leaders when Germany’s war machine overran all Poland in only few weeks. France surrendered in just one month in 1940 and all of European countries from Poland in the east to the Pyrenees in the west were actually occupied by Germany or its allies. Through over-confidence came “Operation Barbarossa”, Germany’s invasion of Russia that led to its eventual defeat and destruction.
In 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney sounded arrogant and over-confident when he claimed that “simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” It was not long after the US invaded Iraq in 2003 that it became clear that the only thing that could not be doubted was that Cheney had been dead wrong, but it was too late for the thousands of American troops who lost their lives, maimed or suffered from other combat injuries; countless more Iraqi civilians died and millions were displaced; and George Bush and his Vice President legacy will be forever tainted by their decision to invade. The US occupation of Iraq did not only leave a permanent stain on America’s credibility and claims of democracy and human rights concern, but it was responsible for the creation of ISIS and other terror organizations in the Middle East. US General Doug Stone who assumed control over the entire detention and interrogation program in Iraq argued that the US-run prisons in Iraq were the “jihadi schools” for al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Israel has its own failures too, due to its over-confidence. Its military, the most powerful institution, was beaten back by Jordan’s military unit and few Palestinian fighters in the 1968 Battle of al-Karama; its military lost badly at the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon’s invasion in 2006, and it could not defeat armed militias in Gaza in 2014.
On October 6, 1973, when the Israelis were still drunk with the 1967 war victory, filled with euphoria, hubris and messianic delusions, the Egyptian army caught them by surprise, crossed the Suez Canal and captured the Bar Lev fortification line which was built to defend Israel’s southern flank. Egypt destroyed the bulk of the Israeli war machine in the first two days, and forced the US to intervene by airlifting military equipments directly to the frontline. Had it not for the US intervention, the war might have ended with more devastating Israeli defeat. According to Haaretz well-connected columnist Ari Shavit, “[In the first days of 1973 war] there was instantaneous shift from an imperial state of mind to cowering despondency and deep crisis of leadership, values and identity. The nation was filled with despair, self-doubt and existential fear and many sought comfort in Judaism.”
Under the umbrella of its arsenal of atom bombs, Israel has been over-confident, taking for granted its strategic regional monopoly. Since concluding the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and signing the Oslo agreements with the PLO, Israel never had it better. Its existence was not seriously threatened even by the Gulf wars, the Palestinians’ uprisings, “the Arab Spring” and the present Arab civil sectarian wars. As their existence is not threatened, the Israelis became over-confident that they can get away with anything, especially since the US defends them in the international circles. Israel chose to use its unlimited resources to expand its colonial rule against the occupied Palestinians. It embarked on grand plan to make the occupation irreversible.
While it was confiscating their lands and building settlements and its powerful protector entangled in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israeli monopoly on nuclear weapons has been slowly but systematically challenged by Iran. When Iran acquires the bomb, it will free Turkey, Saudi Arabia and maybe Egypt to go nuclear and end Israel’s strategic monopoly and the Middle East will not be the same, but the Palestinians should not wait for this to happen.
The Palestinian issue has lost its urgency in major Middle East countries and the international community, but it should not lose its importance. What is clear is that the Oslo process under the US stewardship has failed. Palestinians must declare the end of Oslo and seek the support of fair-minded international allies, states and NGOs, to delegitimize the occupation and help them resist Israel’s attempts to swallow their homeland. It may take time, but Israel will learn that when a repressive regime ignores the victims’ demands for justice, it loses the political control and its capacity to influence the outcome.
- Hasan Afif El-Hasan, is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.