Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time for a New Resistance Tactic in Gaza?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 16, 2008 - As I write this essay, a new round of bloody warfare has engulfed the Palestinian territory in Gaza. This time, the culprit is not internecine fighting, it is the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Reports are that the IDF mounted an armored attack against Gaza's resistance fighters Tuesday, resulting in the deaths of some 19 Palestinians (including Hussam Zahar, 24, a son Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar), and wounding 52 others, mostly non-combatants.

The Hamas fighters, in return, reportedly fired a rocket into an Israeli border settlement that killed a young South American worker.

The scenario is depressingly familiar: Hamas fighters (and their comrades in struggle) attack a Jewish settlement, or an occasional Israeli military outpost, inflicting minimal damage, or no damage at all. Israeli military forces then retaliate with helicopter gunship and/or tank attacks on both civilian and armed targets deep inside Gaza, killing both civilians and combatants; succeeding, in any event, in inflicting even more devastating misery on an occupied people, and making them even more isolated - and desperate - in the world of power politics.

Few people, and certainly few Muslims, can deny the brutality of the occupation of Palestine, nor the illegality of the occupation under international law. Much of the world has demonstrated sympathy for the plight of Palestinians under occupation, and those millions more in the diaspora that are denied the right of return. Moreover, it is clearly evident that lasting peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike cannot possibly happen when the elected political leadership of Gaza is excluded from the negotiation process.

But I continue to wonder: what tactical, military textbook does Hamas refer to when they formulate an operational plan to resist the occupation?

Recently, at the national MAS convention in Chicago, I spoke on a panel discussion on the recent round of peace "negotiations" in Annapolis, MD between the Palestinian Authority (minus Hamas) and the Israeli government. There was an almost unanimous sentiment that these talks would go nowhere without, among other things, the eventual participation of the leadership in Gaza (not to mention the end of internecine Palestinian fighting and the abolition of Jewish settlements in the West Bank).

But I raised another question, namely this: is it possible to conceive of positive (and winning) Palestinian resistance using means other that the largely ineffective military force that we see today? And might these non-military - and as I prefer to call them, non-violent - potential tactics actually serve to better advance the Palestinian cause?

Now, I am certainly no military tactician, and neither do I pretend to have the right to speak for the people of Palestine. But I do know something about history, and the history of successful resistance movements. And I am convinced that any liberation struggle - whether violent or nonviolent - must nullify the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of an adversary.

In the case of the long Vietnamese war of national liberation, for example, the most successful tactic used by North Vietnamese General Giap, was to avoid conventional warfare and frontal attacks on the better-armed adversaries - first the French, and then the Americans - while relying upon guerilla tactics and popular resistance in the form of "People’s War". A variation of the theme is also evident in the tactics employed by Cuban revolution.

In both historical cases - and the objective conditions in Cuba and Vietnam were quite different, to be sure - the idea underpinning successful resistance was to tie up - not provoke - the violent retaliatory military power of the opponent.

An even more nonviolent resistance example is found in the history of the Indian independence movement led by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, which used the tactic of nonviolent mobilization and resistance to overcome the (then) mighty British Empire and secure political independence for India in 1948.

While it is important to continue our opposition to the occupation of Palestine and the Israeli armed attacks against Gaza - which harm more civilians than resistance fighters - I believe that new resistance tactics are worth considering on the part of Hamas; that is, if symbolic resistance, or "Martyrdom" are less important in the final analysis than actual victory in the form of ending the occupation and securing a viable nation-state. And any form of non-violent mass mobilization and resistance will present a new, and formidable set of challenges to Hamas - and for that matter, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

But I believe that the preponderance of world opinion and material solidarity would be, again, on the side of the people of Palestine if the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians - however infrequent or ineffective they might be - would stop.

This tactical shift would nullify the labeling of Hamas as a "terrorist" entity, and garner more support for the Palestinian struggle among Israelis (many of whom are also tired of the occupation).

International support, and the increased flow of material aid for Gaza would also be a likely result. And in this possible scenario, massive U.S. military support for Israel would be seen in a different, and perhaps more unfavorable, light.

Is this wishful, naïve thinking on my part? Hardly. All that is required is for the people of Gaza, and their leaders, to apply the resolution and courage of their resistance to better, and more successful, tactics.

After all, it is not likely that Hamas can defeat the IDF on a conventional battlefield. But nonviolent mobilization and resistance could nullify their ability to wage war in Palestine, or use their conventional military-might as the primary instrument of domination.

And that, as they say, would be a very good development for the people of Palestine, and the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you have vocalized what many Muslims have contemplated for some time. The ineffectiveness of the current Palestinian resistance is reason enough for a serious reconsideration of tactics. Unfortunately the model of Gandhi’s pacifist resistance and the American civil rights movement will never be adopted in this part of the world as anyone who has ever lived in the Middle East will tell you. The struggle of the Palestine people can never be understood by secular observations. For some the resistance is not a means to and end as a pragmatist would reason. Rather it is an opportunity to achieve martyrdom in the face of overwhelming odds. Another observation on your article is that how does one consider Israelis citizens to be innocent to be when they are living on illegally occupied territory? At best they are being used as human shields to bait the Palestine resistance.