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Why are there are no white flags in Gaza?

Israel may think that bombing – and killing – innocents is a viable strategy. But there is a better option: to actually understand what has been driving Palestinian resistance for all these decades.

Point out the barbarity of Israel’s ongoing attacks against Gaza – as of this writing, more than 80 killed, a quarter of them under the age of 16 – and you’re bound to hear a familiar rejoinder: but what exactly would you have Israel do?

The question implies that the root cause of the current attacks is some – presumably innate – Palestinian propensity toward violence. “They” lob rockets and kidnap our Yeshiva students, so Israel has no choice but to respond.

For a thorough dismantling of this logic, see this clear-eyed analysis from my +972 colleague Noam Sheizaf, a resident of Tel Aviv, who uses the metaphor of “two giant prisons” – one in Gaza and one in the West Bank – to explain the futility of Israel’s deadly actions. You might also have a look at the website of the Israeli NGO Gisha, which offers a no-nonsense compendium of all the ways Israel has kept Palestinians locked up on their own land.

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

Israeli tanks on the border with Gaza. (photo: Activestills)

But whether or not you accept that this latest round of bombing and rocket attacks tracks back to the brutality, not of Palestinians, but of their prison-keepers, this much is unavoidable: even with all the suffering, there are no white flags being flown in Gaza, just as there are none in the West Bank, none in the refugee camps bordering historic Palestine, and none in its historically Arab cities of Yaffa, Haifa, Akka, or Al-Lydd. Palestinians, in other words, are in no mood to accept Israel’s diktats — this despite the state’s attempts to convince them through force and, yes, lollipops.

A diktat, of course, is something imposed by the powerful upon the weak, without the latter’s consent. In the West Bank, for example, Israel would have Palestinians accept the ongoing theft of their land and natural resources in the service of a colonial settlement project roundly condemned by international law and, of late, even the American secretary of state. In Gaza, Israel would have nearly two million Palestinians accept that they have no claim to a future Palestinian state or to accessing villages from which more than three-quarters of them were displaced by Israel’s creation in 1948. And for the rest of Palestine’s refugees, who remain in exile throughout the world, Israel would have them accept that they have no hope of ever returning.

On all counts and by all accounts, Palestinians may have been temporarily mollified, but they have not capitulated. How else can one explain that Palestinians born after 1993, who have lived their entire lives under the illusory “calm” maintained by the so-called Palestinian Authority, are today the bulwark against Israel’s policies, protesting in the streets of Jerusalem, tweeting while the bombs rain down on Gaza, and leading the global Palestinian solidarity movement?

       Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014

It is only the emperor, it seems, who cannot see that his robes are threadbare. But some in Israel, even its former leaders, have already begun to discern that their country ultimately has only two ways forward if it truly seeks peace — for itself, if not for others. The first option is a sadistic campaign to kill as many Palestinians as it takes, either by annihilating them or forcing them into submission. Consider, for example, this explanation from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the late, spiritual leader of Israel’s Shas party:

Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat….

The second option before Israel – one that its cooler heads are urging – is to actually understand what has driven Palestinian resistance for all these decades. For a clue, Israel’s leaders might look to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, which on Wednesday issued a statement reacting to the ongoing bombing of Gaza:

The ANC reiterates its 2012 policy position that as an organisation we are unequivocal in our support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in our view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel.

And there you have it. Like the victims of South African Apartheid before them, Palestinians have claimed their right to fight back, and no amount of bombing, bulldozing, or burning has silenced them. As the dead multiply, Israelis would do well to consider the true cost, in lives – and hopes – extinguished.

Why I object to this military campaign, even as missiles fall on my city
‘They left us no choice’: On military escalation and its Israeli rationale
Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza

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    1. CigarButNoNice

      We Jews will continue resisting Arab imperialism and fighting against the Arab colonists stealing our land no matter what atrocities they heap on us. No white flags from the Jewish resistance to Arab aggression! No capitulation to Islam’s oppressive apartheid rule of dhimmitude that the Pseudostinian jihad has in store for us!

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        “We Jews..” ?


        Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        What land did “the Arab colonists” last steal from “you jews”?

        Just asking.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Samer, I’m interested in getting your opinion about Palestinian actions vis-a-vis the ICC. Specifically, will a Palestinian political action group, independent of the PA, ever arise that will take Israel on diplomatically and finally make use of the one heavy weapon at the Palestinian’s disposal? Why can’t Palestinian Americans lead the charge on this?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rab

      “Israel may think that bombing – and killing – innocents is a viable strategy”

      The shameful lie and hypocrisy in this statement severely and permanently undermine the author’s credibility. Period.

      To be perfectly honest, it also severely undermines the credibility of 972mag. After all, you not only publish this crap, you put it in the main box on the home page and allow the caption to include this specific lie.

      Reply to Comment
      • Donald

        How touching, Rab. Israel shoots protestors and farmers in the buffer zone in Gaza and at fisherman and this is during the “ceasefire”. Israel keeps stealing land and can only maintain its occupation with force. Israel bombs Gaza knowing perfectly well that its tactics will kill civilians by the dozen and it would rather do that than listen to Hamas’s terms for a ceasefire, which are actually reasonable. So yes, there is a choice here to kill civilians rather than treat Palestinians like human beings with equal rights.

        None of which means I support Palestinian violence either–all the violence on both sides is immoral because none of it will lead anywhere except towards more violence.

        Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          Donald, I’m sure you are touched. You’re also profoundly mistaken.

          It’s amazing how in your universe everyone in Gaza is a civilian. That’s why the Palestinians have built an arsenal that is far more advanced than 2 years ago and miles ahead of 5 years ago.

          It’s magic. Nobody helps Hamas and its army of terrorists, not the “fishermen” who might be assisting smuggling operations from boats the Israelis didn’t find, not the “farmers” in the buffer zone where Israel found a number of tunnels that go deep into Israel and required tons and tons of construction materials and god knows how many man-hours of construction that couldn’t be detected with all of Israel’s sophisticated electronics. Not the rocket launching teams dressed like…civilians…that launched rockets into Israel. Magic. The possibility that the workers look like civilians because they blend in? Just a fantasy. So what if there are videos from the last two operations in Gaza showing Hamas men fighting in civilian attire.

          There have been shots fired at Israeli communities from near the Gaza border. Were the shooters wearing fatigues? A uniform? Of course not. The tunnels at the buffer zone? Were the diggers wearing identifiable military garb? Of course not, otherwise the tunnels would have been discovered much earlier. Individuals rushing towards soldiers near the border who warn them away? I guess those are also just some wacky civilians, not people testing boundaries, or trying to approach the Israeli positions. That would be fantasy. Israel likes to shoot civilians and the Palestinians like to do nothing other than work. That’s why instead of building buildings, Hamas used the much-needed construction materials – which they are now demanding as part of a cease fire agreement – to built tunnels into Israel.

          How do you think Hamas built an arsenal of rockets that can make it to Zichron Ya’akov and Hadera now? All those times Israel fired, it was just hallucinating about this potential danger and really simply targeting civilians.

          This isn’t complicated, Donald. Israel does not target civilians and tries its best to avoid civilian casualties. Period. Do you know why most of Gaza is still standing right now even though the Israelis know Hamas hid its most dangerous rockets under civilian buildings? Because Israel is trying mightily to avoid destruction of civilian infrastructure.

          Do you know why 200 trucks with food, medicine and other necessities entered Gaza in the last few days from Israel despite the fact that Gazans are shooting at Israelis? Because Israel is trying to avoid tragic outcomes for civilians.

          As for the cease-fire terms, you have to admit that Hamas has chutzpah, no less than the author of this tendentious article. Israel tried to avoid this conflagration. It negotiated through the Egyptians, even as it was getting nearly 200 rockets fired at it – and unlike Israel’s targeted firings, these rockets were intended to randomly inflict casualties on Israeli civilians. And most of the rockets were launched after the kidnapping and murder of 3 teens. Netanyahu was under significant pressure to launch an operation but he waited and waited, until finally he realized the other side had no intention of stopping.

          So now Hamas has decided that they need to show a victory despite their misjudgment of how this will play out and they’re offering to stop firing for 24-48 hours if Israel meets THEIR demands? Good joke. That’s not how it works. Hamas pushed for this operation and they got it. They can stop firing unilaterally any time, just as they could have prior to the operation, and if they stop, the Israelis will stop as well. This isn’t complicated.

          And the blame, the blame falls entirely on Palestinian groups, including Hamas. Every death could have been avoided, and the first deaths to have been avoided were the Israeli teens.

          Reply to Comment
      • Eugene

        I too am disappointed by this byline. It makes it extremely easy for those whose opinions this article is presumably trying to change to dismiss it as biased. Israel’s strategy isn’t aimed at killing innocents but inevitably does so. Plus at least some mention should be made of Hamas’s murderous intentions and violent action.

        Reply to Comment
    4. lipchitz

      But the article doesn’t really explain what Israel should do in the short term. It leaves the logic of violence, resistance, and more violence pretty much intact.

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        You can also try to look outside the box.

        Nethanyahu is screaming “hold me back!,the gloves are off”,there’s nothing left to bomb but civilian targets,but still no invasion.

        Likud and Lieberman split up ,and Evet Lvovich foams at the mouth; he wants to go “all the way”.

        Lieberman and Bennet want blood and a lot of it,and that’s electorally sexy as well.

        If Bibi doesn’t go in,he’ll lose the coming elections,or he’ll be ousted from the inside..

        And Abbas is starting to sound more and more like a mediator.

        There might be a situation opening for negotiations between Israel,PA and Hamas without the US sitting on everyone’s face.

        The US just left the ME angrily after months of bullhockey,first Martin Indyk unloaded,Philip Gordon repeated it two days ago.

        The US won’t be able to interfere for a while.

        It’s just a thought,but in case this completely ridiculous scenario will unfold,someone predicted this a long time ago on this blog’s comment section.

        Reply to Comment
        • shachalnur

          Why did it take 24 hours before this comment got through moderation?

          And it’s not the first time this happened.

          Reply to Comment
    5. All this bombing of Israeli cities does is backfire and strengthen the Israeli right. I sometimes wonder if Hamas know this and is doing it on purpose. They don’t want to negotiate so they are making negotiations impossible.

      Reply to Comment
    6. avvv

      You have made a salad out of the settlements, the occupation, the religious right and the current Gaza campaign.
      Israel’s Diktat is not an unacceptable proposal that Israel will steal land and the Palestinians will keep quiet. Israel’s demand is that the Palestinians stop firing rockets at its civilians, and especially stop blaming the occupation at the other side of the border for it. Had occupation been the real problem, Gaza and South Lebanon wouldn’t be a launching pad for rockets fired at Israel, and the West Bank would be burning.

      Reply to Comment