Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Daily Times editorial Dec 10, 2012

A triumphant return Khaled Meeshal’s return to Palestinian soil in Gaza after 45 years in exile, albeit for a brief visit, represents the triumph of the Palestinian will against all odds. Born in the West Bank, the co-founder of Hamas kissed the earth after stepping across the border from Egypt. His exile followed the 1967 war, in which Israel captured the Sinai, West Bank and the Golan Heights. Sinai was returned to Egypt after the 1973 war as a result of the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel, the West Bank remains under Israeli occupation with growing Israeli settlements reducing the Palestinians there to a ghetto existence while East Jerusalem has been annexed, and the Golan Heights too are still under Israeli occupation. Gaza has nominal autonomy since Israel vacated it physically in 2005, weakened by the Israeli land and sea blockade that has converted Gaza into the biggest open air prison in the world. The occasion for Meshaal’s return was to join and address a rally commemorating the 25th anniversary of the formation of Hamas. This commemoration came just two weeks after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended the latest round of conflict in which 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. What was notable about this latest round of the simmering war between the Palestinians and Israel was the enhanced rocket and missile capability of Hamas, which allowed it to target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time. In his address to the commemorative rally, Khaled Meshaal reiterated Hamas’s determination never to recognize Israel and to liberate every inch of Palestinian soil, including the territory on which the Israeli state was created. He also referred to the successful exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners against the Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit who was captured in 2006 and hidden away for five years, vowing that the same tactic would be used again to free all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli captivity. Hamas’s standing internationally and in the region has been enhanced since the Arab Spring brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt and its courage under fire from the Israeli war machine. Many conservative Arab states have come out in support of Hamas and some of their high officials were present at the rally as a show of solidarity. Hamas’s position is in direct contrast if not conflict with Fatah and the PLO under Mahmoud Abbas on the latter’s pursuit of a diplomatic settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the faltering two-state solution under the Oslo Accords of 1993. Despite that, Meshaal held out the olive branch of reconciliation to Fatah in the interests of the Palestinian cause. After years of differences over the path to Palestinian liberation, and actual fighting between the two factions after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections that led to Hamas ousting Fatah from Gaza, it appears that the two sides are considering unity again. It is ironic to contemplate that Fatah, set up by the late Yasser Arafat, the original author of the armed struggle against Israel, after suffering a series of reverses over the years in Jordan and finally in Lebanon, from where the PLO leadership was ousted and sent into exile in Tunisia, is today associated with the compromise of recognising Israel’s right to exist and for the Palestinians to be satisfied with the scraps of a non-viable ghettoized state, if they can get it. Not to take away anything from the recent success of Abbas in getting Palestinian non-state membership of the UN, the fact remains that Israeli intransigence has buried the two-state solution (land for peace) in the sands of Palestine. Resistance, therefore, was the leit motif of Meshaal’s speech, where he argued that without resistance, there could not even be any diplomatic headway against the Israeli intransigence. Certainly under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this argument has found ‘support’ from its very antithesis. The Palestinians have been betrayed time and again by their ostensible Arab brothers and weakened by internal disunity and conflict. The times call for internal solidarity and a nuanced struggle on both the diplomatic and military front if the Palestinians are to win, no matter how long it takes, as Meshaal underlined. The historic wrong of the imposition of the state of Israel on Palestinian territory still awaits undoing. Only a united Palestinian resistance has any chance of reaching that difficult goal, given the weight of the US’s blind support of Israel no matter how brutal and defiant of international opinion its actions may be.

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