Stupid leaders fighting the wrong war – that is the story of Palestine, especially of Hamas-led Gaza-Palestine. They believe that they are fighting a paper tiger which will crumple and burn in the face of Palestinian will. They project a flowery and over-bold rhetoric grounded in Arab culture and in the national strategy founded by Yasser Arafat (the Egyptian). The Palestinian national narrative has also been offered succour by those elements of the European liberal left stuck in an odd and old 1970s groove – particularly odd when, with reference to Hamas, we are talking about an entirely malevolent organisation which, if it were part of European politics, would be recognised as neo-Nazi in orientation.
The European support and succour has its roots in 1967. By then, the USA had begun to take Israel seriously after the 1967 Six Day War victory, and to regard the tiny country as a substantial ally. At this time too, the USA had become deeply embroiled in its escalation of the Vietnam War. And so it was that in the eyes of liberals and the left, Israel – after briefly enjoying the status of victim triumphant – began to be viewed through a new frame of reference. The newer liberal and left both in the UK and wider Europe identified with the emerging Palestinian national movement and with the continuing anti-colonial struggle and there was seen a deepening hostility towards Israel, now always to be viewed as a lynchpin ally of the USA. Today in the 21st century there isn’t a UK university campus that does not have a strident pro-Palestine solidarity committee, its members richly swathed in Palestinian scarves often expressing a hatred towards Israel and its Jewish character that would have made Goebbels proud.
Back to Gaza-Palestine and Hama though… As far as Palestine is concerned, we are talking about the classical anti-colonial strategy, but this is very much the ‘wrong war’ that Hamas is fighting.
To explain…: Exploitative colonial power invades, and the anti-colonialist movement tries to make the cost of staying far exceed any benefit to the presence. A crucial part of the struggle is brutality and terrorism, and the willingness of members of the movement to die… the message being that the colonial civilians are not safe and that the terrorists are not deterred even by the possibility of their own death. Basically, in almost every instance during the 20th century, when a colonialist power has faced escalating brutality and terrorism, the benefits gained from their presence have very soon lost any attraction and the emasculated power has returned home.
Among Palestinian leaderships, parallels between themselves and the experience of anti-colonialism in North Africa, especially in Algeria, are frequently drawn. Indeed, on 14 July 2014 in an interview on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV (and reported in a piece by the Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur) a Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: ‘We are paying a price, but remember our brothers in Algeria, who had at least a million and [a] half martyrs […] In 1945, in a single day in Algeria, 45,000 Algerians died’.
The reference to Algeria is, of course, revealing. Although the Algerian anti-colonial struggle was expensive in terms of life and limb, it did result in liberation from France – the colonial power. For Hamas, a terrorist organisation engaged in brutal and pointless killing, it sees itself as bravely fighting the good fight, and bearing the great cost, to bring about the ejection of the opponent.
However, there is a huge flaw in this strategy, and the Palestinian apologists in the European left (stuck in their 1970s rut) just don’t see the flaw either. It is this…: An anti-colonial strategy only works if the colonialist believes he IS one in the first place, if he has a separate homeland to which to return. It is all about psychology… and frankly it is all about sociology too. To explain the sociological dimension a bit further…: Israel is not… and Israelis are not… a colonising power. The Jews of Israel have a shared sense of national history and identity, a narrative of ancient belonging in the land and a language spoken nowhere else. Today, Israel has 8,000,000 citizens living in some 76 cities connected by 18,000 kilometres of road network and a massive and highly sophisticated 21st century infrastructure. Israel and Israeli Jews are a civilisation, simply put.
So… the big flaw in Hamas and overall Palestinian anti-colonial strategy… unlike the French in Algeria and Vietnam, or the Dutch in the East Indies, the British in Kenya and Aden and Cyprus, or the Indonesians in East Timor, Israelis have nowhere else to go.
And… this leads us to the inevitable conclusion, which is this…: When an anti-colonial strategy (the ill-thought-out and misplaced Palestinian one) is used against an indigenous national identity (Israel and Israelis), and uses suicide bombers, rockets and mortars to try and kill innocent people who have nowhere else to go, the response is not so much flight and escape, but war.
That, dear reader, is what the war in Gaza-Palestine is all about: Wrong strategy. Wrong strategy from failed leaderships.
[Reference made to piece by Haviv Rettig Gur, in Times of Israel, ‘The tragic self-delusion behind the Hamas war’, 17 July 2014. Online]