Al-Ahram Weekly Online   13 - 19 March 2008
Issue No. 888
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Galal Nassar

Stop Israel!

Instead of slamming the Palestinian resistance, the Arabs should formulate a better strategy for stopping Israeli atrocities, writes Galal Nassar

Israel's military campaign against Gaza, coming at a time when the Arab world is sorely divided, is proof of how unbalanced our confrontation with the enemy has become. We're spending too much time debating the merits of resistance and legitimacy, the absurdity of rockets, and what kind of government the Palestinians should have. We're worried about whether the Arab summit will meet on time, but the pain of children and the screams of the maimed and wounded have failed to entice us to do more.

Over the past two weeks, nearly 130 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, and more are likely to succumb to their wounds. The Israeli occupation forces have committed atrocities on a scale unknown since 1967. Entire families have died under the rubble, finally becoming one with the land they lived in hope of setting free. The valiant resistance, undaunted by the horrors, forced the Israelis to end the first phase of the incursion. Israel recalled its forces from Gaza but only after fierce aerial bombardment took the lives of six more Palestinians. What will happen now? Most likely, the Israelis are going to resume their attack, for nothing has been done to stop them.

Talking is not going to get us anywhere. We need to draw up a strategy for stopping Israel in its tracks. We need to reconsider our position on both war and peace. For over 40 years, some Arab leaders have sought an alternative to armed resistance. Following 1967, we sought a political solution. Then, after the 1973 War, we pursued relentlessly what some dubbed the "peace offensive". The fact, however, is that the Arabs only tend to unite in times of battle. In contrast, peace attempts seem to have divided us.

The 1950s and 1960s were times of intense inter-Arab hostilities, but that didn't prevent the Arabs from standing together in time of war. Conversely, it was only after Anwar El-Sadat's trip to Jerusalem that the Arab League moved from Cairo to Tunis. This is the story of our conflict with Israel. We're only united when we decide to confront, and we drift apart when we start to capitulate.

Here is a question that the media is clearly failing to bring up. Can we really make peace with a usurping entity? If the answer is yes, which many Arab leaders and intellectuals seem to believe, then let me ask you this: can we achieve peace without having any guarantees for our own security?

Before the "peace offensive" started, Israel knew that we could fight back and therefore generally acted with some restraint. We fought Israel in 1956. We did it again in the Karama battle in Jordan in 1968. We did it yet again in the attrition war of 1967-1970. And we pushed the Israelis back in 1973. We won some and we lost some, which is what war is all about. But we drew a line in the sand and we did what we had to do.

It was only after the "peace offensive" started that Israel began to act without fear of the consequences. It bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad, shelled the Palestine Liberation Organisation headquarters in Tunis, and assassinated Khalil Al-Wazir. Then, in 1982, it occupied an Arab capital. From then on, Israel never looked back. It didn't have to. It signed agreements with the Arabs -- in Wadi Araba and Oslo -- and used these very agreements as a licence to kill.

The recent offensive in Gaza was said to be Israel's reaction to Palestinian shelling. For the first time ever, the Arab media and public opinion seem to have embraced the American concept of terror, maintaining that the "rockets" gave Israel an excuse. I have my own reservations about the tactical use and timing of the rockets, but we have to think again before brushing them away as useless or "absurd".

Either the rockets don't serve a particular purpose, in which case we should look to other options for stopping Israel, or the rockets are doing some damage, in which case we should stop slamming the resistance. We need a course of action that would give us peace without depriving us of security. We need a way to stop Israel and keep it stopped. This is something we should start thinking about in the time remaining before the Damascus summit.

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