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What the Hell Is Going On in Palestine?

Dr. Hisham Bustani is a writer and activist, based in Amman, a founding member of the Resistant Arab People’s Alliance and a member in its Coordination Committee.  He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Socialist Thought Forum in Jordan.

INTRODUCTION: Hisham Bustani on the Turmoil in Gaza

The Jordanian Marxist writer and activist Hisham Bustani here analyzes the current internecine violence in Gaza its broader context.  He argues that Hamas made a fatal error, as a revolutionary organization, in agreeing to become part of the compromised institution that is the Palestinian Authority.  Bustani sees the pathway forward in Palestine not on the basis of the current “state” level, but by defeating the “state” in building a unified Arab mass movement, part of a people’s unity, an open space for all — including Jews, but not as Zionists, settlers, invaders.

Hisham envisions the process of a “pan-Arab liberation struggle for social justice and socialism that unifies the Arab masses who are the subjects of oppression and exploitation.  Palestine (including all its current components) will be dissolved in this unified Arab entity as it was the case before 1917, and all the contradictions will dissolve with it.”  As he stresses: “This struggle is not about geography but rather for liberation from hegemony, it is the struggle of the Arab liberation project against the Imperialist/Zionist project.  Such a struggle is impossible to resolve on the level of geography, it is only resolved on the basis of existence.”  He has a clear pan-Arabist view and is in struggle against the existing Arab states and their ruling classes.  (See his March 2007 interview: “Le mille facce dell’imperialismo: Riflessioni sulle strategie di penetrazione e pacificazione in Medio Oriente,” Senza Censura 22, March 2007, English translation published in Double Standards.)

Some will not agree with Hisham’s principled anti-Zionist views and conclusions about the mix of “extrinsic and intrinsic factors” churning the conflict in Palestine.  But his is a rare voice from Amman, a young dentist in the struggle for justice, whose dissident views, support of student radicals, and determination have landed him in Jordanian jails a number of times.  It is important for people in the American movement to listen to progressive Arab activist-analysts who actually live and struggle in the region. — Bill Templer


Hamas was a resistance.  The enemy was clear: the Zionist entity.  The strategy was clear: there is no recognition whatsoever of the occupation, ALL the occupation (including the occupation of the 1948-Arab land, unlike the soft covering position of accepting the occupation before 1967 adopted by global mainstream politics and Fatah).

Now, when Hamas went into elections and accepted to go in a struggle over government, it fell into the trap (whether on purpose or otherwise):

  • The Palestinian Authority (PA), the government, the Palestinian National Assembly (Parliament) are ALL based on the Oslo agreement, which not only acknowledges but more importantly empowers “Israel” over the West Bank and Gaza.  These “government” bodies have absolutely no sovereignty, no army, no control on “border” points, no independent income, nothing.  Therefore, Hamas indirectly let go of its strategy by participating in the material result of the Oslo agreement, although (in the start) it persisted on its theoretical position of refusing to acknowledge “Israel.”
  • “Israel,” Europe, and the USA found it an appropriate moment to ignite a long-awaited and probably planned civil war.  The tools are simple: cut off all financial aid from the Palestinians on the excuse that Hamas is a “terrorist” organization, which will provoke a popular unrest catalyzed by a number of clients inside the West Bank and Gaza who were long-term allies of the US and “Israel” and who were financed and supported by them, in addition to giving them arms and other facilities.  The result: Civil War Phase One.
  • Following this Phase One, the Arab regimes (mainly the Saudi regime) would intervene to preserve the “Palestinian blood.”  Of course, everybody knows that the Arab regimes have Palestinian blood on their hands, in addition to them being close allies of the US (and therefore “Israel”)!  The aim of the maneuver was to further pull Hamas deep into the muddy waters.  The Mecca agreement was born, and Hamas no longer speak of liberation of entire Palestine, now they speak of a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967.
  • Obviously, this was not enough.  “Israel” and the US (and Europe) have a golden chance now in a Palestinian Civil War, so why stop the wagon?  More provocation internally led to a huge outbreak of Palestinian killing Palestinian for the benefit of “Israel” and the US, within the grander scheme of a “new” or “broader” Middle East.  The result: Civil War Phase Two.  One of the three resistance regions (Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq) is neutralized.  The core of the Arab-Zionist/Imperialist struggle is tremendously distorted.

Logic says: You cannot be a resistance/revolution and a government/state at the same time, so what if this “government/state” is under occupation and completely under the control of extrinsic powers and variables as is the case in Palestine?

Hamas made a choice of political suicide by entering the battle over a “government-under-occupation.”  Fatah has already decided to discard the struggle a long time ago, and it is controlled by corrupt gangster-minded “leaders.”  The result is what we see today.

Attributing the “civil war” to intrinsic Palestinian factors is totally unobjective.  There is a dynamic of interaction of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors, the former playing the leading role and the latter providing the “prepared ground.”

In these very hard and confusing times, the role of International solidarity is of utmost importance, because if some factions in Palestine lose their focus, and this was accompanied by a similar attitude on the outside, the cause will completely crash, and we all lose.

The struggle in Palestine is by simple logic an internationalist one: a struggle against a GLOBAL Imperialism and Zionism fought by local mechanisms.  There is a continuation between the interior and exterior in struggle, which is why I always stress that so-called solidarity movements should not stop at being “supporters” of the cause, they MUST consider themselves ONE AND PART of the cause, therefore they are an INTEGRAL PART OF THE RESISTANCE.

Now is the crucial moment to intensify International support for the Arab Palestinian cause, not on the basis of defeatist rhetoric of a two-state solution that refuses part of the occupation (occupation after 1967) but ACCEPTS another (occupation before 1967), but on the basis of the total elimination of the Zionist illegitimate racist colonial-settler entity.

If we fall for the Imperialist/Zionist trap of “look, the Palestinians are killing each other, why the hell should we care,” then we lose Palestine all together, and we LOSE all as well, because it is only Imperialism/Zionism who will collect the profit at the expense of all the people.

When an individual loses sight, it is the responsibility of everyone else to guide the way.


This article was first published in Next Left Notes on 19 June 2007.



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