[URBANTH-L] COMMENTARY: Gaza: Bad Politics Needs Blood: Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist

Angela Jancius jancius3022 at comcast.net
Sat Jan 3 12:21:32 EST 2009

(Dr Gabriele Marranci is an anthropologist by training, working on religion 
with a specialisation in Muslim societies.)

Islam, Muslims, and an Anthropologist
Prof. Gabriele Marranci

Gaza: bad politics needs blood
December 30, 2008

Palestinians in Gaza are again living another nightmare. The world, however, 
appears less interested than usual.  Dead Palestinians are common products 
on the international political markets at least last since 1967. As many may 
have observed, I have rarely commented or written about the 
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I am not a political scientist and I think 
that too much has been said and too little done. This post is intended to be 
just a reflection provoked by the sight of innocent people suffering and 
trapped in an endless conflict. I wish to tackle the current situation with 
a practical, and perhaps Machiavellian, question: who gains from this 
massacre? Certainly it will be neither the people of Palestine nor those of 
Israel, who will face, inevitably, the return of suicide operations that 
leave still more innocent people dead or mutilated. People gain from peace, 
not war. Yet war is a very profitable business.

Let me be clear about some points regarding Hamas and the Israeli 
government.  First we must look at Hamas for what it really is, and not for 
the Robin-hood many would rather it were. Hamas has great and grave 
responsibilities for what is happening and for the suffering that people in 
Gaza are facing. The decision to increase  (indeed they never stopped) the 
number of rockets fired into Israel was a clear provocation aimed to achieve 
a violent response by the Israeli government (which also never respected the 
ceasefire).  Hamas has demonstrated its disunity and level of oppression 
towards the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hamas is not a party; it is a movement with much in the way of internal 
conflict. Many Palestinians in Gaza or from Gaza, when speaking freely, are 
extremely critical of Hamas, and the violence and oppression used to subdue 
whomever disagrees with their politics and methodology, which is often 
Hamas has more interest in its own gain than the destiny of Palestinians, 
and for this reason it is ready to sacrifice them to the altar of money and 
power. Indeed, this is the ultimate motivation behind an organization which 
has changed deeply and become controlled more by mafia interests  than by 
any real political agenda for a prosperous Palestine.

Indeed, Hamas, as it is today, can only offer to the Palestinians of Gaza 
two words: war and hate; war against the Israeli and hate for its political 
rival, Fatah. People cannot live in an eternal struggle, yet Hamas can only 
exist in such a context because it was born out of that very context.

Unfortunately,  to remain in  business, Hamas needs to maintain control and 
fight both dangerous internal challenges and external pressure. Peace is an 
enemy for Hamas even more than the Israeli army; peace and stability will 
bring scrutiny from the inside, from the Palestinian people, and with that, 
political decadence.
War, destruction and desperation help, though at high cost, to maintain 
control and popularity, at least outside Gaza. Hamas is more popular among 
Palestinians, and in general Muslims, whom have not lived in Gaza and are 
shielded from the most brutal aspects of  this movement which has lots much 
of its original identity and leadership.

Unfortunately, many Muslims live with a myth of Hamas as the 'freedom 
fighter' but are simultaneously ignorant of Hamas as capable of being 
power-money hungry, abusing human rights, exerting excessive control over 
private life, and even oppressing innocent Palestinians. Many Muslims see 
Hamas as a unitary, monolithic paladin of Palestinian rights. It is not. 
Some Palestinians have even suggested that their condition was better under 
Israeli occupation. Do Palestinians in Gaza have a choice? They can only 
choose between the brutality of Hamas and the brutality of Israel. As usual, 
between two brutalities, normally people prefer their own.

Now, it is important, when we speak of Israel, like when we speak of any 
other country, to remember that decisions are taken by governments which, 
after elections, respond more to political parties than the people (some may 
notice that even in the UK, the current PM was elected by a party, not by a 
real democratic vote!).

The Israeli government, controlled by the  triumvirate  Prime Minister Ehud 
Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has 
decided to embark on a total war against Hamas not only because of the 
rockets fired by the latter, but also because of a political opportunism 
linked to the forthcoming elections  in February.

Few have noticed that  polls were indicating that Kadima  has fallen far 
behind Likud. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, represents very well 
the stagnation of Israeli politics - linked to the past and unable to 
provide a real future to many young Israelis. However, Netanyahu had better 
support than Tzipi Livni because of his campaign promised to deal, once and 
for all, with the rockets and threats from Gaza.

It is not difficult to see  why the  the  triumvirate have decided to 
sacrifice Palestinians' lives. They are going to remove the winning card 
from Netanyahu's hands, moreover, with operations which will go on for 
weeks, they will destabilize the region, increase the possibility of suicide 
attacks, and the Kadima trio can hope that the well worn adage about not 
changing government during war will hold true and give them an electoral 
victory, despite the corruption endemic within the party.
The lives of Palestinians, for the Israeli governments, have never been 
relevant.  It is as if Palestinians, leader after leader, are an annoyance 
that, despite all efforts to get rid of them, are rather like ants, 
endlessly reappearing despite the destruction. Of course, although the 
ethnic cleansing temptation runs through some of the leaders of Israel, 
today that option cannot be proposed even in the most secret of ominous 
bunkers. Yet the attitude towards the lives of Palestinian has not changed: 
they are seen as less than human, however this is not dissimilar from how 
Hamas, and some Palestinian resistance movements, likewise see the Israeli 

And here lies the main issue: both parties, the Israeli and Palestinian 
leaders, share at least something in common: an immoral and unethical view 
for which political gain are more important than innocent lives, including 
those of women and children.

Hamas has no problem to sacrifice Palestinian lives in the name of an 
impossible mission (to remove Israel from the Middle East), and the Israeli 
government has no issue with endangering the lives of innocent Israelis with 
the inevitable retaliation of suicide bombing and killings.

Although history is important and certainly injustices are difficult to 
accept, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot be resolved without 
pragmatism. To look back to the past, in this case, means to deny the future 
and perpetuate the circle of killing. Yet this is not only an issue that 
Palestinians and Israelis have.

The conflict has become globalized and has been transformed into a kind of 
'religious' confrontation, when of course, it is not. For as long as the 
past continues to interfere with the future, and so long as people go on 
killing each other in order to establish whom is right and wrong, there will 
not be peace. Palestinians and Muslims have to accept one simple fact: 
Israel is here to stay. Israel and its supporters have likewise to accept 
that sophisticated forms of ethnic cleansing will not be sustainable nor 
sucessful. Palestinians are, generation after generation, there to stay, and 
if a solution not found, to fight.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs an innovative approach which, in my 
opinion, has to start from below; from the people themselves. The real 
issue, and the reasons for which Palestinians find themselves with movements 
such as Hamas and Fatah, and the Israelis with one of the most incompetent 
and corrupt governments that a democratic country can have, is that the 
people of Palestine and Israel have given up much of their  hope of living 
in peace.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of course, has some clear historical 
reasons. Yet the fact that it is still one of the most deadly conflicts 
affecting civilians is due to extremely bad politics, and bad politics, akin 
to a kind of cancer,  requires innocent blood in order to perpetuate itself. 

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list