COMMENTARY: Gaza: Bad Politics Needs Blood: Islam, Muslims and an
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,
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
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.
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