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Divide & Conquer in Palestine

Kristen Schurr
Date Published: 
February 14, 2003

The US announces with all the subtlety of an Israeli tank plowing through a Palestinian home that any country which houses Al Qaeda operatives shall be attacked. In turn Israel has declared the Gaza Strip Al Qaeda spawning ground. As the PA tells it, the Israeli military government called on a few of its own to pose as Al Qaeda members in order to continue brutalizing the Palestinian population here, as if it did not have enough international support for its horrific crimes already. Now, Gaza undeniably has its problems, all stemming from the illegal Israeli military occupation, but Al Qaeda is not one of them. This allegation would be laughable, but in the current climate of a sudden respect for UN resolutions, albeit only for the purpose of the US to continue bombing Iraq by declaring an official “war,” it becomes more worrisome. The Palestinian people have been tasked to kill one another. The US and Israel are demanding that the occupied provide for the protection of the occupier. In April, under siege in his compound, Arafat still held a trial, at the behest of Israel, for those who killed an Israeli cabinet minister—a longtime advocate of ethnic cleansing. The Palestine Authority (PA) continues to allow Israel to exile those resisting the Israeli invasion, and their family members, to Gaza and beyond. Mohamed Asheed, who co-wrote the “agreement” which led to the exile of Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, is now calling for an end to the Intifada. A man in Khan Yunis asks, “How big is his house. Anyway, it will never be destroyed.” Currently, the PA has enlisted Fateh—the two of whom work almost interchangeably here in Gaza—to destroy Hamas, another Israeli/US whipping boy. Considering the internationally acceptable Israeli explanation for their massacre in one of the Gaza Strip’s middle camps, Al Bureij, was “Hamas made us do it,” they really do not even need to coerce the PA to do its bidding. Just last night Israeli soldiers re-invaded Bethlehem’s Aida Camp, tore three families from their homes at one in the morning, and held them in the rain for several hours. Once again just, “looking for Hamas.” Israeli peace The psychological warfare employed against the Palestinian people is working on some, eroding their will. There is, in some, a near willingness to accept what was referred to as the “Israeli peace”: silent compliance behind barbed wire checkpoints and “security walls,” being tortured and thrown into Israeli prison—in effect, a quieter humiliation and more subtle ethnic cleansing. Taking up arms against a heavily machinated invading army is legal and reasonable, but current propaganda would have us believe that those who sit quietly through it are more just, more moral. And there is a carrot dangled in front of those Palestinians who might behave with compliance—maybe they will not be killed, or maybe their children can attend school next year. In turn, resistance is being deligitimized, not just as it has usually been internationally, but internally as well. A friend, defiant in April and now fearful of passing a checkpoint, psyches himself up by saying, “I am a peaceful man. They have no reason to arrest me.” To suggest any legitimacy of an Israeli “arrest” of a Palestinian—instead of a kidnapping—comes with a look of absolute loss on his face. Believing that the Israelis only take those Palestinians who are “wanted” is a plea to live through a day. The divide and conquer technique is working beyond deligitimizing resistance. The Israeli military government is coercing many in desperate situations into being collaborators. The numbers in the Gaza Strip, particularly in Rafah where Israeli attacks and house demolitions have become a daily routine, are contributing to the erosion of the collectivism that has been difficult to come by in the West Bank and Gaza since the signing of the disastrous Oslo Accords. At the end of Ramadan, after a Hamas-Fateh fight killed a man and his son here, a friend told me, “It’s just much easier for the Israelis if we kill each other.”