Just how much more courage and fortitude can the Palestinian people display in their battle against zionis occupation and oppression? Muslims were amazed, and the rest of the world shocked, when the Palestinians last month revealed a new strategy to counter Israeli attacks on them. For years the Israelis have been targeting civilians in order to terrify the Palestinians, while insisting that they were doing everything possible to minimise civilian casualties. Far from being intimidated, last month Palestinian civilians in Ghazzah, including women and children, deliberately put themselves in the firing line, in what the western media called “human shields”, challenging the Israelis to do their worst. When Israeli troops surrounded a mosque in Beit Hanoun to try to capture Hamas mujahideen, Palestinian women walked into the firing line and escorted the men out. Two women were killed when Israeli troops opened fire on them, but the men escaped. Later in the month, women and children surrounded a house belonging to a Hamas militant in Beit Lahiya when it was suspected that Israel might launch an airstrike against it. Aware of the international outcry that would be caused if it went ahead with the strike, the Israelis backed down.
This stunning evidence of the Palestinians’ continuing defiance, despite the fact that over 400 (mainly civilians) had been killed in Israeli military operations in Ghazzah over the previous 5 months, no doubt contributed to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to accept a European proposal of a ceasefire later in the month. After the ceasefire, agreed by Hamas and other Palestinian groups, Olmert gave a major speech on November 27, stating that he hoped to revive the stalled peace efforts, working towards the creation of a Palestinian state and offering humanitarian and economic incentives, provided that Palestinians freed the Israeli soldier captured in Ghazzah in June, renounced violence and recognised Israel. His statement was greeted as a major step towards peace by the West, but Palestinian voices were understandably more circumspect. Although Hamas agreed to the ceasefire, Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad also called the Olmert initiative “a new manoeuvre”.
The Palestinians are, or course, entirely right to be sceptical. The fact is that Olmert’s latest move follows a well established Israeli pattern: an immense and brutal display of force to try to intimidate the Palestinians, followed by threats and demands disguised as magnanimous offers of peace. However, none of the obstacles to a settlement has been resolved. The Israelis still demand that Hamas recognise Israel’s right to exist, while Hamas is willing only to accept the fact of Israel’s existence, without legitimising the dispossession of the Palestinians. Hamas also demands that East Jerusalem be the capital of a future Palestinian state, and that the Palestinians’ right to return to their homes be recognised. There is no evidence that Israel is willing to talk about either.
Fought to a standstill without achieving any of their stated objectives, Israel is hoping beyond hope that the Palestinians will surrender. With there being no sign of this happening, and Israel unwilling to discuss Palestinian conditions for a settlement, a return to violence in inevitable.