As the Al-Aqsa intifada in Palestine enters its fourth month, ZAFAR BANGASH, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), discusses the nature of the Israeli problem and the challenges facing the Islamic movement in Palestine in seeking to resolve it.
The greater challenge for the Islamic movement in Palestine is not how to confront Zionist barbarities; it is rather to ensure that the second intifada, appropriately named the Aqsa intifada, does not suffer the same fate as the first one (1987-1993). Then, the sacrifices of the Palestinians were bartered away in Oslo, culminating in the infamous accords signed on the White House lawn in September 1993. The PLO, which had played little part in the first intifada (Yassir Arafat and his henchmen had been in “exile” in Tunis) were imposed upon the Palestinian people to do the Zionists’ and the Americans’ dirty work . The Aqsa intifada is proof that the Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, have utterly rejected the Oslo accords in the only way possible: by staging massive protests with their bare hands.
Although unarmed Palestinians are no match for guns, tanks and helicopter-gunships, they are prepared to face all of them rather than submit. This is a point lost on Arafat and his cronies. In return for appointing him their subcontractor, the Zionists and their allies in the west first had to repackage Arafat from “terrorist” to “statesman” and then confer on him the pompous title of chairman. They have even promised to make him “president” of the Palestinian (non)entity if he delivers his part of the deal: sell their betrayal to the Palestinian people and do Israeli’s dirty work by targeting members of the Islamic movement, who offer the only serious challenge to zionist occupation. Arafat could only partially deliver the second; the first one was too much for the Palestinian masses to swallow. With Arafat and his jet-setting cronies taking over, the people were faced with double occupation in an entity that closely resembled the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.
The Aqsa intifada is the direct result of the double occupation the Palestinians have suffered since 1993. Despite their very high casualties — at least 10 times higher than the zionists’ — the children of the intifada have shown by their courage and sacrifices that they are not prepared to accept another sell-out signed by Arafat or anyone else in their name. Never before has anyone betrayed the aspirations of a people so badly as have Arafat and his associates. Like them also are people such as Edward Said and Hanan Ashrawi, who today pass as spokespersons for the Palestinians. They and their like were willing accomplices when Arafat perpetrated his fraud upon the Palestinians.
Therein lies the dilemma of the people of Palestine. They are the ones making the sacrifices, as they have done for more than 33 years under a brutal occupation, and others have come to steal the fruits of their labour. As the Aqsa intifada goes on, with its daily mounting death-toll, the Islamic movement in Palestine as well as outside needs to be clear about its position. First and foremost is the question of the future geographical boundaries of the state of Palestine. There can be no compromise on the question that the entire area of Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people. The fact that thieves and bandits from Europe and America have come to occupy most of it does not make it legal. The zionists’ use of the Bible as a real-estate manual, claiming that God promised them this land in perpetuity, is perverse; to enforce it at the point of the gun is criminal. Zionist thugs will have to vacate every inch of Palestine if there is to be justice (and therefore peace) in that tortured land. Talks about border-adjustments or returning only to the 1967 borders are non-starters.
From this it follows that there can be only one state — a Palestinian Islamic State — in the land called Palestine. There is no room for two states there, especially a racist state. Similarly, Muslims are the only ones who have demonstrated that when they rule the land (for more than 1300 years so far), the holy places of all religions are respected. The Christians have never had any complaints against Muslims, despite vandalism by the Crusaders in the holy land in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Jews have found refuge with Muslims whenever they wanted to escape persecution in Europe. Thus Muslims are the only true inheritors of the divine mission who have respected the religious sentiments and places of all peoples.
Even more crucial for the Palestinians is the question of leadership. With Arafat totally discredited, the time has come for the Islamic movement to take over. Too much damage has been done by the thugs who masquerade as “leaders” for the Palestinian people to allow them a free hand any more. One of Arafat’s first acts upon taking control of Ariya (Jericho) was to build a casino there. Did thousands sacrifice their lives from 1987 to 1993 for a casino to be built?
The Islamic movement has refrained from internal conflict so far, but as Arafat continues with his betrayals, taking orders from the CIA and Shin Bet to target and kill Islamic activists, the time has come to end Arafat’s treachery. On December 14, Arafat met with the acting Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami in Ghazzah, and promised to renew “security cooperation”; ie. carry on betraying members of the Islamic movement to the zionists. While Palestinian children are being killed by Israeli bullets, Arafat promises to renew his spying mission for the occupiers!
Without the emergence of a muttaqi leadership, the struggle in Palestine will continue to suffer at the hands of self-serving opportunists. Only the Islamic movement can inspire people to make the sacrifices necessary to reclaim Palestine from zionism. The Hizbullah of Lebanon offer the best example of this kind of movement, as well as the quality of leadership required in Palestine. The Islamic movement must increase the cost of the zionists’ occupation to a level that they cannot afford it any more. This is what the Hizbullah did in Lebanon, forcing the zionists to flee. It is possible to do this in Palestine as well. The excessive use of force by the zionists against stone-throwing children is proof that they are panicking and beginning to lose their nerve.
The issue of the population of Palestine is also important. Unlike the racist concept of an exclusivist Jewish state, a Muslim Palestine must be an inclusive state which would accommodate and protect the rights of all its citizens — Muslims, Christians and Jews. This last group will be a little problematic to sort out; which Jews are to be accommodated: those residing there since 1948, 1967 or the year 2000? We will have to go even further back into history in order to find a reasonable basis for determining the Jewish population. A good starting point would be the 1912 census, when the Jews constituted 6 percent of the population of Palestine. They and their descendants must be accommodated in the future Islamic Palestine, but the status of the rest will have to be discussed once the millions of Palestinians scattered around the world are able to return to their homes and villages from which they were expelled.
That these Palestinians, some four million in total, have lived in refugee camps for more than 50 years does not take away from them their right to life and property stolen by Jewish bandits and thieves. The right of return is an inalienable right; no amount of verbal acrobatics or political chicanery can take that right away from the Palestinian diaspora. In fact, it is a safe assumption that once an Islamic State is established in Palestine, the zionists will wish to leave, as they will no longer be permitted to steal others’ property or terrorise people. These gangsters and criminals will feel much more at home in America.
The future of Palestine is also intimately linked with the situation in the countries around it. Before Salahuddin Ayyubi liberated Palestine and al-Quds from the crusaders in 1187, he first had to deal with the regimes surrounding the holy land. Then, as now, these regimes had become willing accomplices of the alien occupiers of the holy land. At the very least, the regimes of Egypt and Jordan will have to undergo internal readjustments to change the ground realities in Palestine. When David Ben Gurion, the zionists’ first prime minister, said in 1948 that the Arab regimes are Israel’s first line of defence, he was not exaggerating. That reality is obvious to all but the most naive today.
One final point is in order. The struggle for the liberation of Palestine will not be easy; it will demand an even greater price in life and blood than has already been paid. But nobody ever said that the Islamic movement will find anything easy. As it loses more men, Israel will resort to even greater levels of barbarism. That is in its nature, but beyond a certain point force becomes counter-productive. The zionists are fast approaching that point; they should not be allowed an easy way out. The only exit for them is from all of Palestine, back to where they came from: the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, whoever is willing to take them in.