Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon achieved his objective of forcing an end to the road map peace plan last month, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement formally ending the conditional ceasefire they had declared on June 29. Their statement came on August 22, as more than 100,000 Palestinians packed the streets of Ghazzah City for the funeral of Hamas leader Abu Shanab, assassinated by an Israeli missile strike in the city. He was a popular Hamas leader known for advocating cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian resistance groups. The crowds at his funeral were a stunning confirmation of Hamas’s standing among ordinary Palestinians, despite the West’s claim that jihad groups are blamed by Palestinians for making their lives more difficult.
When Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared their hudna (ceasefire) at the end of June, after intense pressure from Western governments and Palestinian Authority leaders keen to pursue the road map peace plan, they made it clear that it was conditional on Israel halting its attacks on Palestinian towns and showing a definite commitment to the road map. Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders also made it clear that they did not expect Israel to honour their commitments because of their previous record of exploiting peace agreements for their own ends.
Despite a number of attacks on Hamas activists, the Islamic movements did not end their ceasefire until the martyrdom of Abu Shanab. Instead, they had earlier declared that they would maintain the ceasefire except for operations retaliating to specific Israeli breaches of it. The martyrdom operation in Jerusalem on August 19, in which a bus carrying orthodox Jews was blown up and 20 people killed, was an individual Hamas member’s retaliation to earlier assassinations, although Hamas leaders were not aware of the operation.
After the Abu Shanab assassination, Hamas instructed all its members and activists to be on guard for Israeli attack, warning that the Israelis had pledged to exterminate the movement by killing each and every one of its members. Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, the alim who is often described as Hamas’s spiritual leader, said that martyrdom would be the greatest reward for any mujahid.
Continued assassinations of Israel’s enemies was only one of several ways in which the Israelis set about breaching the terms and spirit of the road map as soon as it had supposedly been implemented. This included the maintenance of a massive military presence in the West Bank and Ghazzah and repeated incursions into Palestinian towns from which they had supposedly withdrawn. These included Bethlehem, from which the Israeli’s ‘redeployed’ in early July, only to seal all roads leading in and out of it with roadblocks, effectively imprisoning its 100,000 inhabitants and crippling its economy. Israeli roadblocks, more than 170 of them throughout the West Bank, remained a constant source of harassment, persecution, humiliation and suffering for ordinary Palestinians.
Israel also went on building its apartheid wall, by which the Israelis hope to totally redraw the map of the region, effectively integrating more areas into the Israeli state, and cutting large areas of Palestine land off from its owners. The northern town of Qalqilya has been totally cut off from the rest of the West Bank. At the same time, Israel has also been stepping up its efforts to build and expand zionist settlements, particularly (but not only) in the areas around Jerusalem, which the zionists aim to make an entirely Jewish area in order to justify its formal annexation, and prevent it from ever becoming the capital of a Palestinian state.
At the same time, Israeli negotiators meeting with US and Palestinian representatives repeatedly demanded more and more concessions from the Palestinians in return for every small Israeli step towards meeting the obligations that it had already made. Despite this reality, which is consistent with the zionist state’s previous behaviour, the Americans and their allies have consistently supported them and criticised the Palestinian Authority for its inability to quell Palestinian anger at Israel’s duplicitous actions.
America’s complete commitment to Israel, come what may, was confirmed on August 22 when US president George W. Bush announced that the US was freezing the assets of six senior Hamas leaders, including Shaikh Yassin, Khalid Mishaal, Abu Marzouk and Abdul Aziz Rantisi. The decision was mocked by Palestinians, who pointed out that no Hamas leader would be naive enough to hold funds in the US.
More seriously, the US also announced similar action against six charities which they accuse of having links with Hamas. These include the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, known as Interpal, based on Britain; the Comite de Bienfaisance et Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) of France, the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP) of Switzerland, the Palestinian Association in Austria and the Sanabil Association for Relief and Development, based in Lebanon.
These are prominent charities through which large sums of charitable funds are collected and sent to Palestine for the relief Palestinian suffering as a result of Israeli policies. Israel has a long record of trying to block these funds, in order to increase the suffering of the Palestinians, as part of their war on them, and allegations of links to militant organizations are a tactic they have used for this purpose before. Interpal has been cleared of such links by Britain’s Charity Commission, as have the other charities in their own countries.
Austria and Switzerland showed their contempt for the US action by refusing American and Israeli requests to crack down on the listed charities based in those countries. As Crescent goes to press, no action has been taken against Interpal in Britain, although there are fears that Britain may ignore Interpal’s true nature in order to appease their American allies. Britain has already confirmed that it will lobby for the European Union to ban Hamas’s political wing at the next meeting of European foreign ministers on September 9, and is likely to impose the ban unilaterally if other European countries do not agree.
When the road map was published, Crescent was among the many who suspected that it was designed to fail, in order to justify an even harsher assault by Israel on the Palestinians afterwards. Those forecasts now seem to be coming true.
The so-called peace process which the West and Israel want to impose on them is nothing but a euphemism for surrender, which the Palestinians will never accept. But the alternative of maintaining the jihad for the liberation of the whole of Palestine is difficult while Muslim countries refuse to provide meaningful support. As long as the Palestinians are left alone to fight an enemy fully supported by the US and its massive resources, their future appears very bleak indeed.