Some express the following conclusion in all earnestness, others refer to it sadly, as a theory - "it is incorrect to say the Palestinians don't have a strategy of struggle and conflict, they have several strategies."
The opinion refers in both aspects to the "strategy" demonstrated with cynical cruelty last Sunday when bus No. 14 was blown up in another Jerusalem suicide attack. Under the umbrella heading of a struggle against Israeli occupation, several groups are operating in differing, even contradictory ways. Each one swears it is the genuine arbiter of Palestinian interests.
In civil and political activities, this sort of messy pluralism is natural enough. Some groups emphasize the sacrosanct nature of the right of return; others concentrate their efforts on the settlements; some disseminate the Geneva Initiative; others demand the renewal of calls for a one state solution as a tactical ploy to promote a two state solution. The Palestinian leadership adds its own proliferation of voices.
But when a number of groups scramble about and vie with one another to claim pride of place under the heading "the armed struggle" a more problematic dynamic swings into action - coercive, internal dictates in Palestinian society masquerade behind the staged aura of heroism.
At present, as hearings proceed at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, protest activity undertaken by Palestinian civil society against the separation fence has reached its peak. Hundreds of Palestinian activists who belong to non-government Palestinian and international organizations, as well as Israeli activists, began 18 months ago to compile lists of the wrongs caused by the separation fence being erected deep in Palestinian territory.
These efforts were not coordinated; they became more professional and efficient as the annexationist character of the fence became evident. They did not lose faith when their reports and claims were taken as hyperbole and fabrication by Western listeners - who could believe that the fence really would imprison people in enclaves and force them to obtain residence permits to live in their homes.
The activists led groups of visitors on tours along the awful fence/dreadful wall, though they were unable at first to stir Palestinian Authority leaders, who sat placidly in Ramallah, or pique their interest in what was happening on the western side of the West Bank. When one Palestinian activist proposed to a senior political figure that meetings ought to be held under the shadow of the fence to rouse public interest in the topic, he responded with typical apathy - "we are not a grass roots organization."
The activists didn't stop when residents from Qalqilyah, who are surrounded by the wall and live in poverty and despair, hurled accusations: "We've become a new Mecca. Everyone makes pilgrimages here, but nothing changes." These are protest pioneers who created the factual cornerstone for a new sort of struggle against the Israeli conquest in the political, public and legal arena of The Hague.
But some young Palestinian, who believed perhaps that eternity in paradise awaited him, and who certainly wanted to contribute his part to the murder of Israeli citizens, almost managed to ruin the prolonged, determined efforts undertaken by thousands of his compatriots.
Possibly, he simply wasn't aware of the work they had done; possibly, he simply didn't care about it; possibly he didn't connect the dots between one thing and another; possibly personal circumstances of some sort stirred within him the thirst for revenge.
The key question is not what were his own personal motives; instead, it is what were the motives of the group that sent him to blow up the bus in Jerusalem precisely at that moment, a day before the hearings in The Hague. To what extent were these considered motives? To what extent were they analytically obtuse considerations?
If this was, in fact, the exclusive work of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, or of one of its splinter groups which lacks the ideological backbone of a national liberation organization - perhaps it is utterly superfluous to attribute long-term thinking, and clear planning ability to them.
But if this was an attack planned and pulled off by Hamas, as Israeli intelligence officials claim, it can be described as being part of a kind of "strategy." But precisely what sort of strategy? The very fact that Hamas isn't taking responsibility for an act which it, perhaps, carried out raises questions.
Did those who planned this terror attack deliberately want to undermine the Palestinian-Israeli civil rebellion against Israel's conquest? Islamic organizations are not in the habit of taking part in symbolic protests against the conquest. Laden within such activity (in which many Fatah members take part) is support for the two state solution.
Activity in a civil struggle, in contrast to the use of arms, involves all strata of society, and even creates areas of contact between Palestinians and Israelis. Popular, wide-scale activity stirs a form of hope in this world, and dulls the sort of fatalistic faith in the world to come which makes it easier for young Palestinians to agree to carry out suicide missions. Perhaps that is what frightened those who carried out the last terror strike in Jerusalem, on the eve of the hearings in The Hague?
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