Hamas isn’t Hizballah and Gaza isn’t Lebanon. The resistance in Gaza — which includes leftist and nationalist as well as Islamist forces — doesn’t have mountains to fight in. It has no strategic depth. It doesn’t have Syria behind it to keep supply lines open; instead it has Israel’s wall and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s goons. Lebanese civilians can flee north and east, while Gaza’s repeat-refugees have no escape. The Lebanese have their farms, and supplies from outside; Gaza has been under total siege for years. Hizballah has remarkable discipline and is surely the best-trained, most disciplined force in the region. Although it has made great strides, Hamas is still undisciplined. Crucially, Hizballah has air-tight intelligence control in Lebanon, while Gaza contains collaborators like maggots in a corpse.
But Hamas is still standing. On the rare occasions when Israel actually fought — rather than just called in air strikes — its soldiers reported “ferocious” resistance. Hamas withstood 22 days of the most barbaric bombing Zionism has yet stooped to, and did not surrender. Rocket fire continued from Gaza after Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire.
Let’s put this in context. In 1947-48 Zionist militias drove out more than 700,000 Palestinians without too much trouble. In 1967 it took Israel six days to destroy the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies, and to capture the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Zionism’s last “victory” was the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization from Beirut in 1982 — if it was a victory.
The long and bloody occupation of Lebanon gave birth to new forms of resistance. Where Arab states and armies had failed, popular resistance removed American and French forces from Beirut, and then steadily rolled back the Israelis. The first suicide bomber of the conflict was a Marxist woman of Christian background. The human bomb was a tactic to which Israeli troops had no answer. Hizballah formed, and developed into the power that would drive Israel from almost all of Lebanon by 2000. In 2006 Israel returned, in an effort to finish the resistance once and for all. What happened was a historic turnaround: for five weeks Israeli troops bled in the border villages, and failed to move beyond them. For the first time, the hi-tech, first-world savagery of the Zionist army, supposedly the fourth strongest army in the world, was kept at bay. Israel of course killed far more civilians than Hizballah did, and performed its usual rampage against civilian infrastructure, but in terms of the soldiers in battle, casualties were roughly equal.
There has been a lot of talk, particularly by Arab collaborators, about Hizballah being an Iranian proxy. While Iran does assist the resistance with weapons and funds, the Lebanese resistance is Lebanese, the creation of the villagers of the south and the Bekaa, and the families of the southern suburbs of Beirut. It was the people themselves who turned Zionism back. Even more improbably, the same collaborators now accuse Hamas, a democratically-elected Palestinian Sunni movement, of taking orders from Tehran.
One reason given for this latest massacre in Gaza was Israel’s desire to restore its deterrence after the 2006 debacle. Certainly the Arabs now know (as if they didn’t know before) that any whisper of resistance will be met by the most fanatical violence. Certainly Hamas and others will have to factor this into their tactical decisions. But in strategic terms the Israeli deterrent looks even shoddier than it did a month ago. The Arab peoples are no longer scared of Israel, whatever Israel throws at them. A psychological tipping point has been passed, and this, in the long term, counts for more than nuclear bombs.
Even as Western and Zionist officials grin and hug, the siege of Gaza continues and the people are now facing starvation. However, their suffering seems to have strengthened the resistance. The communities of south Lebanon and south Beirut, those which suffered most in 2006, have redoubled their loyalty to Hizballah.
In spite of Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, in Palestine and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hamas and the resistance option it represents is immeasurably stronger. The ridiculous no-longer-president-of-anything Mahmoud Abbas, and the gangs loyal to Fatah warlord Muhammad Dahlan, are much weaker. It wasn’t Abbas but Hamas political chief in exile, Khaled Meshal who represented Palestine at the Doha emergency summit last month. While the Abbas-Dahlan traitors arrested Hamas activists, and tried (and largely failed) to suppress solidarity demonstrations on the West Bank, the resistance was standing firm against Zionist terror.
In solidarity with the resistance, Palestinians in Israel organized the biggest demonstrations in their history. There is no doubt to which nation these Palestinians belong, especially in the eyes of the main Israeli political parties, which sought to ban Arab parties from standing in the approaching elections on the grounds of “disloyalty” to the apartheid state.
What now? Enough nonsensical talk of peace processes. Peace might be nice, but it isn’t, and never has been, on the agenda. It is time to build a new Palestine Liberation Organization, as elected as possible, to represent all Palestinians, both Islamist and secular, those living in the lands stolen in 1948, the lands stolen in 1967, and those in exile. The Palestinian Authority should be abolished, and the Oslo/Road Map farce officially abandoned. Then Palestinians have to decide what their aims and strategies will be. The two-state solution is no solution. There is a huge amount of work to do. All Palestinians should agitate for the new organization.
Robin Yassin-Kassab has been a journalist in Pakistan and an English teacher around the Arab world. His first novel, The Road from Damascus, is published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin. He blogs on politics, culture, religion and books at www.qunfuz.blogspot.com.