Singapore or Tora Bora?

The deal to bring ‘calm’ to Gaza aims at affirming absolute Israeli domination

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Many people inside and outside the Gaza Strip were expecting an imminent announcement from Cairo about a ‘calming’ deal reached between Hamas and the Israeli occupation state through Egyptian mediation.

But two days of heavy Israeli air raids not only dispelled those expectations, but also exposed Israel’s true face and real aims. Its continued killing and destruction were aimed at showing that the Israeli army still has the upper hand, that the negotiations are not between two equal parties, and that the supposed deal is more of a diktat affirming absolute Israeli domination.

It is the Israeli leadership that began the latest escalation. It deliberately sought to humiliate Hamas’ exiled politburo members who had come from abroad to discuss the terms of the deal and formulate their final agreement to convey via the Egyptian leadership. Its warplanes carried out a new massacre whose victims included the Abu-Khammash family. Three of its members were torn to pieces by the Israeli missiles that penetrated the roof of their modest home in Deir al-Balah: Inas Abu-Khammash, who was six-months pregnant, and her infant daughter Bayan. Bayan’s father was injured, and their neighbour Ali Ghandour was killed. I know this family, as I know most of the families of this steadfast town, as I was born in its refugee camp.

Hamas’ military wing did not hesitate to respond forcefully in line with its strategy of meeting fire with fire. It launched 180 missiles and mortar shells at nearby Israeli settlements. Only 30 of these were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome. This suggests that the resistance has upgraded its retaliatory capability, and we may yet see more evidence of that.

Settlers in Sderot took refuge in their shelters; a scheduled football match was cancelled; a Thai worker was hurt. This was the sum total of Israeli losses. But the psychological losses and blow to morale were much greater. This was the first time since the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza that settlers were sent into their shelters, or that sirens were sounded in places like Bersheeba.  What worries the Israelis most is the sense of insecurity, and they will certainly enjoy no security — no matter how many agreements they may sign with whichever Palestinians agrees to sign them — as long as full rights are not restored to the Palestinian people.

It is not clear whether the ‘calming’ agreement formulated by Egyptian intelligence after its contacts with both Hamas and Israel will hold. But the savage Israeli air raids suggest that only further destruction and killings lie in wait. It is also possible that certain parties on both sides will try to foil the deal. On the Palestinian side, Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, and its hawks, in particular, have been noticeably silent, and this raises many questions.

The two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are suffering from a suffocating blockade. Many have reached the brink of starvation against the background of the total collapse of basic services such as water, electricity, health, and education, and a high level of unemployment of around 80%. Arab, Israeli, and world powers are colluding in a scheme to bring them to their knees and compel them to accept a ‘humanitarian’ solution that gives them some relief rather than a proper political solution. The aim is to alleviate their suffering just enough to prevent them from exploding, as they did in the Marches of Return. These Marches have done more than anything else to unmask Israel’s ugly, bloody, and racist face. Nothing terrifies the Israelis more than the prospect of two million people breaking out of the borders imposed on them to reclaim their original towns and villages.

You can hardly tell a hungry person to remain hungry and urge them to reject food. It would similarly seem inappropriate to ask defenceless people who live under constant bombardment to reject the carrot of ‘calming’, even if it is withered, unpalatable and poisonous. But what Israel and its Arab collaborators are seeking to do is to take the Palestinians, specifically in the Gaza Strip, back to the period before the 1967 Arab defeat and the launching of the Palestinian resistance. They want them, in other words, to live as beggars who survive on the crumbs thrown to them by UNRWA — but without UNRWA itself, which they are trying to destroy and bankrupt because its very existence testifies to the Palestinians’ status as refugees who have a right of return to their country.

The savage Israeli air raids and the death and destruction they caused were meant to remind us of the consequences of rejecting a ‘calming’ agreement. The pretexts were deliberately contrived to achieve that purpose.

I say this as someone who opposed the Oslo Accords, refused to attend the signing ceremony, an along with millions of others, warned it would have catastrophic results.

A quarter century on, the ‘political’ Oslo Accords have succeeded in reducing the PA and the Palestinian Authority and people to their current miserable condition. They have destroyed everything achieved by all the Palestinian in decades of struggle and transformed them into beggars, while enabling Israel to swallow up and colonise what remains of the land. So we must wonder: What will the consequences of the current ‘calming’ deal be? What price will the Palestinian people have to pay in return? Will it be ‘calm’ in exchange for a crust of bread dipped in humiliation rather than calm-for-calm? Or will it be a case of calm in return for money while the colonisation continues and for dismantling what remains of the culture of resistance and the Palestinian struggle?

We have no answer to these questions. But those who sign this agreement may not have to wait a quarter century to see the results as the architects of the Oslo Accords did. We are in a different era in which time runs faster, as do the changes it brings about.

We conclude by saying: Beware of Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and his poisoned promises. And beware the Arab middlemen who embellish all these concessions and promise you money and projects. Gaza will never become a second Singapore if the price for that is toå abandon the rest Palestine and the right to — and thereby any hope of — return. But it could well become another Tora Bora or another Hanoi.