Occupation is the seed-bed for terrorism. It creates a uniquely fertile environment for random acts of violence directed at civilians. The insightful analysis of Robert A. Pape “Al Qaidas Smart Bombs” NY Times 7-9-05 dispels many of the commonly held misconceptions about suicide bombing and provides statistical evidence of the real factors that are involved.
What is involved in nearly every case is occupation; the root cause of suicide bombing. Occupation, not religious fanaticism, is the seminal act of terror from which all the smaller, independent acts emerge.
Pape’s “scientific” work is helpful in understanding this week’s bombing in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv bombing does not appear in a vacuum, but in a world where occupation has persisted for 39 years, longer than any place on earth. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman basically confirmed Pape’s findings by admitting that there have been 90 suicide bombing attempts since January. Again, these acts of desperation do not take place in New York City, Hong Kong or Berlin. They keep appearing in an environment where they naturally flourish, the occupied territories. Given Pape’s projections it is reasonable to assume that some variant of suicide bombing will continue until the root cause is removed and the occupation ends.
Never the less, Israel is using the bombing as a political stick to bludgeon the newly elected Hamas government. This, of course, distances Israel from any accountability in the violence placing the responsibility squarely on Hamas shoulders. It’s a clever strategy that absolves Israel of any blame and isolates the incident from the continuous attacks on Palestinians that preceded the bombing. In recent weeks the Gaza Strip has been hammered mercilessly by Israel resulting in the deaths of 17 civilians. BBC reports that “since the start of April, Israeli forces say they have fired more than 2,000 artillery shells into the northern Gaza Strip.” These figures did not appear in any other western media. Violence to Palestinians continues to be a closely guarded secret in the American press.
Hamas had no part in the Tel Aviv bombing and continues to maintain a yearlong truce with Israel. Still, the incident has caused a political firestorm that could bring down the Hamas government if they fail to see the importance of their reaction. Hamas must quickly rethink their strategy for ending the occupation understanding that the choices they make now may ruin their opportunities for a future settlement.
There are a few questions they might ask themselves in deciding how to deal with the current crisis:
Is there any prospect that Israel will withdrawal from the occupied territories due to suicide bombings?
Has the suicide bombing campaign been the most disastrous public relations campaign in modern history alienating potential friends and deterring countries that would otherwise contribute to Palestinian welfare?
Do suicide bombings (like the one in Tel Aviv) provide Israel with the cover it needs to continue its unilateral land-grab in the West Bank and Jerusalem?
The choices facing Hamas are stark. There is no longer any reasonable expectation that violence can succeed, rather, it only strengthens the occupation and ensures greater suffering for the Palestinian people. The political path, however threadbare, is the only option.
Presently, Hamas is being attacked from three sides. First, Mahmoud Abbas and elements in the security apparatus are doing whatever they can to undermine Hamas so they can restore the PA to its former status as private fiefdom for corrupt politicos and bureaucrats.
Secondly, the United States and Israel have joined forces to cut tax revenues and charitable donations to the PA in an effort to bring Hamas to its knees. So far, this plan has backfired by pushing Russia, Qatar, and Iran into Hamas corner and forcing other American clients in the region to make choices that hurt them in the eyes of their people.
Thirdly, Israel, the US, and agents in the media are connecting Hamas to yesterday’s violence in a way that could bring down the government in the wink of an eye. Hamas’ reaction will determine whether or not any of Palestine’s friends from outside the country are able to help or must stand by on the sidelines until Hamas renounces violence. There’s no way that Russia or Qatar can make contributions until Hamas makes a statement condemning the Tel Aviv bombing.
How Hamas reacts to the current crisis will tell us whether or not they are ready to evolve into a purely political organization. Certainly, this is the only path left for Palestinian liberation and one that Israel would like to quickly foreclose.
As Noam Chomsky noted years ago, Israel is trying to create a permanent relationship of “colonial dependency” with its Palestinian wards. For now, Hamas poses a real obstacle to that plan by rekindling a sense of Palestinian identity and Arab nationalism. All that will be lost if they fail to renounce violence.
*this article was reprinted from palestinechronicle.com