I was 12 years old when the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights. Ever since then, I have known firsthand what military occupation is all about.
The Iraqi people are now witnessing military occupation. There are similarities and differences. While in both cases the occupiers had claimed that their actions were preemptive and temporary, we have seen, from the Palestine example, that, intentionally or not, occupations have a way of lasting a long time. Of course, in the case of Israel, occupation was quickly followed by an active Jewish settlement activity which has put in doubt the state’s motivations and claims about their real intentions.
I am sure that the Americans and the British have no plans to bring Californians or Welsh to settle in Iraq; the real intentions of this war and the occupation have yet to be known.
The 1967 war was clearly a much easier act than the one the Americans are witnessing in Iraq. Palestinians have since, and over the years, got their act together and built up a popular and later a military resistance campaign that is making the Israeli occupation very costly.
In both cases, war and occupation show that what appears to be a shortcut to accomplish political results often turns out to be much different than first predicted.
Also, and just as important, a foreign military occupation has a way like not other to help unite people who are at the end of the abuse of power. Palestinians have, for years, disagreed among themselves about the shape resistance should take – nonviolent resistance vs a violent revolt – but when the Israeli incursion began, all were amazingly united in their opposition vis-é-vis the invaders. The Arab saying that best applies both to Palestine and Iraq is this: my brother and I may be against our cousin, but we and our cousin are united against the foreign enemy.
War is ugly wherever it is, and every honourable person must understand that not even the most powerful country in the world can succeed in crushing a people that has pride in its country and their nation. The regime of Saddam Hussein may not last more than a few weeks or months, but this war, like the one of 1967, has clearly shown that war can’t extinguish peoples’ desire to live in freedom and to be ruled by their own.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. He is the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University which owns and runs Al Quds Educational Television. In May 2001, Mr. Kuttab received the International Press Institute’s award as one of fifty press freedom heroes in the last fifty years.