It’s tough for Palestinians not to be envious of their Arab counterparts. The courage with which Arab peoples are shaking off the yoke of oppression and tyranny is nothing short of amazing. As we watch what seems to be the final hours of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, we cannot help but draw parallels. For the past six months, the Libyans have been engaged in a ruthless battle with Qaddafi’s forces. The death toll has risen in the thousands, people have been made refugees and others have simply disappeared. But finally, the light at the end of the tunnel is shining for Libya.
It must be said, we Palestinians are jealous. As we watch the West call on Arab tyrants to step down, rooting for the Arab masses who so bravely confront the bullets of their own governments, we wonder why it is so different for us. We have led revolutions, we have risen up against the oppressive rule choking us and we have died in the name of a cause. But, unlike the events of Tahreer Square, of Tunisia and now Libya, our story keeps looping around itself, always returning to the same futile point leading to nowhere.
A few months ago, the Palestinians seemed to be heading in the right direction. A reconciliation deal was signed between Hamas and Fateh, elections were set and the Palestinians were playing the card of international diplomacy. Going to the UN seemed to be the perfect move in light of Israel’s refusal to halt settlements and its overall lack of interest in any peaceful solution.
Israel, we believed, would be in a bind. The Palestinians had done all they could do to contribute to the negotiations but were being constantly stonewalled by Israel. The world would know this when they made their bid at the UN, at least the world sans the United States.
Then came the attack on Israeli targets between the Sinai Desert and Israel’s southern border. Seven Israelis were killed in the shootings in addition to five Egyptian policemen killed by Israeli military forces as they chased the fleeing perpetrators. Israel quickly blamed Hamas in Gaza, Hamas said it had nothing to do with it, the Egyptians were mad because Israel killed its policemen who were only protecting their own border and of course, the people of Gaza were the ones to pay the ultimate price.
Since that day, August 18, at least 15 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s “retaliation” attack on Gaza. One Israeli also died after a rocket slammed into his house in Beer Sheva. A precarious ceasefire has now been called between the two sides but the damage, and the propaganda, is well underway.
Israel, in classic style, is playing on the “terrorist threat” paradigm that has kept it alive and well for so long. Because it claimed that the gunmen originated from Gaza meant this was the story necessarily accepted by the rest of the world, the West in particular. Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committee, which Israel says carried out the attacks, have denied involvement, saying it is not their policy to attack Israel from other countries’ territories.
It doesn’t matter though. As long as Israel says it was Hamas, then it must have been Hamas. Fifteen people, children included, have been killed in the raids, dozens of others injured. And not unlike Qaddafi or Syria’s Bashar Al Assad, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak warned that, “Those who operate against us will be decapitated.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was no better. "We all witnessed today an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching of attacks from the Sinai," he said. "If there is someone who thinks that the state of Israel will let this pass, he is mistaken."
So today, we are back to the unenviable situation we have been in so many times before. Instead of focusing on our legitimate bid for statehood at the United Nations, we now find ourselves fending off more attacks from Israel and defending ourselves against unsubstantiated accusations. The seven Israelis who were killed in the Sinai attacks will be used as pawns in Israel’s war against Palestinian independence. And because the West coddles Israel like no other, it will pay off just like it has in the past.
As despotic Arab regimes fall one after another with United States and western backing, is it not time to let go of another despotic regime in the region? What gives Israel’s military occupation over Palestinian land more legitimacy than Assad’s or Qaddafi’s regime? The Palestinians have been crying out for freedom for years. But because the propaganda Israel feeds to the world is swallowed whole by the western powers that be, the cycle of endless violence continues, just like Israel wants it.