Palestinians Should Fight the Good Fight

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Palestine Views: 1053

The continuing crisis in the Middle East has a certain quality of the car wreck to it in that try as one might to walk away, some form of political voyeurism repeatedly drives one back to take another look. Surely the most vivid example of this feeling is supplied by suicide bombings, the weapon of choice for Palestinian militants, and it is deeply painful for those of us who support the Palestinian cause in general to see it morally tainted and politically undermined by this appalling tactic.

It is especially agonizing to hear hard-liners defend the use of what they call "martyrdom operations" by arguing that no matter what they do, they will be branded "terrorists" by the Israeli government and the duped/duplicitous Western media. It is nothing less than excruciating to come to the conclusion that the radicals are right.

Wednesday's attack at a convenience store in southern Tel Aviv killed at least three civilians and wounded many more. It is hard to see how carrying out such acts can possibly help achieve the goal of a Palestinian state.

Blowing up civilians is murder, not resistance, and no casual observer has either the time or the volition to take into account the historical background that Palestinian militants see as grounds to call their current activities "revenge." Therefore, each and every time Hamas or Islamic Jihad conducts a suicide bombing in a public place, Western public opinion becomes that much more hardened against the Palestinian people as a whole.

This is not to mention the effect it has on an Israeli populace in whom successive governments have sought (with great success) to instill a siege mentality; the sight of their compatriots being regularly wiped out in buses and restaurants can only cause individual Israelis to batten down the intellectual and emotional hatches and join the chorus of "let the IDF win."

For the purpose of winning hearts and minds, it does not matter whether one's means are right or wrong, but it must be noted that regardless of all that has happened to the Palestinians, there can be no justification for deliberately targeting civilians. Doing so necessarily besmirches the integrity of the Palestinian independence movement.

However begrudgingly, one might nevertheless see a rationale behind the slaughter of civilians if it were just a matter of negative perceptions that had to be tolerated in order to continue a strategy that was working. But it is emphatically not: Israel has never had a tendency to appease or retreat and instead has opted time and again to answer political violence with overwhelming force. This results in widespread casualties and hardships for Palestinian civilians and gets them no closer to taking control of their own destiny.

Needless to say, the Palestinians have suffered a lot. The creation of the state of Israel entailed the appropriation of more than half their land, and failed wars partially instigated by their Arab "allies" have lost them the rest. All the while, their homes and farms have been destroyed, their children have grown up in abject poverty, and the rights accorded them by Israeli occupation forces constitute a form of apartheid.

Both individually and collectively, the Palestinians have spent the last 54 years being robbed, raped, killed, and ethnically cleansed. But none of this makes it right to kill Israeli civilians, and even if it did, practicality would have to rule out such a strategy for the simple reason that it would still be a propaganda disaster for a people who can ill-afford to be portrayed as violent and/or hateful.

There will be no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and any attempt to impose one by either side can only prolong the sufferings of both their peoples and sow the seeds of the next flare-up. Determined though they may be, Palestinian militants will never "drive the Jews into the sea," and even if they manage to hoodwink neighboring Arab countries into joining the fight again, the Israeli military is more than capable of trouncing any combination of its neighbors.

Likewise, not even the preponderance of Israeli military might can forever settle the issue. The Palestinians have made it clear that they are not going away, and even expelling them across the River Jordan, as openly advocated by several of Ariel Sharon's Cabinet ministers, would fail in the long run.

If certain factions reject the self-evident futility of armed force and insist on the way of the gun, the least they can do is conduct themselves in a manner befitting the righteousness of the cause they claim to represent. Otherwise they are neither "freedom fighters" nor even Palestinians, just bloodthirsty killers whose motives and origins are no more relevant than those of a serial killer.

The myth of the "purity of Jewish arms" has done wonders for Israel's image overseas, and its basing in shameless lies and fabrications has not mattered a bit because of Zionist power and influence. Superior weaponry has also helped to maintain this myth, allowing as it has the Jewish state to so easily dominate various wars and "lesser conflicts" that the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian and other Arab civilians can be written off with that convenient euphemism, "collateral damage."

Any Palestinian group subscribing to the theorem of "that which has been taken by force can only be regained by force" therefore confronts a powerful enemy in the widespread perception that Israeli military actions have always been defensive in nature and have actually sought to avoid civilian casualties among "those warlike Arabs." It does not matter that this impression is grossly mistaken, only that it infects broads swathes of the popular imagination. Purely nonviolent means would obviously do wonders to help dispel such notions, but if armed rebellion must take place, it behooves those who direct it to be "lily white" in their choices of targets, tactics, and timing.

To whatever extent the radicals may be correct in their belief that any form of armed struggle on their part will be condemned as terrorism, their obligation is nonetheless to behave in a civilized manner, a responsibility whose continued shirking can only result in additional injustice for all concerned.

People who want the right thing have an obligation to seek it the right way, even and perhaps especially when those who would deny them their rights operate with no such restrictions. This is what "fighting the good fight" is all about: those who struggle nobly cannot be defeated, but those who rely on calumny can never really win.

Marc Sirois is the managing editor of The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Beirut. He lives in Lebanon. He encourages your comments: [email protected]


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Palestine
Views: 1053

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Older Comments:
There are a few Saudi "sheiks" that have ruled against human bombings. Very few people take them seriously though. Who takes the religous ruling seriously of someone who's been appointed "sheik" by the Saudi govt? The scholars of al Azhar have ruled that it is the highest form of shaheed, as well as the scholars at Qum. The "sheik" you've quoted is a stooge.

Maybe Ahmad Darab missed the following when he wrote "all Muslim scholars have issued fatwas that say the body bomber's actions are islamic." :

Even if you don't agree with the fatwa, you CANNOT say that "ALL Muslim scholars have issued fatwas that say the body bomber's actions are islamic."

I would just like to point out two things. One is that all Muslim scholars have issued fatwas that say the body bomber's actions are islamic. The second point is that the term "suicide" bomber was created by the zionists. They have created a false label. They have us believe that all bombers are trying to kill civilians. Do you ever ask yourself why they attack buses, or clubs and cafes? It's because that is where a high percentage of off-duty Israeli reserve soldiers are. We should think for ourselves, not let them do our thinking.

Marc, your article is very well written and makes a lot of sense. I also believe in the Palestinian cause, but will never support the suicide bombings. I only wish that the more moderates in the middle East would not be afraid to voice their opinion. Instead, we hear too many comments from people like Abu Talib al Tikriti. Some say that suicide bombers are brave. I say a Palestinian who would support a good fight is far braver.

The good fight is any fight which destroys the occupier. Even though the prophet Muhammed, (pbuh) has said that a Muslim will burn for all eternity if he commits suicide, what is eternal hell if it gets rid of the enemy right now?