Palestinians need to reassess Gaza marches

What was going on the Palestinian side, of course, was a continuation of the same old game of vanity and stubbornness.
Sunday 21/10/2018
A protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones while others throw stones near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel, on October 12.              (AP)
Different effect. A protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones while others throw stones near the fence of the Gaza Strip border with Israel, on October 12. (AP)

Among the shortcomings of the modus operandi of various Palestinian movements and factions and their leaders is their intense sensitivity to critiques scrutinising and evaluating their performance. For them, self-assessment only means retreat and retreat is what the Palestinian leadership will always insist on avoiding and denying.

If they do backtrack and reassess their actions, however, they would never admit that a sense of responsibility required a change in their strategies.

Would it be shameful to engage in a national discussion to review the strategy of the Friday marches called for by Hamas and which end every time with a list of those martyred or injured?

On the other side of the Palestinian divide, approaches and strategies for dealing with Gaza were not subjected to any assessment in the inner circle of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That is not just because the man listens to no one but himself but also because he is disconnected from the reality of Palestinian society.

Regarding the return marches in the Gaza Strip, which began on March 30, no one thought of assessing the results of marches so far on 26 Fridays. It was obvious the latest marches had a drastically different effect than the initial ones.

Following the march on March 30, Abbas declared a national mourning period but in a speech September 27 he did not broach the marches, despite knowing that the following day — a Friday — death was awaiting those marching near the border of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas did not bother to give an opinion and was not willing to outline his vision or offer advice, as if he had any to offer, or perhaps show a little effort by explaining his take on the anger boiling in Gaza. What he did was the exact opposite: He jumped on the opportunity to settle his scores with Hamas and dealt with it in imperious language.

May 14, 2018, was a bloody day in Gaza. Sixty people were killed and about 2,500 wounded at the hands of the Israeli military. Most of the victims were young. Touched by the brutality of those events, the international community expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people. Narratives recounting the origins and outcomes of the Palestinian historical struggle were recalled and, most important, the brutal and racist Israeli practices against Palestinian civilians were exposed.

Hamas and company had not only pushed for the marches on that painful day, they tried to exploit the popular momentum to mobilise rallies during Fridays and further developed the marches and escalated them as much as possible short of using weapons.

The Israelis immediately sounded the war drums. They advocated an offensive approach and readied their Iron Dome missile defence and their armies. Their extremist politicians flaunted the exploits of Israel’s founding fathers and jumped on their bandwagon.

This hullaballoo changed the narrative of the peaceful popular demonstrations that posed no threat to Israel. Deliberations opened and so-called appeasement negotiations started. The goings and comings of senior officials in the region stirred rumours and predictions about the “Deal of the Century” and the situation has been snowballing into an avalanche ever since.

What was going on the Palestinian side, of course, was a continuation of the same old game of vanity and stubbornness. From time to time, a leader of one of the factions would appear — just for a little while — at a predetermined spot near the border with Israel. They are doing that, however, to fend off rumours they were staying away from the front lines to protect themselves and their children.

Amid this, the Israelis seemed ever more willing to shoot to kill. They branded the marches as aggressive and offensive. The only answer to them is F35s.

Still, the marches’ organisers did not consider reassessing the strategy or adjusting the performance of the protesters to further incriminate and expose the Israeli occupier.

It seems that the aim behind each Friday march has become to show that jihad would go on until the Day of Resurrection.

Initially, objecting to the March 30 and May 14 marches was without merit but continuing with the subsequent rallies has polarised opinions at a time the Palestinian cause, having suffered countless losses, can do with less divisions and funerals.

13