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Jüdische Weisheit
Middle East Roundtable / Edition 28

A Palestinian View:
It will backfire

by Ghassan Khatib

Throughout the 39 years of occupation, collective punishment, especially economic sanctions, has been the most frequently used method in Israel's attempts to force its will on the Palestinian people. And in all previous attempts that policy has backfired by increasing the Palestinian people's determination to reject the occupation and the will to resist that occupation by any means possible rather than the opposite.

Gazans were always active in refusing and resisting the occupation and have had very extensive experience with collective economic punishment. Economic sanctions are directly responsible for the Gaza Strip's current dire economic straits. For example, in order to prevent Gazans from benefiting from the Israeli withdrawal from the illegal Jewish settlements there, Israel imposed different punitive measures, including the near-total restriction on the movement of Gazan products from Gaza.

The World Bank has estimated unemployment at up to 40 percent as a result of these policies, while the UN estimates the percentage of people living under the poverty line--with an income of less than $2 a day--at 67 percent.

The recent escalation, which included the capture of an Israeli soldier, predictably led Israel to tighten the economic sanctions and other collective punishment measures even further.

These measures include further restrictions on allowing supplies of basic necessities into Gaza, necessities such as food, medicine and fuel; on allowing people in or out of the Strip; and on access to the sea for fishermen. Not content with that, Israel has also targeted civilian infrastructure including roads and bridges, the water supply network and the sewage system as well as the Gaza Strip's only electric power plant.

Unsurprisingly, these measures have severely affected, both directly and indirectly, the basic humanitarian needs of the population in Gaza as well as the ability to provide for these needs. In addition, of course, the increase in military attacks has led to an increase in casualties.

All this has been happening with minimal reaction from the relevant international actors, especially the United States. It is ironic to register that the US, which originally financed the building of the power plant, also financed its destruction at the hands of the US-subsidized Israeli military. Now Washington has expressed a willingness to finance the rebuilding of the power plant. The American taxpayer is paying three times over for this plant: its establishment, destruction and re-establishment. Who says the US is not getting involved?

In spite of all these Israeli sanctions--likely because of them-- public support for the continuation of the resistance to the occupation is growing. The latest poll from the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center show that even though a majority believe that the capture of the Israeli soldier will lead to greater losses on the Palestinian side, a vast majority, over 77 percent, support the capture of Israeli soldiers and other such measures of rejecting and resisting the occupation.

The lesson that Israel hasn't been willing to learn from its long experience as a belligerent occupying power is that the more pressure it puts on the Palestinians, the more the Palestinians will push back. The years that showed the lowest ever level of violent activity against the occupation were the years 1997-99, when Palestinians were still carrying the hope that the then active political process could be more successful in bringing an end to the occupation. It is the collapse of the peace process--a result of then Israeli PM Ehud Barak's decision to present the Palestinians with an inadequate take-it-or-leave-it offer at Camp David--that brought back Palestinian support, even encouragement, for political and religious organizations to respond to the occupation by all possible means, including violence.

It is clear, regardless of how harshly Israel attempts to punish the Palestinian people, that the only way support for the violent resistance will end is if Palestinians come to believe again that political negotiations truly hold out the promise of an end to the occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.- Published 17/7/2006 ©

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is the former Palestinian Authority minister of planning, and has been a political analyst and media contact for many years. is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at and, respectively. 21-07-2006

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