Middle East Roundtable /
A Palestinian View:
It will backfire
by Ghassan Khatib
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
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 © bitterlemons.org
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.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its
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region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at