The Road ahead: Gaza and Palestine after the May massacre

The Road ahead: Gaza and Palestine after the May massacre

On May 14, residents of the besieged Gaza Strip in Occupied Palestine suffered the deadliest day since the 2014 war. 59 people attempting to march to the border fence around Gaza were killed by soldiers of the Israeli Army. Shooting dead unarmed people marching for their rights is and always was a common occurrence in all lands under foreign occupation, as the Irish people know only too well.

This latest massacre means that altogether more than 110 people have been killed since the recent border protests began on March 30. That day is commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day”, it marks an earlier murder of six unarmed protestors in 1976 that had demonstrated against the eviction of Arab farmers from their lands. The protests were meant to last to May 15, the date of the most important Palestinian commemoration of all, the anniversary of the Nakba (“great catastrophe”) when after the creation of the State of Israel 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes.

Coinciding with this historic date was the moving of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as ordered by US president Donald Trump. This event was adding insult to injury – as Palestinians were once again painfully reminded of the reality of the occupation with its massacres, arrests, evictions, home demolitions and the crippling siege, Israel’s right-wing Prime-Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was basking in the light of his political triumph, surrounded by politicians and celebrities.

Countless people and many governments around the world condemned the massacre of unarmed protestors, some took steps to protest like recalling their ambassadors from Israel, and many commended the Palestinian protestors for their bravery. And rightly so.

Still, the recent events, the protests and demonstrations, are not an expression of strength, unfortunately, but of utter desperation. The Palestinian national movement is at a low ebb presently while the racist, right-wing government of Netanyahu has secured a string of successes.

The two dominant Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, continue to be a dismal failure in providing leadership to their people in their struggle against the occupation. Having effectively split Palestine between them more than a decade ago, both sides are incapable to effectively govern their respective fiefdoms of Gaza and the West Bank respectively, let alone reunite the two territories constituting the yet-to-be-achieved State of Palestine.

Fatah, having renounced armed resistance to the foreign army of occupation, seeks to pursue diplomatic initiatives. This met with some success years ago with the diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian State by a number of primarily left-wing Latin American governments and joining some UN institutions, but has since come to a halt. Now, Palestinian Authority diplomacy is utterly ineffective, as evidenced by its failure to elicit a meaningful response to the Jerusalem question and the Gaza massacre from regional or any other countries.

Hamas still subscribes to armed struggle in principle but seeks to avoid another war with Israel. This can be understood, as the utter mismatch in military capabilities between it and Israel would mean a loop-sided confrontation, with thousands of Palestinian civilians dying for no tangible benefits. What cannot be excused is Hamas directing its rage inward instead, putting pressure on other Palestinian political movements, stifling civil society in the Gaza Strip and failing to allow for the internal political process.

Hamas has been incapable of developing a coherent foreign policy in the face of regional events. After the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the organization distanced itself from Syria and Iran, countries that had supported it up to that point, in favour of countries like Turkey and Qatar, which supported the Syrian Opposition. But these countries are also allies of the USA and unsurprisingly refused to support armed struggle by Hamas. This left the movement isolated in all directions.

Other Palestinian factions like Islamic Jihad, Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine or the Popular Resistance Committees have effectively been sidelined in the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. They criticize both groups for their inability to unite, but are themselves faced with the same dilemma – neither armed struggle nor political and diplomatic initiatives have produced tangible results for the Palestinian people lately. The Palestinian national project is at a low ebb, while the Israeli government led by Netanyahu appears to score one triumph after the other.

Netanyahu succeeds to drive US President Trump to not only move the embassy but much more importantly to withdraw from the international nuclear agreement, something the Israeli government had been after ever since it was signed. Now Netanyahu has set his eyes on a new prize: getting the USA to recognize the annexation of the Syrian Golan. Meanwhile, the Israeli air force bombs Syrian cities and military installations at will without any meaningful response and regional Israeli diplomacy is also making gains: reactionary Arab regimes like Saudi-Arabia and Bahrein are increasingly aligning themselves with Israel, chiefly against Iran but also at the expense of the Palestinians.

With various issues like the wars in Syria and Ukraine, nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea and Donald Trump’s impending trade being of greater urgency to most countries and international media, Palestinians are on the own more than ever before. They still have the support of countless people and organisations all over the world, but success can only come if a strong national movement can be built in occupied Palestine as well as the diaspora that puts pressure on the leadership of the factions. National reconciliation, a reform of the PLO and a challenge to the occupation can only come if Hamas and Fatah above all can be made to put the national but also the social question above themselves.

The protests on May 14 and before have once more shown to the world the courage of the Palestinian people. What is needed now is a strategy and vision that builds from that.