Ukraine and Palestine: How the West embraces one resistance but demonizes another
Ukraine's defiance in the face of Putin's aggression has been dubbed heroic, so why doesn't the Palestinian resistance get the same treatment?
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For the past two months, the West has been transfixed by the sight of a lightly armed population resisting the might of an overwhelmingly powerful and aggressive neighbour. Ukrainian popular resistance to Vladimir Putin's armed aggression has passed into the lexicon of European history. It has been dubbed heroic and given new purpose to Nato.
Another wave of popular resistance is surging in a different part of the world, but it does not get the same treatment.
No team of CNN or BBC reporters will drool over this band of brothers or ooze empathy as they fill bottles of Molotov cocktails and learn how to shoot guns. No British prime minister will fly over clandestinely to meet its leader. No military transporters filled with crates of Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons, Stingers, and Switchblade Drones will arrive to give the besieged half a chance against the tanks and drones of the invader.
No undercover team of Special Air Service (SAS) will be on the ground to train them.
Social media will not give its call to arms a global audience. Instead, Facebook suspends a page devoted to its news coverage out of fear of upsetting the aggressor. Instead, their resistance will be recast by the occupier as terror, and the rest of the world will stand by and wring its hands, as it does every time.
But resistance it surely is.
The flame of injustice burns as brightly in the people of Jenin, in al-Aqsa Mosque - which is now being stormed by Israeli armed police every dawn - as it has done in Mariupol, Bucha, or Chernihiv.
And that flame is well and truly alight across the whole of Palestine.
Al-Aqsa has now been stormed three times by Israeli special forces, who have been striking worshippers observing Ramadan with batons. These armed raids - which result in hundreds of injuries and arrests - are recast as "clashes" although there is no evidence that the worshippers provoked the raids by anything other than their legal presence.
The reason is to clear the compound for the arrival of religious Zionists, who are increasingly emboldened to break the ban once imposed by their own religion in praying on what Jews call the Temple Mount.
These attacks won't be the last. Far-right Israeli activists and settler groups had announced plans to storm al-Aqsa this week in large numbers, starting from Sunday to mark Passover.
Just imagine the same attacks being conducted, police firing rubber bullets and teargas, smashing stained glass windows, beating and arresting the congregation, inside St Paul's Cathedral in London or St Peter's in Rome during Easter.
As the attacks on the mosque multiply, right-wing Zionists are turning a conflict about land into a religious war. But Islam is not the only religion singled out by Israel as the enemy. Israeli forces laid siege to the Church of the Nativity for five weeks in 2002. The world was indifferent then, as it is now.
The same fundamentalism was on show in the choice of venue to assemble the foreign ministers of Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE - all countries which mouth support for a Palestinian state. They were summoned and duly appeared at a Jewish settlement built on a destroyed Palestinian village where David Ben-Gurion is buried.
All this was in the Naqab. For months, the Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab had been incited by regular announcements of Jewish settlements. A Jewish armed militia was created to "reclaim the personal safety of the citizen". In the Israeli political lexicon, Bedouins don't count as citizens, even though they can serve in the army. The term only applies to Israeli Jews.
Peace with the Arabs
The Naqab Summit was the realisation of what every Israeli prime minister since Shimon Peres had dreamed of: peace with the Arabs over the heads of the Palestinians. It was an awkward victory parade.
The response was immediate. As Ramadan approached, gun attacks in Israel multiplied and 14 Israelis were killed, more than by all the rocket attacks from Gaza last year.
Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, felt duty-bound to reply. He had just lost his majority when his chief whip Idit Silman resigned over a Supreme Court ruling that leavened bread be allowed in hospitals during Passover. Idit said: "I cannot take part in harming the Jewish identity of Israel."
Bennett, a right-wing settler who now finds himself under attack by the national religious right, called on Israelis to arm themselves and gave carte blanche to the security forces to crack down. Uzi Dayan, a veteran military commander and Israeli politician, explicitly threatened Palestinians with another Nakba if the shootings continued.
"The thing we need to tell the Arab community, even those who didn't participate in the attacks, is to be careful," he said. "If we reach a civil war situation, things will end in one word and a situation you know, which is Nakba. This is what will happen in the end."
Jenin: Battling the occupation
For a few days the security crackdown focused on Jenin, and the family of one of the Tel Aviv attackers, Raad Hazem. Israeli forces tried twice to arrest Hazem's family, and in particular his father Fathi, and demolish their home. They were beaten back by two hours of gun fighting.
Fathi was told by Israeli intelligence officers to turn in himself and his remaining sons. Rather like the Ukrainian defenders of Snake Island, he told the officers to "come and get me from the camp".
The next day, Israeli forces attacked Jenin again. Ahmed Saadi was killed in the gunfight that ensued. Mourning his son, his father said: "We are the grandsons of Farhan al-Saadi. We give ourselves as martyrs and we are still martyrs and we will continue the path."
Fathi Hazem addressed the crowd in an impassioned speech calling on young people to defend Palestine and continue to rally around him and Palestinian resistance in the camp.
"We grow old and weak," he said, while stroking his white beard. "Now we hand over the baton to you." A retired colonel in the PA security forces, Fathi has now become a national hero. But the real significance of his call to arms is that he is from Fatah, the national movement that abandoned resistance when it recognised Israel.
Now history has turned full circle, as if the days of negotiation and proposed land swaps are over.
Farhan al-Saadi was one of the original leaders of the Palestinian resistance over 90 years ago, when the British were in charge. Izz al-Din al-Qassam, a Muslim preacher and social reformer, organised the first Palestinian armed resistance in 1935 against the British in the Jenin area.
Both were to die in gunfights with the British colonial police. But the revolt carried on until 1939 when the British promised to slow down Jewish immigration and most of the leaders of the uprising had been assassinated or arrested.
Source: Middle East Monitor
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