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Palestinian resistance: how it evolved


FROM RABBLE TO SERIOUS SOLDIERS
Everything evolves or devolves, and the resistance in Palestine to Jewish domination is no different. It certainly has surprised many in “Israel” and worldwide by its evolution into an organised, highly trained, efficient army. But it was always going to be this way, as long as “Israel” continues to lay siege to Gaza and oppress and dominate Palestine. Now the “Israeli” toy “soldiers” are finding that, like Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance not only fights them but wins each confrontation on the field of battle. This explains why “Israel” prefer to drop bomb and lob artillery from tanks and gun boats. But it is losing even with those mechanical, removed means of causing the death of innocents.

4 August, 2014 al-Akhbar English
There is a popular graphic doing the rounds on Arab social media these days; it shows the evolution of weapons used by the Palestinian Resistance, from rocks and pebbles all the way to missiles and drones. This captures the story of the evolution of resistance methods against Israeli occupation.

Resistance to Israeli occupation was never that organized at first; that was a flaw in the leadership of Hajj Amin (al Husseini) who — contrary to his image in Western writings — was never really a radical and only took decisions that were decisive under pressure from his constituency. People forget that he was a tool of the British at first and always catered to the wishes of corrupt Arab regimes. Palestinians had to rely on antiquated hunting rifles while their Zionist enemies were relying on advanced weapons imported from Europe.

Arab regimes, in the name of monopolizing any military action toward Israel in order to avoid threats to their power, always fought against the independent militarization of the Palestinians. In Lebanon, the Palestinians in the 1950s and 1960s were not even allowed to carry a gun for personal protection in a country rife with machine guns. It was only after 1967 that the Palestinians began a heavy program of militarization. The program was funded and armed by socialist countries that, while supportive of the Palestinians, never believed in the goal of liberating Palestine and never gave them any weapons that could tip the scale in the struggle against Israel (even in its military supply of Arab regimes, the Soviets did deprived their Arab allies of certain weapons systems).

Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat had tremendous financial resources at his disposal and he basically built up an army (Yezid Sayigh’s Armed Struggle and the Search for State remains a classic) but did not develop a strategy for armed resistance. In fact, he resisted all plans submitted to him by various Palestinian armed groups for the development of an effective Palestinian strategy for armed resistance to Israeli aggression and occupation. The Military Council of the PLO was put under the control of one of the most corrupt leaders of PLO organizations, Zuhayr Muhsin (the leader of a thuggish gang, As-Sa`iqah, that was a mere tool for the Syrian regime), who never took the task of liberation, or even resistance, seriously. And while Abu Jihad had contacts with the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Algerian resistance commanders, he never really implemented the lessons from those glorious revolutions. Abu Jihad (top aide to Arafat in the PLO and commander of Fatah’s armed wing) never took the PLO’s mission in Lebanon seriously and focused on fomenting an uprising in the West Bank and Gaza.

Of all PLO organizations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (a small PLO organization loyal to the Syrian regime and known for spectacular operations against Israel, including the famous hang glider operation) was the only organization that stressed the need for a tunnel system in all areas where the PLO was operating in Lebanon. PFLP-GC leader, Ahmed Jibril, went to Arafat several times requesting assistance for the importation of machinery to dig tunnels in south Lebanon to prepare for an impending Israeli invasion, and Arafat would typically make promises that he never kept. When Jibril gave up on Arafat, he gave orders to the men in his organization to dig tunnels in all military bases of his own organization and they proved to be so effective that the Israeli enemy bombed them from the air repeatedly over the years.

The ill-preparedness and the incompetence of Arafat’s military leadership was exposed in 1982 in the face of the Israeli invasion. He put one of the most incompetent military commander, Hajj Ismail, in the top position (and he never ever punished him for his shortcoming and would later reward him with a lucrative post in the Ramallah mini-non-state, purely for his loyalty).

Hezbollah was the first Arab organization to take the task of resistance to a higher — much higher — level. Resistance is an exact science for Hezbollah. Anyone who wants to find out more should visit the Resistance Museum in Mleeta. There you find out how the party meticulously and rigorously studies the enemy and meticulously and rigorously studies the resistance preparation. Hezbollah established a special (internal) school to teach Hebrew, and hundreds of fighters graduate from the school of every year (in the PLO era, they would rely on Hebrew translators from the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut).

But Hezbollah’s practices also evolved. Learning from their own mistakes, they began to pay extra attention to the lives of civilians (even civilians in the enemy camp — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told me that they had a plan to assassinate a key South Lebanon Army commander, `Aql Hashim, but the plan had to be postponed several times because his family members were around him. Only when he was away from his family, did Hezbollah target him). Nasrallah changed the party from the horrific phase under the leadership of Subhi Tufayli, who oversaw the perpetration of acts of kidnappings, hijackings, and car bombings, etc. In 2006, Hezbollah had a chance to put to practice a whole strategy of resistance that they had adopted.

The performance of Hamas in Gaza in 2014 (where the Israeli military toll is exactly ten times that of the year of 2008 — six soldiers were killed, of which four soldiers died from “friendly fire”), owes much to Hezbollah’s school of resistance. In 2009, the Mubarak regime arrested “Sami Shihab” who was in charge of establishing cells to support, equip, and train the resistance in Gaza (he would later flee from Egypt after the first Egyptian uprising in 2011. “Shihab” belonged to Hezbollah’s Unit 1800 which specializes in assisting the Palestinian resistance movement).

There are many lessons that Hamas and its allies in Gaza have learned; the practice of suicide attacks on civilians (which was pioneered and perfected by Zionist terrorist gangs in Palestine as early as the 1930s but the West liked to pretend that Hamas first introduced them in the region in the 1990s) generated negative publicity even among Arabs. Attacks on civilians are not popular among Arabs, all racist generalizations in the US to the contrary notwithstanding. The culture that cheers civilian deaths among the enemy society is the Israeli culture. Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades specifically made statements insisting that they only target military sites on the other side (and the casualty breakdown in Israel substantiate their claims) but all those statements were ignored in the Western press.

Furthermore, in this round of conflict in Gaza – and against a most savage series of war crimes committed by Israel – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP (plus other groups including independent units of the Fatah movement in Gaza) have developed and demonstrated an effective strategy of facing off Israel and preventing it from advancing quickly into Gaza, as it used to do in the past. Clearly there is a new resistance movement in Gaza and it has built on the achievements of its predecessors.

Without the useful climate of the Cold War, and amid a state of siege by Israel and Arab regimes, the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups are advancing quickly in their strategies against Israel. We all know what Israel has: advanced weapons and ability to violate all the known laws and norms of war, in addition to complete disregard for the lives of civilians on the other side. But the other side has surprises up its sleeves, and the intelligence of Hamas and the other groups, have also learned from the experience of the formidable intelligence apparatus of Hezbollah. This is not the same intelligence apparatus of Fatah where one out of five is a collaborator with Israel. Israel in this war failed to kill one key commander of the resistance groups and instead killed a media official of Islamic Jihad.

The trend is clear; the resistance movement is getting better and better, and the performance of the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus is only getting worse. This is only one of many problems Israel faces that point in the direction of its inevitable demise.

Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, a lecturer and the author of The Angry Arab News Service. He tweets @asadabukhalil.

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