'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Hizbullah Model 

From today's New York Times:

The fragile calm in the Gaza Strip was broken Tuesday by armed clashes along the border with Israel that left an Israeli soldier and Palestinian farmer dead.

Palestinian medical officials said the clashes were followed hours later by a Israeli aerial missile attack into the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, injuring a suspected militant on a motorcycle, and Israeli artillery shelling of a house near the Gaza-Israel border that injured two children. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the reports.

Hamas, and other groups resisting the occupation in Gaza, are following the only plausible strategy of possible success: attacking, injuring and killing IDF soldiers. There is no peace process, indeed, there is not even a willingness of the US and Europe to ensure that the people of Gaza receive humanitarian assistance and reconstruction aid. The Palestinians, living in conditions of severe, intensifying poverty, remain subject to the perpetual violence of the IDF.

This is, of course, consistent with how Hizbullah drove the IDF out of southern Lebanon. First, through bombings, some of them perpetrated by sucide bombers, and, then, through the creation, over many years, of a disciplined, armed force, Hizbullah inflicted sufficient damage upon the IDF that it withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. In 2006, Hizbullah fighters defeated an IDF attempt to reduce, if not destroy, its capabilities as a military force.

Moreover, the Iraqis have, to date, avoided the more demeaning aspects of the US occupation through violent resistance as well. While they have not driven out US troops, they have compelled the US to accept a more democratic political process than originally contemplated by the Occupation Authority, one in which the governing coalition retains warm relations with the Iranians, an important US adversary, and permits the open participation of political movements, such as the one headed by Moqtada al-Sadr, dedicated to immediate end of the occupation. Iraqis achieved these limited, but important, political achievements, in addition to retaining control over their oil resources through a violent, anti-imperialist resistance to the US presence, not through non-violence.

Can Hamas achieve similar outcomes in Gaza, and potentially throughout the occupied territories? Naturally, that's hard to say, but we should be wary about underestimating its prospects. After all, did anyone believe that Hizbullah would develop the capabilities to effectively prevail against the IDF back in the 1980s? Did anyone believe that the Iraqi resistance, in the absence of support from any outside powers, would pressure the US into curtailing its imperial ambitions? Predicting the future is a dubious enterprise, but we can say with authority that the more IDF soldiers that Hamas and other groups opposed to the occupation kill and wound, the closer they will come to the day when they escape the brutalities of the occupation.

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