Israel and the Palestinians: “Burn the Haystack!”

News from Within

Posted August 31, 1996

This editorial is reprinted from the March, 1996 issue of “News from Within” published by the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem.  Subscriptions to this invaluable monthly are $60 from AIC/News from Within, P.O. Box 31417, Jerusalem, Israel.

THE ENTIRE POPULATION of Israel increasingly resembles players in some ghastly “danse macabre”, accompanied by a chorus shouting itself hoarse calling for revenge and indiscriminate destruction, deportations and demolition of the houses of Hamas members, as well as their supporters, relatives and even casual acquaintances.

On March 6 the president of Israel declared: “When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, and you cannot find the needle-you must burn the whole haystack.”

The Israeli writer S. Yizaher, identified with the Zionist labor movement and known as “as a humanist and conscience of the people,” wrote that the Palestinian people are “cannibals” who should be excluded from the category of human beings-and thus provided his seal of approval for the collective punishments of closure and military siege, relieving Israel from observing any moral limits in the war against Hamas.

These days, when the voice of sanity has been almost totally silenced even among progressive Israelis and when the line of self-flagellants among Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories grows longer and longer, as if they had to prove their humanity to a doubting world “NFW” feels compelled to assert: “The Labor-Meretz government is responsible for the suicide operations of Hamas.”

First, the continuation of the occupation, with its starvation tactics and other violations of basic human rights, provides the soil for the growth of desperate acts on the part of Palestinian youths.

Moreover, the government is responsible in a much more immediate fashion: For months Israel has rejected all overtures to negotiate by Hamas, to declare a cessation of its military operations in return for a cessation of the persecution of its activists and the release of about a thousand Palestinian prisoners identified with the Islamic resistance.

These overtures did not cease even after Israel assassinated Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shakaka in Malta and Hamas activist Yihiya Ayash in the Gaza Strip-after six months of undeclared cease-fire.

Israel deliberately sabotaged the policy of the Palestinian Authority (PA)-whose aim was the integration of Hamas into the self-rule apparatus as a political party-by opposing Hamas participation in the autonomy council elections.  Despite Israel’s best efforts, the PA’s co-optation policy has enjoyed a measure of success, although more in the Gaza Strip than the West Bank.

The Labor-Meretz government is not interested in the rise of a militant Palestinian opposition-either Islamic or leftist-which would seek to safeguard Palestinian national interests in negotiations with Israel.  Rather, it wants the PA to crush the Hamas in an all-out confrontation, which would risk a bloody Palestinian civil war.

The government knows that embarking on this course will deprive Arafat of all legitimacy in the eyes of his people, and that he would henceforth have to rely on force alone in order to implement Israel’s plans.  Arafat has resisted this pressure-until now.

Thus, it was not short-sightedness which characterized the government policy of pushing Hamas to the wall, and which weakened Hamas’ political wing relative to its military arm; nor is it merely revenge or the need to appease public opinion which now guides its declaration of “unlimited warfare.”

This war is part of its [the Israeli government’s] plans to achieve total control over the Palestinian people-plans which will inevitably lead to both peoples, Palestinians and Israelis alike, paying a terrible price in blood.