Gaza violence, West Bank non-violence
With violence once again escalating along the Gaza border, we are faced with one of the most serious delusions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, that there are two Palestines. While the world has fallen in love with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank that has almost entirely denounced violent resistance in exchange for technocratic state building and non-violent struggle, the Gaza Strip continues to live in an alternate reality of violence and fanaticism.
This is not to say that a Palestinian state comprised solely of the West Bank could easily reach a peace settlement with Israel were Gaza to be removed from the equation. It does, however, serve as a reminder that Palestinian society suffers from a massive split, both in its political leadership and its strategy for attaining independence.
While the people of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and the smaller towns of Budrous and Bil’in have won accomplishments and improvements in the quality of their lives in recent years as a result of non-violent resistance and state building efforts, residents of the Gaza Strip are experiencing a converse reality. The Hamas government ruling the Strip for the past five years continues to embrace violence, albeit in the face of continued violence at the hands of Israel.
Despite the Palestinian Authority government’s lack of domestic legitimacy in the West Bank, the improvements seen there have translated into increased legitimacy worldwide. This change in standing can be seen in the willingness of the world to embrace the PA, witnessed in the past month by the still-growing list of South American countries granting recognition to a Palestinian state.
Hamas too has had its accomplishments. It can be argued that the flotilla incident of last year had more of an impact on drawing international attention to the Palestinian struggle than any action of the PA in recent years.
These are two Palestinian governments with two different strategies of fighting the decades-long Israeli occupation, both on the ground and in the international arena. The PA is fighting with non-violent and diplomatic tools to bring legitimacy to the Palestinian people and government. Hamas continues to fight with traditional tools of violence, providing the world with constant images of an oppressed people living under violent occupation. The two strategies seem to be complementing each other.
Hamas’ role as underdog, seldom-embraced violent resistance movement against the full force of Israel’s army and air force constantly reminds the world of the Palestinian people’s suffering under military occupation. In the West Bank, the ever more legitimate government and weekly non-violent resistance actions give the world something they can feel comfortable supporting. The split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank is working for the Palestinians.
Although no meaningful peace deal can ever be reached with only one of the two Palestinian factions, the situation resulting from the physical, political and tactical cleavages along with the two-pronged strategy within Palestinian society is creating more international support for Palestine than has ever been seen.