Over the pat weeks the world has witnessed a scattered, complicit and futile reaction by a majority of Arab leaders to Israel’s ongoing slaughtering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Arab League continued in its history of inconsequential emergency meetings while leading Arab nations bickered about Turkey’s role in the Middle East while doing nothing themselves. The fragmentation so vividly embodied in the Palestinian experience- today primarily between Hamas and Fatah- are reflected elsewhere in the Arab world; it is the added trial of occupation that bloats ideological differences in the Palestinian case.
Thursday January 1st Israel bombed the house of Nizar Rayyan, along with his four wives and nine children. Rayyan, a prominent Hamas leader had earlier in the day made statements that he and his family would not desert their home despite Israel’s warning to bomb it. Hours later, the entire family of 14 was extra-judicially executed. When Israel began its ground incursions January 3rd it dropped leaflets in neighborhoods in Northern Gaza commanding the civilian population to flee their homes. The Mahmoud family decided if they were going to die, they preferred to die in their home, rather than while they were fleeing in the streets. Four days later on Wednesday January 7th Israel bombed a UN school, just meters away from the Mahmouds home that was being used for shelter by the very civilians that Israel had told to hide for shelter from the Israeli ground incursions. 42 died instantly, scores injured. Raed Mahmoud- father of the family and a harsh Hamas critics- had been walking near the school when Israel carried out the massacre. He stated, “Hamas fired nothing from the area, it is all lies.” Dr Attallah Tarazi, a Christian doctor in the Shifaa hospital in Gaza City disclosed January 6th that every single one of the cases he had tended to that day had been civilians, mostly women and children. Such blatant assault on human beings has brought about outrage across all spectrums of Palestinian society.
In light of Israel’s vast military capabilities, Rayyan’s death as the first and last Hamas leader killed five days into the start of Israel’s military onslaught, revealed Israel’s indiscriminate killing spree in the Gaza Strip. There are reports coming from Gaza of unified Palestinian humanitarian efforts, in this time of death political distinctions are fading away. In recent days pictures have revealed unified Hamas-Fatah funerals in Gaza. Moreover, during the last weeks the world has witnessed unprecedented joint political protests staged in the West Bank- a first in a long time including MPs of all political factions including Fatah and Hamas. The high death toll, injuries and destruction of an entire society is simultaneously a solidifying factor in the Palestinian national narrative that has potential to unify a deeply divided community. In recent days even the West Bank leadership- so deeply opposed to Hamas- has been forced to condemn Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including those carried out against Hamas. Throughout history war and death have been necessary dimensions in the formation of national identities. As Israel attempts to solidify its national narrative, it is unintentionally- its underlying goal remains divide and conquer- uniting Palestinians under its undiscriminating military onslaught on Gaza.
In a recent press conference Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moalim declared that the situation needed to “return to normal” in Gaza. Yet, what is “normal” in Gaza? Was the situation “normal” prior to this latest vicious military invasion? Is 85% of Palestinians reliant on humanitarian aid to survive “normal”? Are sealed borders surrounding a population of 1.5 million “normal”? The world must call for Gaza to live again, to have its borders opened, its leaders recognized. Meanwhile Palestinians need to overcome their political divisions. Maybe the same poison that has so deeply divided Palestinians- Israel- will also inadvertently unite them again. One single source is often the poison that kills as well as the remedy that heals.