Hazem Saghieh

In confronting Israel, which strikes arbitrarily and stops at nothing, armed with superior lethal technology and international support that is overwhelming in both its scope and bias, the only slogan we should not raise is the one we are raising: “The enemy only understands the language of force.”

We should avoid it because, even if this were true, we do not have enough “force.” Rather, there is nothing we should seek to keep at bay and distance ourselves from more than force, because, in this region, the force is with Israel, not us. The sensible way to confront the Israeli killing machine is through civic resistance, presenting a better model, and betting on gradual accumulation. As for those awaiting quick results that they believe force would yield, they should look at the dire current balance of power. They should notice how our use of force has always led to a change in the balance of power, but by making it far more favorable to Israel.

True, the rage one feels in the heat of the moment makes it tempting to stick to the model we are currently committed to, that of using force. It is also true that resisting the temptation to do so in the face of the Israelis’ horrific acts is difficult. However, our reason and the knowledge we have accumulated through experience should make it tempting to renounce force once and for all.

The success of “Al-Aqsa Flood” does not make the use of force the strong wager that so many believe it to be today, as 9/11 was no less stunning and successful. Moreover, Iran’s weapons will not suffice because, at the end of the day, they are no match for those of the US.

This caution against relying on force is driven by concern for the people of Gaza and all the rest of us in this powerless region. This is not, as some petty fools claim, an untimely attempt to poke at the wounds of the victims; rather, it is a timely poke at the wounds of our history, which we cannot avoid constantly reexamining. Irrational foolhardiness has always led our pursuit of justice, and a foreign actor with dubious motives has always exploited our rage and rash impulses. Regardless of the good intentions, this recklessness, in terms of its victims and costs, might not be any less harmful than Israel’s evil itself.

It is profoundly indicative that, as the Palestinians seek figures to represent their cause today, they cannot find a single politician among their many fighters. Instead, they find politicians among the “collaborators of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah” with its ambassadors and intellectuals. Meanwhile, protests in reaction to the bombing of the Baptist hospital are more effective than Hamas’s rockets, and perhaps even more capable of changing the decisions of Israel’s military.

The death and destruction in Gaza, especially the deaths of its children, urgently demand a shift from the use of force to the pursuit of politics. More concretely, this means demanding a cessation of hostilities, allowing the entry of humanitarian aid, ending forced displacement, freeing the hostages, and laying the groundwork for elections that allow for the emergence of legitimate authorities that speak for the residents and defend their rights. It also means continuously working to restore the Palestinian unity that Hamas shattered in 2007.

Without respectable states and elected bodies, achieving anything serious becomes difficult. Is it reasonable, after everything that has happened, to keep the population at the mercy of a militant group whose popularity is in doubt? It can drag this population to the guillotine whenever it wants, without discussing the reasons with anyone. Worse, we must pledge allegiance to this faction and share our enthusiasm for its actions to avoid accusations of treason.

This phenomenon goes beyond Gaza. Is it right that in Lebanon, for example, we find ourselves struggling to solve the mystery of whether or not we will enter this war without knowing whether the decision will be made in Beirut’s southern suburbs or Tehran, and that we have no right to question this decision because the party behind it has taken the view that it must fight?

The fact is that our modern history is, in a sense, a history of swinging between the flames of two disasters: armed factions forced on populations and rabid Israeli strikes. In the face of these opposite poles, we possess nothing but impotence or zeal; we have no tools that allow us to change this nihilistic dichotomy!

Nothing will allow us to escape this state of affairs but a shift away from force and violence to politics and an effort to create a model. As for the solutions suggested by anger – and we all have a right to be angry – they lead to more disasters and fewer achievements. This applies on several levels, from canceling the Amman Summit to boycotting the Frankfurt Book Fair. While the decisions to cancel and boycott in protest of bias and injustice are understandable, consolidating them and turning them into an approach will not yield better results than they did in the past. That is the case because the strong can leave an impact if they boycott and withdraw their attendance; as for the weak, they must develop effective policies to draw a ring around the strength of the strong or undercut it.

In turn, expanding the war and opening the borders, as the protesters have called for, would be nothing more than treating the symptoms with larger doses of the same disease. It would give Israel back its image of a country being aggressed by the neighbors surrounding it, as well as leading to an explosion of civil strife on the streets, at least in Lebanon and Jordan. It could be the end of these two countries, and it could take the Palestinians back to where they had been before the establishment of their national authority, which would be disastrous, no matter how meager this authority seems. It would leave a question hanging in the air: what comes after the expansion of the war?

We have had enough of the discoveries that “the world is unfair” and that “Israel and the US have shown us their true colors.” The time has come for us to discover how we whose weakness turns us into mere zeros on our planet, can protect our children, in this oppressive world, from death at the hands of the Israelis.