Amidst the rockets and the propaganda, it is the dialogue around the ceasefire that shows us how we got here.
Secretary of State John Kerry has flown to the Middle East in order to quell the bleeding in Palestine.
Should a ceasefire be procured – it would take an act of sorcery for such an event to happen within the next week – it will not be the first witnessed since Operation Protective Edge. Earlier this month, it was reported that a ceasefire had been agreed upon. Hamas, it was claimed, immediately broke the ceasefire. However, as Yonatan Mendel, writing from Israel for The London Review of Books said, “in order to violate a ceasefire, one needs first to have agreed the conditions. Hamas never did. The broker of the non-agreement was Abd al-Fatteh al-Sisi, an enemy of the Hamas regime who has vowed to destroy it and took no account of Hamas’s demands”. Hamas reportedly found out about the broken ceasefire on the radio.
So it came to be that the ceasefire to stop the conflict between Gaza and Israel was brokered by Egypt and Israel. We arrive here, again, history repeating itself as miniscule parody: the occupier and a third party deciding the fate of the occupied. Once again, the Palestinians left uninvited to the dinner party attended by their detractors, downstairs.
Hamas called the ceasefire “worthless”. Which, of course, it is. The voice of the Palestinian people does not find a tongue in the Egyptian government; it does not even find the remnants of an echo. Egypt cannot speak for the Palestinians. It does not. It should not. Despite this obvious fallacy in the ceasefire agreements, Netanyahu signalled the end of diplomacy, saying that Hamas had “shut the door to diplomatic solutions”. Solutions they, nor any Palestinian entity, were present at.
Hamas has proposed its own requirements for a ceasefire, though they will surely be ignored, even with John Kerry attempting to fly to the rescue. The militant group wants, demands, a lifting of the brutal and crippling ceasefire on Gaza which has been in effect since 2006. Toys and even at one point paper, have been disallowed entrance to Gaza; to say nothing of the unthinkable economic restraints it places on the people of Gaza. Water is scarce. Food too. While Hamas does not speak for all of Palestine, not even a majority – their popularity had been decreasing throughout the Gaza strip – the call to lift the siege is almost universally supported by Palestinians. Even President Abbas, so often nothing but a US puppet, stands behind Hamas in this call for justice. That these are the demands of the Palestinians, makes the inclusion of Egypt all the more shocking considering its collusion in the siege of Gaza and its closing of the Rafah border.
What is important in these ceasefire discussions is that Palestine is represented. It does not have to be Hamas, nor perhaps should it be – many of the decisions made by Hamas are deplorable. But a voice is required to give these discussions some merit.
Unfortunately Operation Protective Edge is only truly about silencing the Palestinians. From the Israeli police spokesperson Mickey Rosenfeld, tweeted my Jon Donison, it trickled out yesterday that the killing of the three kidnapped Israeli kids was conducted by men “not operating under the leadership of Hamas”. A revelation that contradicts the declared motives of the operation. What Israel is doing is simply, “mowing the lawn” of Hamas; one that grew too long when the unity government was declared in June.
This silencing of a Palestinian voice fits Edward Said’s diagnosis of the Israeli strategy of preventing the Arab Palestinian “from ever acquiring a national conscious”. 35 years after that diagnosis we can see the manifestation of this strategy. First, in the bloody response of Israel to the formation of a unity government – a step towards a greater national consciousness – and then, secondly, in the removal of any national voice from the ceasefire discussions.
There is a story by the Palestinian writer Ghassan Khanafia called Rijal Fil Shams (Men in the Sun) which takes on something of a parable in the light of the ceasefire discussions. The story ends with three men in a trunk being transported across the desert. Edward Said describes the end as such, “the three of them are left in the trunk for too long as the inspection is being negotiated. Under the sun the three men die of suffocation, unable even to give a sign of their presence.”
Note: a 12-hour truce was announced on saturday. While a step in the right direction, it does not necessarily lead to a complete ceasefire anytime soon. Israel had previously stated that it was to “expand” its ground operation in the coming days.