www ISR
For ISR updates, send us your Email Address

Back to home page

International Socialist Review Issue 32, November–December 2003

End of the Road Map

By Toufic Haddad

Toufic Haddad lives in the West Bank town of Ramallah and is co-editor of the journal Between the Lines, available online at

ON OCTOBER 4, 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into a Haifa restaurant and detonated an explosive device that killed 19 people and wounded scores more. The attack, claimed by the Islamic Jihad, revealed once again the failure of Israel’s policies to squelch Palestinian military attacks and resistance despite its use of overwhelming force and its colonialist polices disguised as "defensive measures." This includes the construction of the 360 kilometers [216 miles] of walls throughout the West Bank, said to "keep the suicide bombers out," but which in reality merely cage the Palestinians in and facilitate the confiscation of more Palestinian lands and water resources.

But the Haifa attack revealed more than just the futility of Israeli "security" measures. Within hours of the attack, the identity of the bomber was revealed to be Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer-in-training from the West Bank city of Jenin which only two days before the attack had been under complete curfew for more than one week (and as of the writing of these lines has been under curfew for an additional six days). It was additionally revealed that Jaradat’s brother and cousin (who was also her fiancé) were executed by an Israeli death squad in their family home on June 10, after being arrested.

The suicide bombing did more than just highlight Israel’s inability to quell the resistance. Israel’s policies (which aim at nothing less than bringing the Palestinian people to their knees and forcing them to concede all their national rights to self-determination, an end to the occupation and for the right of return of refugees) have created an intractable Israeli dilemma–fueling Palestinian desires to resist indefinitely.

Little imagination is needed to get a sense of the thought process which led Hanadi Jaradat to take the decision she did when she approached the Islamic Jihad and said she wanted to conduct a suicide attack. One need only consider how she spent the last few months of her life living through the long intolerable days of summer curfew in Jenin in the same house where her loved ones were executed before her eyes. In Palestine, beneath the boot and tank treads of Israel’s policies to suppress the Intifada, and with no end in sight, death has become a way of life.

Perhaps this understanding filtered into Israel’s decision to attack what it alleged to be an Islamic Jihad training base a few kilometers outside of Damascus, Syria. Its traditional response to suicide bombings has been to wage attacks within the 1967 Occupied Territories or against Palestinian Authority (PA) or resistance leaders. Indeed, Israel justified its first attack against Syrian soil in 29 years within the well-established parameters of U.S. post—9-11 logic of the "war against terror"–"striking at terrorists and those who harbor them." It was also justified as an attempt to strike at "the heads of the snake" who "fund, organized, lead and train" those who conduct attacks.

Such justifications have been the predictable Israeli line, mindlessly repeated by the international media–that all Israeli attacks are a "response" to Palestinian attacks. Yet the reality on the ground belies the notion that Israel ever really "responds" to any attack. Every move of the Israeli government is made according to Zionist strategic and tactical aims. Palestinian resistance to Israel’s attempts at dispossessing the Palestinians and crushing their resistance to it, are always used as a pretext to further these same aims.

The eruption of the second Palestinian Intifada in September 2000 represented the wide-scale popular rejection of a "peace process" which was nothing more than the cover behind which Israel’s colonialist ambitions for the Occupied Territories were consolidated with American backing. It also represented the collapse of the effort to erect a Palestinian puppet regime that would guarantee Israeli military and settler security while administering the Palestinian affairs (thereby absolving the Israeli occupation authority of this task). This has been Israel’s consistent policy, upheld and implemented by both Labor and Likud governments since the beginning of the 1967 occupation. This policy was framed by the original conceptions of the Alon Plan, of which today’s Sharon Plan is a developed version. It includes the strategic Zionist objectives of maintaining the occupation, permanently incorporating the settlements and bypass roads into Israel and cantonizing the West Bank. The remains of the PA will be permitted to "pick up the pieces" and pay the salaries of public sector employees that supposedly "run" the daily civilian affairs of the Palestinians (paid for by local taxes, the EU and Japan)–if the Palestinians "behave."

With the outbreak of the Intifada, and especially since 9-11, Israel has switched gears regarding how it implemented these objectives. Tossing out the Oslo Plan, Israel sought to quickly escalate the situation on the ground, using the Palestinian resistance as a pretext for accelerating its plans.

This would not have been possible if it had not been for the weakened condition of Palestinian political, economic and social life which, when the Intifada broke out, had been greatly eroded in the Oslo years. Though it was clear that PA strategies for achieving Palestinian rights were failing miserably, the Palestinian opposition–divided along strategic, organizational and ideological lines–never consolidated forces or took up the challenge of constructing an alternative, or prepared social and political forces on the ground to meet the inevitable challenges that would arise upon the collapse of Oslo.

Thus, Israel was able to launch an all-out war on the Palestinian people, within the context of a Palestinian society that lacked the understanding, let alone the mechanism, to wage a unified counter-strategy.

The asymmetrical military conditions in the field between the fourth strongest military in the world and a largely defenseless Palestinian population armed with Kalashnikov rifles and bombs made from shampoo and fertilizer, inevitably brought rise to the phenomenon of the suicide operation, as witnessed on October 4 in Haifa. This was also the (un)natural result of the ideological bankruptcy and false conception of power held by Palestinian factions, which stressed military rather than sociopolitical, moral and organizational strength. Thus, within the asymmetrical conditions of Israel’s all-out-war, factions employed (be it enthusiastically, as in the case of the Islamist factions, or begrudgingly, as was the case with the centrist Fatah Party and parts of the Palestinian left) the tactic of suicide operations, touting it as a strength rather than a reflection of weakness.

Today, the situation in the Occupied Territories could not be more dire, as Israel’s plans have already forged a new reality. We have now reached a stage where the nature and borders of the eight future Palestinian cantons can clearly be defined, and some are already complete (Tulkarem, Jericho and Qalqiliya). This reality was recently addressed by Palestinian commentator Abdallah Awwad who, writing during the brief tenure of the now-resigned Abu Mazen government, mocked the "virtual" nature of PA maneuvering that disguises the poverty of the Palestinian political position:

The Authority has materially ended. The role of Abu Mazen’s government will not exceed the symbolic and will mean nothing on the ground where Palestinians can’t even move without the permission of the occupation.... Nothing remains of any security apparatus, or institutions or ministries. This is our reality which we are ignoring. The Authority is abstract, symbolic, as is the government, which has been transformed into something more similar to an NGO to administer the affairs of the people, in the midst of the obstacles thrown up by the occupation. It’s gotten to the point where we are kidding ourselves when we say that there is a government and a Legislative Council, and ministers and heads of security agencies and everything else. (Abdallah Awwad, "What is wanted for us," Al Ayyam, September 4, 2003.)

Awwad unknowingly exposes how Israel’s accomplishments, throughout the Intifada, are intimately connected to the Oslo framework. Originally construed as an autonomy plan, Oslo is now implemented not via the direct route (which envisioned a collaborationist Palestinian leadership accepting and legitimizing Israel’s "facts on the ground"), but via its "contingency plan." Once it was determined that the collaborationist leadership could not deliver the goods, Oslo’s pseudo-political content was done away with, while its civilian-administrative facets were permitted to remain, on the condition that the Palestinians "behave themselves."

This explains Sharon’s fixation on the expulsion, arrest or killing of Yasser Arafat. Israel’s (and the U.S. administration’s) incessant declarations that "Arafat is the problem" only serves to obfuscate the conflict through its embodiment in the personality of Arafat, rather than its correct contextualization–as a struggle between Palestinian and Arab nationalism against U.S. imperialism allied with Zionist colonialism. It is, however, cunningly carried out in line with Israel’s strategic objectives to remove any and all political (even symbolically political) content to the PA, whose role must be confined to fixing sewers and street lights. The attack on Arafat is not a question of whether a feeble and confined septuagenarian represents any real threat to Israel.

This is also why Sharon and Israel are not interested either in a cease-fire (as was proposed once again by the PA in the wake of the Haifa attack) nor in the erecting of any Palestinian political body–be it under former Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen (who resigned on September 6), or present Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (also known as Abu Ala), whose prospects were dead before they began. Ironically, both Abu Mazen and Abu Ala are known for their concessionary positions on the main questions facing Palestinians, (to say nothing of their financial corruption), and might seem to unfamiliar observers as ideal candidates for the unenviable position of Bantustan chiefs.

But the fact of the matter is that, for the time being, a political process or agreement is not in the works, either by Israel or by the Americans. The Road Map, as the ultimate U.S. apartheid-Bantustan solution, needs to be shelved for the moment until all resistance is liquidated and–in the now infamous words of Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ayalon–the Palestinian defeat is "burned into their consciousness" (Interview with Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz August 30, 2002).

The road to the Road Map still needs to be cultivated: The "concessionist" current among the Palestinians still needs to be further nurtured (to include elites from the PA political arena and security services, intellectuals and even NGO leaders). And Palestinian resistance forces and Palestinian society (which it should be said, do not look at the military cells entirely uncritically) still need to be ground down further until they are nothing more than human dust to be blown away by the winds of time, and ultimately, sheer force.

Indeed, now is the time for Israel’s disproportionate power to be flexed. (What good after all is power if it is not used?) This is the era of the tank and the bulldozer, which will forge a new reality on the ground (and hopefully in the mind) to make it clear to all those who would think otherwise, that "resistance is futile." The U.S. and its Zionist ally will accept nothing less than the submission of the entire Arab people (as a lesson to the world, publicly executed in the international media in Palestine and in Iraq). This will facilitate America’s imperial geo-strategic and economic objectives–control of oil, trade routes, pipelines, containment and toppling of "rogues," pushing out competitors, etc.–a true Pax Americana.

This is the context within which Israel’s dangerous and precedent-setting attack against Syria must be understood. Israel will no longer accept the current situation, where Palestinian military factions are able to deflate the security myth every two to three weeks with a suicide operation here and an attack on settlers or soldiers there. Israel is no longer satisfied with a long, drawn-out war that saps its economy and creates constant instability. This approach is still too slow for Israel. The Zionist establishment and military junta prefer to further expand Israel’s maneuverability by escalating the situation regionally. This is consistent with Israeli policy in the past, when it used wider regional wars–1956, 1967 and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon–to further its plans to occupy greater portions of historic Palestine and dispossess increasing numbers of Palestinians.

Tragically, the Palestinian reaction to these developments (to say nothing of the Arab reaction) remains characteristically confused and divided. The PA is engaged in a media spectacle of "forming an emergency government," with the new prime minister-designate Abu Ala, pointlessly begging for a joint cease-fire. At the same time, the factions remained unchanged in their positions, continuing to devote resources in developing a deeper more sophisticated underground resistance capable of surviving Israel’s increasingly brutal measures.

Yet neither seek to address the important and necessary issues which have perpetually weakened the Intifada, and indeed the entire national movement since the onset of Oslo, and which indirectly gave rise to the Intifada in its current form. These include the need for a centralized accountable democratic leadership to determine strategy and tactics in line with the socioeconomic, political and national rights of the Palestinian people. The task of this leadership must be to frame the Palestinian issue in its correct setting, as a fight against Zionist colonialism and U.S. imperialism, and to seek progressive strategies, mechanisms and allies in this fight. Instead, the response of the factions and the PA stem from principles of personal survival. They do little to mitigate the devastating consequences of Israel’s scorched-earth and colonization campaigns, let alone reassess the trajectory of the national movement and its problems. This does not bode well within the context of the new era heralded in by Israel’s strike against Syria.

Back to top