Divide and rule policy

Ramzy Baroud

DIVISION within Palestinian society has reached unprecedented levels, becoming a major hurdle on the path of any unified strategy to end Israel’s violent occupation or to rally Palestinians behind a single objective. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman understands this too well. His tactic since his ascension to office last May is centred on investing more in these divisions as a way to break down Palestinian society even further. Lieberman is an “extremist,” even if compared with the low standards of the Israeli military.
His past legacy was rife with violent and racist declarations. His more recent exploits include taking on the late Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s most celebrated poet. He went as far as comparing Darwish’s poetry — which advocates the freedom of his people — to Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf.” But, of course, this is not Lieberman’s most outrageous statement. Lieberman’s past provocations are plenty. Fairly recently, in 2015, he threatened to behead with an ax Palestinian citizens of Israel if they are not fully loyal to the “Jewish state,” advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and made a death ultimatum to former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
Outrageous statements aside, Lieberman’s latest ploy, however, is the most outlandish yet. Israel’s defense minister is planning to color-code Palestinian communities in the Occupied West Bank, dividing them into green and red, where green is “good” and red is “bad;” accordingly, the former shall be rewarded for their good behavior, while the latter collectively punished, even if just one member of that community dares to resist the Israeli Occupation Army.
A version of this plan was attempted nearly 40 years ago, but utterly failed. The fact that such appalling thinking is occurring well into the 21st century without being accompanied by international uproar is baffling. Lieberman’s color-codes will be accompanied by a campaign to resurrect the “Village Leagues,” another failed Israeli experiment to impose an “alternative” Palestinian leadership by “engaging” Palestinian “notables,” not democratically-elected leaders. Lieberman’s solution is to manufacture a leadership, which, like the Village Leagues of the 1970s and 80s, will, most certainly, be regarded as collaborators and traitors by the wider Palestinian society. But what is the “Village Leagues” exactly and will it work this time around?
In October 1978, elected Palestinian mayors, joined by town councilors and various nationalist institutions, began a campaign of mass mobilization under the umbrella of the National Leadership Committee, whose main objective was to challenge the Camp David Treaty — signed between Egypt and Israel — and its political consequences of marginalizing Palestinians. At the time, the movement was the most elaborate and united network of Palestinians ever assembled in the occupied territories. Israel immediately cracked down on the mayors, union leaders and nationalists of various professional institutions. The national response was insisting on the unity of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, among Christians and Muslims, and Palestinians at home and in “shattat,” or Diaspora. The Israeli response was equally firm. Starting July 2, 1980, an assassination campaign against the democratically elected mayors ensued.
From Lieberman’s viewpoint, the opportunity must be ripe for refining and re-imposing the “Village Leagues.” Whether it works in its original form or fails, it makes no difference, since the idea is to engender further division amongst Palestinians, sow social chaos, political conflict and, perhaps, duplicate Gaza’s brief civil war in the summer of 2007. The international community should totally reject such archaic plans and destructive thinking and force Israel to adhere to international law, human rights and respect the democratic choices of the Palestinian people.
— Courtesy: Arab News

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