Analysis: So, violence works

By Daoud Kuttab, November 26, 2009

If you ever want a single case that can illustrate all the sources of disagreement in the Middle East, all you need to do is look at the emerging Shalit prisoner exchange deal.

Legally Israel refuses to recognise as prisoners of war over 10,000 prisoners it is holding, because that assumes that there is a war in the region.

Nor does it accept that they are protected individuals to whom the Geneva Convention applies. The Convention regulates how an occupying power is supposed to deal with civilians under its occupation.

Israel does not accept that it is an occupying power. Palestinians consider their lands occupied and demand an Israeli end to the occupation so that they can establish a Palestinian state in accordance with international commitments.

Palestinians consider their prisoners political prisoners or liberation fighters, Israel considers them terrorists who do not deserve the same rights and equal treatment it gives to civilian inmates.

Israel blasts Hamas for not allowing the International Red Cross to visit their prisoner. The vast majority of the families of the Palestinian prisoners are denied visiting rights because you need special permits to enter Israel, where they are held in violation of the Geneva Convention.

Israel propagandists decry the fact that Israel is trading hundreds of Palestinians for one Israeli. But Israel regularly arrests as many Palestinians as it wants every day, holding many without trial or charge. They also point out the lopsided number of Palestinians killed in Gaza (over 1,000) compared to the nearly 10 Israelis that were killed (some from friendly fire).

Politically the exchange leaves many questions unanswered. Both Israel and Hamas refuse to recognise each other, yet they have both found it convenient to negotiate via third parties (Germany and Egypt).

Palestinians complain that Israel rewards the aggressive, radical Hamas while denying the moderates. Also the request to release Marwan Barghouti — a well known and rather moderate Fatah leader — is denied while the tough actions of Hamas have resulted in the exit of Israel from the Gaza strip and the acquiescence to the prisoner exchange.

The moral of the story is that violence brings better results than non-violence.

Palestinians are looking forward to the day when all prisoners are released, not in an exchange that is forced on Israel but rather as a result of making the wrong right, ending the occupation and allowing an independent Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010