The Palestinian Political Crisis?
By Jamal Juma'
23 June, 2007
West Bank and Gaza are in disarray, constitutional chaos, contradicting
authorities and cross accusations. Yet, as the tensions in the streets
simmer down, the most surprising thing is that anybody out there in
the world can be surprised at all. The foundations of what has happened
in Gaza and the West Bank in the last weeks were laid long ago –
and it was the Israeli occupation and the US and Europe who were the
The question where the responsibility
lies, with Hamas or Fatah, is thus utterly out of place. The real plotters
of the current situation are Israel, the US and Europe.
The latest round started almost one and a half years ago when the Palestinian
people voted in the elections for the legislative council against the
party the Occupation and the international community expected them to
vote for. The aims of the West and the occupation were immediately clear:
Palestinian democracy (which miraculously worked even under conditions
of brutal occupation) had to be destroyed and Hamas was not to be governing
the PA, whatever the movement might state or compromise on. The plans
to get there might have developed only over the following months.
Almost instantly, sanctions
have been imposed on the Palestinian people. They should have been starved
until they revolt against the forces they had just elected. The scheme
– evidently – didn’t work out as Palestinians never
fought for bread but for their rights and have never been willing to
exchange the UN sacks of wheat with the right to return to their homes
and statehood. To instigate the revolt, strikes of the public services
have been organized by the Fatah movement asking for salaries. Yet,
it was evident that the strikes were not coming from the people, who
had just voted Fatah out of power because of the political and financial
corruption many leaders of the movement are considered to have succumbed
to. The strikes had thus no relevant impact on the political set up.
They had one affect: after months of all PNA offices being completely
paralyzed and life going on as usual, dictated by the Occupation’s
random rules, it became clear that the PNA is not governing anything
and in practical terms is a completely redundant body.
But behind the scenes more
hideous and sophisticated plans have been developed that furthermore
aim to use the current Palestinian political set up to achieve the overall
aims of Israel: the substitution of the two-state solution with a Bantustan
rule for Palestinians divided into 4 major ghettos on not more than
12 % of historic Palestine, each of them separated from the other.
The first steps towards this
reality had already been undertaken during the Oslo period. Gaza has
been completely isolated from the West Bank and increasingly from the
rest of the world. The redeployment from Gaza in August 2005 has further
evidenced the Zionist scheme of a complete division between the West
Bank (or what will remain from it) and the open air prison to which
Gaza has been transformed.
Gaza has become a veritable
laboratory for the West Bank. Slowly even the 50 % of the West Bank
– not much more than the Palestinian built up areas – that
are to become the three ghettos surrounded by the Apartheid Wall are
isolated from each other and from the rest of the world. Recent announcements
that soon access to the southern ghetto including Bethlehem and Hebron
will be regulated by a separated visa are further underlining the institutional
process that is going hand in hand with the facts created on the ground.
The results of the Palestinian
elections had little or no effect on this “unilateral disengagement”
or Bantustanization of Palestine. They evidently put in doubt the possibility
for the occupation to have a malleable Palestinian leadership willing
to reign peacefully over the ghettos. Yet, they opened the way for a
vicious plan to disband a unified Palestinian National Authority that
in the case of the Bantustanization of Palestine would have been more
of hindrance than of use.
The existence of such a plan
has long since been no secret. In the streets of the West Bank and Gaza,
in the taxis and in the living rooms, people were talking about it.
The international news agencies carried the news. The Occupation, the
US, the EU and some docile Arab leaders were plotting to overthrow the
Hamas government (and later the National Unity government) and to conduct
the Palestinian leadership – against the will of the people –
into the hands of Abu Mazen and the most discredited wing of the Fatah
That Israel and the international
community were planning such a coup was evident long before the "Action
Plan for the Palestinian Presidency", a 16 page secret document
detailing the steps to disauthorize the Palestinian parliament and government
and thus Hamas, was leaked to a Jordanian newspaper Al Majd.
When it became evident that
sanctions would not make the Palestinians bow to the will of Israel
and the West, the political tensions had to be escalated. Al Fatah leaders
such as Muhammad Dahlan were buoyoned since the elections by the fact
that they could expect any possible support to defeat Hamas.
Clashes have been provoked and both sides, Hamas and Fatah, engaged
in a lethal tit for tat that cost many lives. Internet cafes went up
in flames, streets were controlled by militias. In addition, weapons
of all kinds were procured by the US for Muhammad Dahlan and his allies
in Gaza. Arms, including small scale tanks, have been found in his ransacked
“preventive security” offices. They had passed through Israeli
or EU controlled border crossings. Special corps for Dahlan have been
trained in Egypt and another 500 are still waiting in Yemen after having
been trained there for guerrilla warfare.
Hamas was trapped. They believed
they either had to act or to accept that forces were building up to
literally wipe out their power in Gaza. Thus - they argue - they took
the step to eradicate Dahlan and his plots from the Gaza Strip at a
time when most of the leaders were outside and his military logistics
were not yet ready to respond by provoking an extenuating civil war.
In the Machiavellian logic of power, better to loose the West Bank via
a take over of the Gaza Strip than to loose both to Dahlan and international
Had anybody thought first about the cause of Palestine and its people
and then about the interests of factional power, maybe we could have
avoided getting to the stage we are at now. Here lies the grave responsibility
of our political leadership: in not preventing a coup, not in orchestrating
In fact, the present situation
could hardly be more favourable for Israel and the US government. The
Palestinian political structures in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank
appear split. Neither of the Palestinian political factions that are
accusing each other of orchestrating a coup have actually gained any
power. Hamas is completely trapped within an open air prison with no
control over borders, access or any other means to keep the population
alive. Dahlan and his allies have fled to the West Bank and are now
facing a political Fatah leadership that is not at all willing to stay
under his command and has even issued a public statement calling for
him to be tried in court. The call for escalation in the West Bank issued
by Dahlan to make up for the defeat in Gaza has been only heeded in
Meanwhile the Action Plan
for the Palestinian Presidency continues. Abu Mazen is now “legitimately”
the only internationally recognized Palestinian leader. A new government
has been formed and immediately backed by the world. Sanctions have
been lifted to overload the new “government” with funds.
Once again, the world thinks it can buy the surrender of the Palestinian
people with its money.
No doubt, the whole Palestinian cabinet together would have gotten not
more than a hand full of votes in any Palestinian election. But on this
point who cares? The prime minister is now Salam Fayyad, loyal son of
the World Bank and willing to implement the economic steps to ensure
the Bank’s plans for the sustainability of the ghettos will be
implemented and Palestinian dispossessed farmers are adequately exploited
in the Israeli sweatshops constructed on their confiscated lands. Next
to him are all those that have signed up to normalization with Israel
long ago. The world has finally overcome the problem of Palestinian
democracy and popular will when dealing with its “leaders”.
If this looks bad, the way
ahead seems even more worrying.
Ehud Barak, the one that
first proposed a wall to be built in the West Bank and the leader of
the Labour party, has become defense minister and his first proposal
was an invasion into Gaza. After watching the Occupation create an even
worse humanitarian situation and commit further massacres, the international
community and some Arab countries would probably then come forth to
“save” Gaza and install an international force there to
take up the job the Occupation left behind. Hamas would continue to
claim its rule over Gaza and de facto reigning over not much more than
the rubbish collection in the overcrowded strip.
In the West Bank, Abu Mazen
is more and more inclined to dissolve the whole PNA and the collateral
problems of democracy. Doing away with the PNA and calling upon the
PLO to take over its place could be a possible option Abu Mazen is considering.
The PLO could then adopt the Emergency government and confer upon it
a semblance of democracy. Hamas, not being part of the PLO, would be
bypassed by the historic body of Palestinian leadership and all those
Palestinian parties that are now cut out from the power game would be
appeased via their representation in the PLO. They would then maybe
help to shore up support a “reformed” Emergency government.
The international community would be more than gratified with the “solution”.
This step would further cement the divide between the West Bank and
Gaza but, more importantly, calling in the PLO to come to save the Bantustans
would disfigure even the last Palestinian political body that held together
the Palestinian struggle in its core principles of liberation of our
land and return for our refugees.
Early elections, called for
by the minor political parties in Palestine in the hope to gain a space
in the political power game, are practically off the table. It is rather
improbable that Gaza would join in the elections and West Bank elections
are not an option. Further, Fatah in the current situation is less than
ever prepared to run and win the polls.
The way to get out of the
political disaster created in the West Bank and Gaza is neither clear
The Palestinian people will
have to create the strength to take their struggle in their own hands
again. As a Palestinian grassroots movement we have to contribute to
the reshaping and development of our struggle, protecting it from being
divided, hijacked or deviated. We have to shift the confrontation back
to the Occupation. The real struggle of the Palestinian people cannot
be about who will be in charge of a “National Authority”
which de facto wields no authority over the land and its people anyway.
It is the walls, checkpoints, prisons and the entire Israeli occupation
with its racist policies that has to become the target once again.
In order to be able to continue
our national struggle with the necessary determination, we have to talk
to each other as Palestinians. We have to find unity among the different
political expressions, based on the will of the people that continue
their resistance and steadfastness on the ground and on the founding
principles of our struggle based on our rights to self-determination,
land and return.
We have to evaluate the past
and the dynamics that led us to the situation we are in now. Since the
signing of the Oslo agreements almost 15 years ago, how did our struggle
and leadership develop? How could we accept to trap our struggle in
the stranglehold of international governments and donors? Finally, we
have to come up with a shared political vision of our aims and strategies
as a people. Only on this basis we can legitimately talk to the world
and effectively face the occupation. Today, some are still dreaming
about a two state solution while a “three state solution”
of isolated Bantustans is to be cemented on the ground. Instead, the
only option that can provide us with a framework that respects human
and national rights still consists in the creation of a single democratic
state for all.
However, the recent developments
on the ground in Palestine - more than highlighting a crisis in Palestinian
leadership - have laid bare the full extend of the international community’s
involvement in a veritable coup demanded by the Occupation against any
national and united Palestinian leadership. It shows more than ever
the need to stop international support to the Occupation.
It is thus up to all those
that are able to understand and believe in the rights of the Palestinian
people to continue working on your societies and governments to create
the necessary fissures and rifts between the Occupation and its international
This will help to create the spaces needed to reconstruct our struggle
but foremost, it is a moral and political imperative for all those that
do not want to be complicit with the crimes against our people.
You should hold your governments
accountable for abusing your tax money and your votes to overthrow other
people’s democratic choices. Maybe, if the world had respected
the Palestinian democratic choice and had given Hamas a chance that
would have avoided us the current escalation. Hamas was ready to be
integrated at the table of the international community. But had the
West opted to deal with the Palestinian democratic choices, this would
have necessarily been a sign to the Occupation that the Palestinian
people, their will and rights do matter. It would have created inherently
limits to the Occupation’s wanton destruction of our lives and
land. Thus, the international community never considered this an option;
they preferred their complete disregard for the democracy they are apparently
calling for to be openly shown to the world. The values of democracy
have been further plundered
It’s further worth
asking those that consider Hamas a politically not acceptable party,
whether governments planning and financing coups and occupations around
the world are more “politically correct” and those that
delegitimize Fatah as horrendously corrupt whether your foreign offices
are after all any better. If they are truly against corruption they
would not legitimate immediately an illegitimate emergency government
formed by unrepresentative individuals and would not arm and finance
truly corrupted individuals
To all those that call for
negotiations and international mediation on Palestine, ask them whether
they seriously pretend that Palestinian can still be so blue eyed to
consider western powers as anything similar to balanced brokers? Now
that your governments have destroyed the already imperfect Palestinian
political set up there is really nobody to negotiate with anymore.
More than anything else,
however, the global efforts to build the movement for Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions have to be stepped up. In these dark days, the courageous
steps to adopt boycott undertaken by British unions such as the University
and College Union (UCU) and Unison, the public service union, are truly
well-needed signs that there is a hope that unconditional international
support for Israeli occupation and apartheid can end. Through the collective
efforts of the struggle of the people and solidarity of civil society
all over the world it has been possible to stop the plans of Bantustanization
in South Africa. We can reach the same power once again to gain the
liberation of Palestine and the return of our refugees.
is the Coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall
Campaign - www.stopthewall.org
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