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Friday, July 27, 2007

Palestinians -Gotterdammerung or just plain Damned?

As Ronny Shaked tells us in Ynet, Palestinian national movement faces deep crisis over Fatah-Hamas rift . Perhaps there is not much here that you didn't know, but it is worth pondering. Does the Hamas/Fateh split mean the end of the Palestinian dream, or does it mean the end of the peace process only? Is it an opportunity for Israel and the West or is it just a trap? Is it a justification for Israel to hold on to remaining territories in the West Bank, or a warning that if the occupation continues, the West Bank will fall into the hands of the Hamas, and perhaps the "East Bank" (Jordan) as well?
Anti-Zionist critics have already perversely ascribed the split to Israel of course. In the Middle ages, there was a school of thought that ascribed every evil event to the Jew, including and especially plagues and war. In the Middle East there is a school of thought that attributes every evil event to Israel. It is Israel's fault in the following ways: First, Israel supposedly "encouraged" the Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO. So Israel is at fault for helping the Hamas, they claim. Then Israel persecuted the poor Hamas by killing the nice Mr. Achmed Yassin, and the very nice Mr. Rantissi, wich made the Hamas people very desperate. Until then they were great humanitarians.
Then Israel did not give enough concessions to Mr. Abbas. Israel had the strange idea that if it would give arms to Mr. Abbas, they would end up in the hands of the Fateh, and the even stranger idea that if it made too many concessions to the Fateh, and withdrew from parts of the territories. Hamas would take over Palestinian society.  Then Israel refused to negotiate its surrender with the Hamas or to recognize the Hamas government, for the trivial nitpicking reason that the Hamas want to wipe out Israel.  No matter that Hamas have declared repeatedly that they will never make peace with Israel. Israel must make peace with Israel, and it is clear to anti-Zionists that all Israeli complaints that there is no peace partner are simply excuses to occupy the territories and fill them with all those Jewish religious fanatics from Brooklyn. The occupation, they tell us, is what caused the rise of the Hamas, notwithstanding the fact that the Hamas came to power only after Israel had ended the occupation in Gaza.
The Hamas-Fateh split was probably inevitable from the day that Yasser Arafat died. In any case, as Hamas always vowed that they would never recognize Israel, the split had to come sooner or later if the Fateh/PLO were serious about negotiating peace with Israel.
Here is the text of Ronny Shaked's very interesting report.

Wakseh – this is the new political term prevalent on the Palestinian street.

Following the Nakba (the 1948 defeat and the State of Israel's establishment) and the Naksa (the 1967 defeat,) the Palestinian split and the disconnection from the Gaza Strip are being referred to as "Wakseh". The word means humiliation, ruin, and collapse as a result of self-inflicted damage.

The term expresses the great downfall of the Palestinian national movement and Palestine's division into two ideological camps – the national camp and the Islamic camp.

The latest term, Wakseh, joins a series of political terms that have been etched into the collective Palestinian conscience and memory. In the Arab tradition, Wakseh is worse than Naksa because it is not caused by an external enemy, but rather, constitutes a self-inflicted wound that is almost akin to suicide.

In national terms, the Wakseh has brought Palestinians to one of the worst low points in their history. The Palestinian national movement has regressed 50 years to the reality of 1948-1967. It is back to a period of Palestinian geographical dispersal in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian diaspora in Arab countries, an era of national disintegration and focus on a daily struggle for personal survival.


'Catastrophic situation'

This time the split is ideological: The Hamas movement aspires to unite the West Bank and Gaza under the banner of Islam, while Fatah wants them united under the banner of democracy. This unification will apparently have to wait for many years.

The Wakseh has left the Palestinian street depressed and hopeless. Public life has collapsed and the average Palestinian is occupied with personal survival.

The Fatah movement, which started disintegrating following Arafat's death, has collapsed and shattered. Its leaders are still members of the "old Tunisian guard" – Mahmoud Abbas and his group. The changing of the guard between generations has skipped over the Palestinians. The transitional generation is tired and broken. The Fatah young guard no longer exists.

"We are facing a catastrophic situation," says Kadura Fares, who can still be referred to as one of the leaders of Fatah's transitional generation. Marwan Barghouti has turned into a savior and messiah, yet even if he is released from prison it is highly doubtful whether he would be able to heal the Palestinian rift.

Abbas, who is counting the days to the end of his term in office, did not appoint a successor but continues to talk about an agreement and a diplomatic solution, as if nothing happened to the Palestinians.

He keeps repeating the usual mantras: An independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return, and removal of the settlements. In practice, he is no more than the ruler of the Muqata, the government compound in Ramallah.

'Days of mourning'

Abbas' government is replete with ministers of tourism, transportation, agriculture, and other important ministries. Yet everything is virtual. The Palestinians in the Territories refer to the Salem Fayyad government as the "government of salaries."

Indeed, the Palestinian Treasury has enough money to pay salaries for many months to come. The Western world, which views radical Islam as the enemy, blindly follows Abbas' declarations and continues to hand over large sums of money. Abbas sends the money to Gaza and helps stabilize the Hamas rule there.

Muhammad from Jabaliya doesn't care who pays his salary – Abbas or Haniyeh, Israel or Iran. For him, the important thing is that the money arrives and enables him to buy food for his children.

Meanwhile, the Hamas rule in Gaza is stabilizing, partly thanks to the money Israel has transferred to Abbas, who proceeded to transfer it to more than 100,000 Gazans in the form of monthly salaries.

Hamas is conducting itself very wisely. Law and order prevails, there are no weapons on the streets besides the ones held by government forces, and no clan disputes. Even the market stalls at Palestine Square have been removed, and traffic is flowing.

The introduction of Islam by the regime is being undertaken at a slow pace, but consistently and with determination. Hamas has no shortage of money either, and it pads the pockets of its new supporters with welfare and aid funds.

Gaza residents have become used to Hamas and do not miss the corrupt Fatah officials. More than any other nation, the Palestinians are able to quickly adapt to changing situations.

One of the leaders of the transitional generation of what is left of Fatah, who asked to remain anonymous, told us with great sadness and pain: "The Wakseh took us back 50 years. National hope has been lost. Those are days of mourning."


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