Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the European Parliament on the situation of people in Gaza. He said that Israel should be held responsible for the carnage.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the European Parliament on the situation of people in Gaza. He said that Israel should be held responsible for the carnage.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
15:30 Mecca time, 12:30 GMT
Abbas: 90,000 Gazans left homeless
Abbas told the European parliament that Israel should not be allowed to act 'above the law'
At least 90,000 Palestinians have lost their homes as a result of Israel's war on Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has told the European parliament in France.
Abbas told politicians gathered in Strasbourg on Wednesday that Israeli blockades and illegal settlement expansion have continued, and called for Israel to answer for its activities.
"We should no longer deal with Israel as a state above the law, above all accountability, above international law," Abbas said.
"We should put an end to this policy. Israeli leaders should be held accountable for their violations of international and humanitarian law," he added, to applause from European parliament members.
Abbas' speech came shortly after he held talks with the president of the European parliament.
The Palestinian president, who also leads the Fatah party, met Hans Gert Pottering to discuss Palestinian reconciliation, the crisis in Gaza and the Middle East peace process.
Abbas' visit to Strasbourg is part of a European tour which will include visits to Britain, Italy, Turkey and Poland.
"It is no longer acceptable to negotiate on the principle on ending the occupation. Negotiations must end the occupation of all the land occupied in 1967," Abbas told the European parliament
"We cannot go back to negotiating on minor issues when the core issue is absent - and when 11,000 Palestinians remain imprisoned by Israel.
"What is needed is not just reconstruction in Gaza but also the reconstruction of the peace process."
Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the West Bank, said that Abbas described the Israeli war on Gaza as part of a sustained policy of aggression.
"The Palestinian president said there was no difference between Israel's war on Gaza and what is going on the occupied West Bank, vis a vis Israeli actions," she said from Ramallah.
"He said there is no difference between Israeli settlement activity and the separation wall [between Israel and the Palestinian territories] and the almost 700 Israeli checkpoints that dissect the West Bank.
"Both are part of the same war on Palestinian aspirations, the president told the European parliament."
More than 1,300 Palestinians, at least a third of them women and children, were killed during Israel's 22-day war on Gaza. Thirteen Israelis died during the offensive.
Israel's stated aim for its military campaign was to prevent rocket attacks towards Israel by fighters loyal to Hamas, which has had de facto control of Gaza since routing Fatah forces in June 2006.
Palestinians and international aid organisations have said that the war on Gaza amounted to collective punishment of all Palestinians.
As Abbas spoke in Strasbourg, Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, told the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah that Fatah and Hamas must reach common ground and work towards a national unity government.
"Israel has capitalised on this division [between Fatah and Hamas] to turn the West Bank, including Jerusalem, into a common ground for its [own] activities - to create isolated cantons in the West Bank and to keep the West Bank as separate entities," he said.
Fayyad also unveiled a package of PA measures to address Gaza's immediate reconstruction.
The authority has devised an emergency plan, worth $600m of mostly donated money, to repair and rebuild all damaged buildings.
Fayyad also proposed that $50m should be issued to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza so that emergency aid can be provided.
More than $11m has been paid by the Palestinian Authority to fix the territory's electricity grid and provide generators, while $6m will go to repair water and sewage networks.
Dedicated support for Gaza's health and agricultural sectors should be a top priority, he said.
Fayyad also called for increased efforts on co-ordination with international relief agencies in order to keep up the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and said that the PA will continue to pressure Israel to open Gaza's border crossings to allow aid in to the territory.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
21:09 Mecca time, 18:09 GMT
Reporter's diary: Obstacles in Gaza
By Zeina Awad in Gaza City
Many Palestinians sheltered in tents after their homes were destroyed in the war
Israel's three-week war on Gaza caused billions of dollars in damage and left the already-tattered local economy on the verge of collapse.
Some of the world's richest countries - including the US which has promised a $20-million aid package - have pledged monies to rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad reports that rivalry between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other Palestinian factions threatens to scuttle efforts to rebuild Gaza and rehabilitate its people.
We came across Tayseer Jneed, a father of four, as he waited in queue outside a post office in Gaza City to cash a cheque Hamas had distributed to many Palestinians who, like him, had lost family and homes during Israel's recent war.
But Jneed was already disappointed.
"I am unhappy because Hamas promised me 6,000 euros but I am getting 4,f000 euros," he told Al Jazeera.
Jneed's home was destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Gaza and he has been forced to live in a tent donated by the UN.
Like many of the makeshift tents housing hundreds of Palestinians who have recently lost their home, there is no water and the family of six are forced to resort to a makeshift toilet constructed by one of their neighbours.
The financial handout is meant to help his family survive until real reconstruction gets under way in Gaza.
"I need more money, I need a home, I need to be able to pay for my children's education, food, and clothes."
Others at the post office told us that they also did not get all the cash they had been promised. They took whatever they could from Hamas, because it may be the only money they will be receiving for a while.
The Hamas authorities in Gaza said this was a one-time emergency payment and have no concrete plans beyond that.
Cash has been in short supply in Gaza ever since Israel imposed its siege in 2007, following Hamas wresting control of Gaza from its rival, Fatah, after a unity government collapsed.
However, many Palestinians living in Gaza see the rivalry as posing a serious threat to any reconstruction initiatives the territory so desperately needs today.
Hamas maintains that it was democratically elected and therefore carries the mandate of the people. Hamas officials say they should play a key role in reconstruction efforts.
The Fatah-led PA, however, says it is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
For their part, international donors say they will not recognise Hamas because the Islamist movement refuses to recognise Israel and does not honour previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
They say they will only deal with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of Fatah.
But Fatah has no authority in Gaza.
The damage from the war is all encompassing and cannot be carried out without the hundreds of millions of dollars pledged by the international community.
Omar Shaban, a Gaza-based independent economist, says: "We are not talking about delivering some assistance here and there. We are talking about building 5,000 flats and rehabilitating another 20,000, rebuilding around 500 institutions, rehabilitating the roads."
"All of this needs a very strong government and close coordination with that government," he said.
A strong government is something the Palestinians do not have. Instead, the Gaza Strip is run by the deposed Hamas government, while the West Bank is under the PA – led by Abbas.
Hamas and the PA have held reconciliation talks on numerous occasions, but instead of uniting, their rivalry has become more entrenched.
"If the division between Fatah and Hamas continues, then I do not know how the reconstruction process can happen," Shaban says.
He told Al Jazeera that reconstruction programmes require close coordination between the local municipalities and land authorities on the one hand and Hamas, the power in Gaza, on the other.
Embargo on material
For its part, Israel refuses to allow glass, cement, and other desperately needed building material into the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas is in control.
For many in Gaza, every day without reconstruction means another day of living in makeshift shacks and tents, without electricity, water, or basic services.
That is the reality of daily life for Jneed and his family.
The 4,000 euros will make life easier for him now but in the long-run he sees no way out.
He blames Israel first and foremost for the carnage in Gaza but acknowledges that he will not get his home back until Palestinian politicians stop bickering and start proper planning.
Source: Al Jazeera
Monday, February 02, 2009
07:42 Mecca time, 04:42 GMT
Gaza is no Warsaw Ghetto
By Mark LeVine, Middle East historian
The Gaza-Warsaw comparison was inevitable, especially after the war started
Within days of the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, critics of the war, on blogs and in the mainstream media, began to compare the situation of Palestinians in Gaza to that of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War.
In the last few years comparisons between the Israeli occupation and apartheid in South Africa had become increasingly acceptable around the world, including in Israel.
However, the carnage caused by Israel's latest war has apparently rendered the apartheid comparison too weak to evoke the full horror of what Palestinians have suffered.
Israelis have suffered as well, but the levels of death and destruction on each side is so mind-numbingly lopsided - at least 1,300 versus 13 dead - that simply juxtaposing them seems almost nonsensical.
The Gaza-Warsaw comparisons have not just been made, predictably, by Hamas leaders such as Mahmoud al-Zahar.
They have also been made by Arabs and Muslims around the world, by anti-war movements in Europe and the US, on the opinion pages of major US newspapers, by Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Rapporteur, by Jewish members of the British parliament, and even by some American Jewish and Israeli critics of the war.
Images from Gaza have been juxtaposed next to images from the Warsaw Ghetto, with the aim of demonstrating the similarities between the two.
It was inevitable that the Gaza-Warsaw comparison would be made, especially once the war started. It is so difficult to get the mainstream media in the West, and particularly in the US, to pay attention to the suffering of Palestinians, that many seem to have concluded that only the most powerful comparisons will get peoples' attention.
There are, indeed, disturbing similarities between the two situations.
The Warsaw Ghetto was composed of Jews forced out of their homes and herded into one small section of the city.
Gaza is composed largely of refugees and their descendents, most of whom were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 war.
Like the Ghetto, in the last decade the Gaza Strip has been surrounded by a barrier that has literally imprisoned 1.5 million in a territory that has become one of the most densely populated in the world.
Once the war started, Gazan civilians were trapped within a war zone, while Israel - crucially, with Egyptian help - had full command of the territory in and around Gaza. This situation prompted comparisons with the absolute Nazi control of the Ghetto and its surrounding area during the uprising.
Increasing restrictions on food, water and medical supplies by the Israeli military, and severe levels of malnutrition and unemployment "evoked" memories of the Nazi's slow strangulation of the Ghetto, as Richard Falk described it.
Even the tunnels of Gaza have been compared to those used by Jews to smuggle food and other essential goods into the Ghetto from the "Aryan side".
These comparisons reflect an intolerable situation that is not just a humanitarian disaster, but has included the systematic commission of war crimes, and through them, crimes against humanity. The fact that the situation in Gaza has existed for decades has deepened the suffering, and the level of culpability.
Indeed, the UN has reported that 50 per cent of Gaza's children have become so scarred by the occupation and siege that they have no will to live. An occupation that causes this level of psychological harm warrants not just the world's condemnation, but the prosecution of those responsible for administering this state of affairs.
But thank God, Gaza is not the Warsaw Ghetto. Even after the latest war, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank remain rooted to the soil, not buried beneath it.
Hamas's Mahmoud al-Zahar has described Israel's attack on Gaza as "total war". This language is clearly intended to link Israel's actions in Gaza to genocide, and particularly Germany's total war against the Jews during the Second World War, in their effect if not their intention.
If such a comparison has merits, the Gaza-Warsaw comparison would similarly hold true, giving the accusations of a Palestinian Holocaust merit.
The February 29, 2008 warning by Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defence minister, that Palestinians risked "bringing an even bigger Shoah" (the Hebrew word for Holocaust) upon themselves if they did not stop firing Qassam rockets into Israel, reveals that Israeli officials are well aware of the magnitude of the suffering they have inflicted on the people of Gaza.
Yet, however horrific the situation in Gaza, it does not meet the definition of genocide used by the main bodies that prosecute such crimes, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.
All of these bodies define genocide as involving the intention to bring about the "physical-biological destruction" of a large enough share of an "entire human group" (national, ethnic, racial or religious) as to put the group's continued physical existence in jeopardy.
The Warsaw Ghetto was used by the Nazis to confine Jews into the smallest possible space, eventually in preparation for their ultimate extermination - which became official Nazi policy within a year of the ghetto's creation.
Out of an initial population of over 400,000 Jews, 100,000 had died of disease and starvation by the time the uprising began in 1943. To be comparable, by 2007 over 300,000 Gazans would have to have died from similar causes.
Ultimately, more than 300,000 Jews were shipped to the Treblinka extermination camp and murdered. At most, only about 200 Jews survived the uprising.
Ninety-eight per cent of Warsaw's Jews perished. More broadly, about 63 per cent of Europe's pre-war Jewish population were killed during the Holocaust.
The roughly 6,500 Gazans killed by Israel since it unilaterally withdrew its soldiers and settlers in 2005 equals 0.4 per cent of the population of the Strip.
In comparison, upwards of 75 per cent of Rwanda's Tutsi population, about 800,000 people, were murdered during the 100 days of genocide in 1994. Over 200,000 Bosnian Muslims (10 per cent of the pre-war Muslim population) were killed by Serbs between 1993 and 1995.
The Gazan death toll would have to be more than 20 times greater to approach Bosnia, 175 times more to approach Rwanda.
Pointing out that the suffering endured by Gazans is not comparable in scope to the Holocaust or other well-known genocides, does not diminish it. However, it is crucial to provide accurate historical context to the current conflict, for two reasons.
Firstly, the use of highly charged historical comparisons that do not hold up to scrutiny unnecessarily weakens the Palestinian case against the occupation.
In a propaganda war in which Palestinians have always struggled to compete, handing Israel's supporters the gift of inaccurate or exaggerated comparisons does not help this struggle, particularly not in Israel and the US, the two most important battlegrounds in this conflict.
To cite just one example, Israel and its supporters still use the exaggerated casualty figures of the early days of the 2002 siege of Jenin - hundreds were claimed to have been massacred, "only" 56 people were ultimately found to have died - to support their argument that Palestinians "lie" about the human toll of Israeli attacks.
When the argument is shifted from the basic illegality and intolerability of the occupation to an argument over numbers in which Palestinians seem to overstate their case, Israel has created more room to continue the occupation.
It also has to be recognised that the sealing of Gaza has occurred with the complicity of Egypt. While Israel remains the de jure occupying power of the Gaza Strip, the Gaza-Egypt border has remained closed or open depending on the wishes of the Egyptian government - something Israeli officials regularly point out, and millions of protesters against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, across the Arab world affirm.
Egypt allowed the crossing to remain open for several days when Hamas blew up part of the wall in January 2008. It has since kept it largely sealed despite the dire humanitarian situation, putting its relationship with Israel - and more importantly, with the US - ahead of the welfare of Gaza's 1.5 million residents.
Indeed, the collusion of Israel's neighbour, Egypt, and its biggest patron, the US, in ghettoizing Gaza creates a triangular network of responsibility that has no parallel with the Nazi control over Warsaw, and Poland more broadly.
The second and more important reason for developing a more accurate historical model for Gaza is that comparing Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto diminishes Palestinian agency.
If Gaza is today's Warsaw, then Palestinians have no hope. There is no solution, no new strategies worth considering besides nihilistic violence that invites a far more deadly response.
Such a view, which has long characterised Hamas's worldview, limits if not closes the horizons of political action by Palestinians, making it harder to come up with more creative strategies to resist and even transcend the occupation.
Ultimately, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the inertia of hopeless violence produces ever more intense responses.
Politicide, not genocide
After visiting Gaza in 2003, Oona King, a Jewish British politician, compared Gaza and Warsaw, explaining that they are "the same in nature but not extent".
However, it is impossible to separate the extent of Nazi policies in and surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto from the nature of the ghetto, since each determined and reinforced the other.
The Gaza ghetto is a "concentration camp" - as Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's justice and peace minister, termed it - intended to force Palestinians to accept a rump state with a few trappings of sovereignty, bisected by huge Jewish settlement blocs, severed from East Jerusalem, and without hope for returning anything but a miniscule percentage of refugees to their homeland.
This intolerable situation was labelled by the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling as politicide. Its goal is clearly to make the creation of a viable Palestinian state all but impossible to achieve.
But Gaza in 2009 is not Warsaw in 1943. It is worth remembering that the Jewish uprising did little if anything to stop the Holocaust.
The Gaza ghetto has its own historical roots and therefore the possibility of a different trajectory and, hopefully, a more positive denouement than did Warsaw.
Only with a clear and objective understanding of the roots, nature and purpose of the Gaza ghetto, and of the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza more broadly, can a different and more positive ending to the Palestinian - and Israeli - narratives be written.
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine, and is the author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam and the soon to be published An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.
Source: Al Jazeera
Israel and the politics of friendship
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 3 February 2009
The status of Israel as the enemy of the Arabs has largely depended in the last six decades on its enmity or alliance with Arab regimes and not with the Arab peoples. Insofar as Israel threatened Arab regimes, it was depicted by them as the enemy, insofar as it did not, it was welcomed as a friend.
This was certainly the case in Israel's ambivalent position toward the Jordanian regime with which it has allied itself since the 1920s while at the same time working to undermine the regime when some of its strategies changed. This in turn explains why the Jordanian regime was historically ambivalent about whether Israel was an enemy or an ally.
In 1967, some in Israel contemplated unseating King Hussein from the throne while in 1970 Israel sought to extend its military assistance to buttress his throne. While King Hussein became convinced that Israel's ambivalence had been resolved by the early 1990s in favor of an alliance, many Jordanian nationalists as well as Jordanian chauvinists were not.
It is in this context that many anti-Palestinian Jordanian nationalists opposed the peace agreement that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994 and pointed to the continuing Israeli ambivalence towards Jordan. They correctly observed that Israel would sacrifice the regime in favor of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan after expelling all West Bank Palestinians to the country, a project that Ariel Sharon had been proposing since the 1970s and that retains support among key people in the Labor Party. Indeed, Sharon wanted Israel to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1970 against King Hussein.
The recent indecisiveness of the Jordanian government regarding the best response to Israel's carnage in Gaza was on account of the regime's uncertainty of where Israel's strategy lies at present. At the outset of the carnage, Jordanian intelligence chief Muhammad al-Dhahabi, who reopened talks with Hamas a few months ago, was dismissed from his job, while at the same time the government allowed massive demonstrations across the country with limited but evident police repression.
But US, Saudi, and Egyptian pressure on Jordan have clearly won the day, especially in their insistence that Jordan return its ambassador to Tel Aviv whom it had recalled for a few days in protest. These developments show that the Jordanian government has a different set of priorities and worries than its Egyptian and Saudi counterparts, but that it hopes and prefers that Israel remain a friend and not become an enemy.
The Egyptian regime, which considers Israel its most important ally in the region after the United States, believes correctly that Israel is not trying to undermine it, which is why Israel has not been an enemy of Egypt since the mid 1970s. The days when Israel tried to destroy the Arab nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser are over, and since his successor Anwar Sadat's capitulationist overtures, Israel has been a sure supporter of the Egyptian regime, which supports Israel in turn, sometimes as many have recently speculated, to the regime's own detriment.
Since the Reagan years, Israel has also become the friend of the Saudi regime and later the rest of the Gulf monarchies, not to mention its longstanding friendship with the Moroccan kings. The Tunisian regime of Habib Bourguiba also refused to consider Israel an enemy since the 1960s as had fascist Christian forces in Lebanon which considered it and still consider it a friend.
Most important in this context is how the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas no longer considered Israel an enemy, except briefly under Arafat before he died and when he realized that Israel was out to unseat him. Otherwise, both Arafat and Abbas, whose term as PA president expired on 9 January, could not and cannot get enough hugs and kisses from Israel's war criminal leaders.
This is a far cry from the 1950s when the Shah's Iran, Turkey, and Haile Selassie's Ethiopia were key allies of Israel and the US and the first two sought alliances then with the Hashemite regimes in Iraq and Jordan. The Arab regimes consensus then was that the alliance between Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and Israel was a pro-imperialist anti-Arab alliance. The fact that today it is Iran and Turkey's political leadership that are the only regional forces insisting on regional and local sovereignty against imperial invasions and occupations has reversed this trend.
It is now Arab regimes that push for imperial and colonial sovereignty in Palestine, Iraq and Iran, while Iran and Turkey are in the forefront of resisting it. That popular forces across Arab countries and in Iran and Turkey continue to oppose US imperialism passionately leaves most Arab regimes as the major pro-imperial forces in the region.
It is in this context that Saudi-, Egyptian-, Jordanian-, and even the Palestinian Authority-sponsored anti-Iranian and anti-Shiite chauvinism (launched at the behest of Israel and the US) have failed to sway the Arab masses from their anti-imperial and anti-colonial position. The entry of Turkey into the camp that supports local and regional sovereignty has complicated the hate-mongering of the Arab regimes allied to the US, on account of Turkey's Sunnism, or at least its non-Shiism. As a result, the only regime that Israel continues to threaten openly is the Syrian regime, despite its ongoing secret negotiations with it. This is why Israel remains an official enemy of Syria.
The most dangerous enemy for any Arab regime today is any local opposition that seeks regime change while offering the range of services to the US that the current regime offers. This is why the Muslim Brothers are considered the biggest threat to the Egyptian regime. The regime would have been unperturbed had the Muslim Brothers been anti-imperialist and were they to refuse to provide services to the US.
The regime, in fact, would have loved for them to be more radical, as this would have proved to the US that the current regime is the only one that could offer obedient services to its imperial white, or in the case of Obama, half-white master.
That the Muslim Brothers are willing to serve the US is precisely where their danger to the regime lies, as the US could easily abandon the current regime if it becomes a liability and switch support to the Brothers. Herein lies the enmity that the regime has shown and continues to show toward Hamas, and why regime allies in Egypt, including liberals and leftists, support it in its hostility to Hamas, which they see as an extension of the Brothers.
The problem here is that in conjunction with Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas, unlike the Brothers, is the biggest opponent of Israeli colonialism and US imperialism. In the Palestinian context, it is the PA under Arafat and Abbas that established an alliance with Israel and the US and not Hamas.
Indeed, the competition between Hamas and the PA is not over services to the US but rather over serving the interests of the Palestinian people. By contrast, the sometimes tense relationships between the PA and Egypt or the PA and Jordan have been based on precisely the former chipping away at some of the latter's role in serving US interests and in wanting a piece of the pie.
West Bank-based Palestinian intellectuals, like their liberal counterparts across the Arab world, have been active in the last several years in demonizing Hamas as the force of darkness in the region. These intellectuals (among whom liberal secular Christians, sometimes referred to derisively in Ramallah circles as "the Christian Democratic Party," are disproportionately represented) are mostly horrified that if Hamas came to power, it would ban alcohol.
Assuming Hamas would enact such a regulation on the entire population were it to rule a liberated Palestine in some undetermined future, these intellectuals are the kind of intellectuals who prefer an assured collaborating dictatorship with a glass of scotch to a potentially resisting democracy without.
This is not to say that Hamas will institute democratic governance necessarily; but if democratically elected, as it has been, it must be given the chance to demonstrate its commitments to democratic rule, which it now promises -- something all these comprador intellectuals were willing to give to Fatah, and continue to extend to the movement after it established a dictatorship.
Indeed, much of the repression that took place in the West Bank during the carnage in Gaza had been legitimized by the ongoing efforts of these intellectuals just as they previously legitimized the "peace process" launched by the Oslo Accords and during which Israel continued its massive colonization of Palestinian land while the PA suppressed any resistance.
The scene in the West Bank, except for Hebron, was indeed a scandal. Arab capitals like Amman and Beirut, not to mention Palestinian cities and towns inside Israel, saw massive demonstrations that were at least a hundred times more numerous than the couple of thousands who tried to march in Ramallah but were beaten up by the goons of the Palestinian Collaborationist Authority (PCA).
Palestinians in the West Bank were watching Al-Jazeera instead of demonstrating in solidarity and refused to challenge Israel's PCA agents who rule them. While the repression by the PCA and the Israeli occupation army is an important factor, the quiescence of the West Bank was also on account of the psychological warfare of demonizing Hamas to which the PCA and its cadre of comprador intellectuals have subjected the population for years.
Moreover, the fact that a quarter of a million West Bankers work in the bureaucratic and security apparatus of the PCA and receive salaries which feed another three quarters of a million West Bankers, makes them fully dependent on the continuation of PCA rule to ensure their continued livelihood. This structural and material factor is indeed paramount in assessing the contemptible quiescence of West Bankers during the recent carnage in Gaza.
Indeed, some of the staged Fatah participation in demonstrations in Ramallah (where the PCA women's police beat up Hamas women demonstrators) included people who openly suggested that the demonstrators march by the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah to show support for Egyptian policies toward Gaza and Hamas.
The journey of West Bank liberal intellectuals, it seems has finally come to this: after being instrumental in selling out the rights of Palestinians in Israel to full equal citizenship by acquiescing to Israel's demand to be recognized as a racist Jewish state, and the rights of the diaspora and refugees to return, they have now sold out the rights of Palestinians in Gaza to food and electricity, and all of this so that the West Bank can be ruled by a collaborationist authority that allows them open access to Johnny Walker Black Label (their drink of choice, although some have switched to Chivas more recently). In this context, how could Israel be anything but a friend and ally who is making sure Hamas will never get to ban whiskey?
In the meantime, the coming Israeli elections are being awaited with much trepidation. PCA strategies will be of course different depending on who wins. If Netanyahu wins, and he was the spoiler of PA rule and the Oslo understanding in 1996, Abbas can try to sound more nationalist in opposing Israeli practices in the hope that the Obama administration would support him against the Israeli right wing. The PCA hopes that Obama can put pressure on Netanyahu that he would not be able to in case Labor Party leader Ehud Barak wins.
If Barak wins, then the PCA would be happy as they can go back to business as usual. As a close friend of the corrupt Clintons, Barak will also be a friend of his namesake in the Oval office, and Hillary Clinton will make sure that no pressure goes his way. Of course as far as the Palestinian people are concerned, it makes no difference who is at the helm of Israeli politics, a right-wing war criminal or a left-wing war criminal.
As for those who still have hope in the Israeli public, the latter's overwhelming support for the carnage in Gaza should put this to rest. If Germans spent the day on the beach when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and Americans cheered in bars and at home the fireworks light show the US military put up over Baghdad while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in 1991 and in 2003, Israeli Jews insisted on having front row seats on hills overlooking Gaza for a live show, cracking open champagne bottles and cheering the murder and maiming of thousands of civilians, more than half of whom were women and children.
The Obama government as well as the Israelis and the Arab regimes have only one game they are willing to play, and it is hardly original. Ignoring and delegitimizing Hamas is a repetition of the delegitimization of the PLO when it represented Palestinian interests in the 1960s, 1970s, and part of the 1980s.
At the time, the Jordanian regime was entrusted by the Israelis and the Americans with speaking on behalf of West Bank Palestinians until the PLO pledged to be a servant of Israel and US interests and began to view both as friends, and not as enemies. While this strategy has worked superbly in ending the enmity between most Arab regimes and Israel, it has failed miserably in convincing most Arabs that Israel is not their enemy.
Israel's recent military victory in slaughtering defenseless Palestinian civilians and its losing the war against Hamas by failing to realize any of its military objectives have hardly endeared it or its Arab supporters to the Arab peoples at large or to Muslim regional powers who are not fully subservient to the US. The Israeli settler-colony might have become the friend of oppressive regimes across the region, but in doing so it has ensured the enmity of the majority of the peoples in whose midst it has chosen to implant itself.
Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006).