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Palestine: A Classic Case of Divide and Rule?

This week many of the blogs by Palestinians, and those focused on Palestinian issues, have kept their attention on the ongoing events in Gaza. Desert Peace, in Jerusalem, has found a Hebrew word to sum up the situation:

Wherever you go in Israel today you hear the word ‘balagan‘ over and over. It simply means mess…. usually one made by young children. But that is not the one talked about these days… it refers to the mess in the Occupied Land of Palestine. No one on this side of the ‘fence’ really knows what is going on… but one thing is for sure, it's a ‘balagan‘.

In his ploy for power, Mahmoud Abbas forgot to take one thing into account… that being…
WHAT DO THE PALESTINIANS WANT?

He expands on this in another post:

First it was referred to as street fighting. It then was called a Civil War.
Now that the boundaries seem to be established by the rival factions, it is now referred by some in the West as post-revolutionary times.

It is becoming more and more apparent as the days go by that this whole mess started, not as a result of disagreements between Fatah and Hamas, but because of the fact that both Israel and Washington refused to recognise the results of the election held in the Palestinian Territories last year. Now with Olmert and Bush ‘mapping out’ the future of the Palestinian people, it is even more apparent that the Occupation will continue and Abbas will head the new ‘Puppet Regime’ in the West Bank, while the population of Gaza will continue to be cut off from the world until their leaders ‘give in’ to Israeli blackmail. We are seeing the establishment of a new government based on money and power…. nothing at all to do with what the people want.

However, Nadeem at the Arab-American blog KABOBfest believes that Palestinians have to accept some responsibility for the situation:

The absurd rivalry between Fatah and Hamas over a sham government that has never maintained any real or substantial authority has left Palestinians – in both Palestine and Diaspora – confused, fearful, hurt, and utterly dismayed.

While supporters on both sides point the blame at one another, the dream of Palestinian self-determination continues to slip away faster and further than it has ever done before. Without a single unified front, the Palestinian Nation, as a whole, is left susceptible to increased exploitation, oppression, violence – and recently, starvation – at the hands of foreign governments and transnational actors hoping to advance their interests at the expense of our basic human rights.

As the international community looks on in ironic bewilderment, America and Israel have already taken concrete steps towards solidifying this preposterous chasm within our socio-political structure. But are they to blame? My answer is no – at least not solely. While they rallied international support for the external (and internal) pressures that eventually made the environment ripe for such chaos to ensue, democratically-elected representatives of the Palestinian community let their constituents down by taking their bait.

Nabulsi believes the appointment of a new prime minister contravened the law:

Abbas's appointing a new prime minister was itself entirely illegal. The new ‘emergency government’ is illegal, too. According to the Basic Law of Palestine (as amended in 2003), which serves as the constitution of the PA, Abbas can do neither of these things. Nor can the new ‘emergency government’ claim any democratic mandate. This means that Abbas and the Fayyad government are ruling by decree, outside the framework of the Basic Law. So on what basis is that government supposed to govern — and on what basis are foreign governments supposed to deal with it?

While Ramzi Khoury at Arabisto has some advice for Mahmoud Abbas:

In this day and age communications can turn the devil into angel and beat the angel to a pulp. Under the hammer of a heavy propaganda machine supported by international networks even “legitimacy” becomes so elastic that it is no longer visible!
As lame as that would be, Abbas would do some good if he was to explain the basics of the Palestinian constitution. Under the constitution, and whereas the Palestinian Authority is a presidential system, he is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. He is the one who appointed the first Hamas government and the second unity government and has the constitutional right to sack “his” governments as he sees fit.

[…]

Abbas needs to explain that according to the legitimate law of the authority, its security establishments are under the leadership of the presidency. When “his” supposed government demanded to take control of the security apparatuses, it was an attempt to take over the presidency. When “his” supposed government created an illegal brutal force that takes its orders from Khaled Meshaal in Damascus and built it to the hilt until it was ready then carried out a coup d'état in Gaza, he sacked it.

[…]

Mr. President, good intentions are not enough. For the truth to prevail, it needs to be communicated!

Philip Rizk of Tabula Gaza is looking at the bigger picture:

The colonial tactic of Conquer and Divide is being put to use on the Palestinians yet once again; initially in the Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas and now between the West Bank and Gaza.

[…]

Part of a Conquer and Divide strategy is timing. Why did Israel wait until this moment to consider Mahmoud Abbas a “partner committed to peace” when his positions have hardly changed since his election over two years ago? Why is Israel only now considering freeing Marwan Al-Barghouthi, a convicted Fatah activist? Why only now release the frozen government taxes ($570 million) that the Palestinians have desperately needed since Israel started withholding them in March of last year?

[…]

The plot of Conquer and Divide is a great smokescreen covering up the desecration of democracy and another attempt to lay to rest the Palestinian cause.

My Occupied Territory also thinks it is a classic case of divide and rule, with the media playing along:

One of my favorite things to do is ‘watch’ the media after a certain event and see how the creative minds start playing on words. With the recent turmoil in the Occupied Territories, the ‘buzz words’ are all too common. From ‘Hamastan’ to ‘Fatahland’ to ‘West Bank First’, when the word comes out, the rest of the media latch on to it and forget about every other word in the dictionary. By now you’ve probably heard most of them. By now you realize that most of them don’t make sense and are being used to sensationalize the news more than anything else. In my view, the way the media plays on this terminology, especially with regards to the conflict in Gaza and the West Bank, only serves to create more tensions and play on the divisions that have resulted from the recent events. And that’s just the media.
[…]

Palestinians have endured a lot. And hopefully, they can overcome this pressure to divide them and further destabilize the Occupied Territories. Then the focus can be shifted back to the real cause of this turmoil: the illegal Israeli occupation that has rendered the territories incapable of being governed in any realistic or independent way.

Wassim questions the language used in the Western media, too:

…Hamas did not ‘fail to meet the conditions’ of anybody, it refused the demands of the ‘International Community’ (otherwise known as the West), there is a crucial difference.

I don't necessarily agree with Hamas’ ideology or methods, but the reason I bring this up is because this framework of description of events is presented often in news and analysis and can misguide the layperson reading them in the Western world to think they come from countries which are somehow superior to those they are dealing with, a throwback to the days of Empire? That I don't know. We see the same framework with Iran, Syria and Hezbullah amongst others. These actors always seem to ‘fail’ to meet ‘requirements’, ‘conditions’, ‘criteria’ etc etc. The language instantly tells you who is setting the conditions and who these are ‘set’ upon. This logic is flawed and unacceptable. When somebody you don't like wants to make you do something and you refuse, you do not ‘fail to comply’. You refuse and stand your ground, ‘go ahead, make my day’ basically. The same applies with what is happening in the Middle East at the moment.

moomin13, an American living in Ramallah, is also concerned about the influence of the media:

I don't feel unsafe here. I feel depressed and let down. I feel like all the work that human rights organizations have been doing here to expose the plight of ordinary Palestinians will now be overshadowed by the infighting and that years of work of gaining the sympathy of the international community will be ruined by a few people. If before, the international community only heard about Palestinians when one of them exploded themselves, they now have on the western news agenda two choices instead of one:

- When a Palestinian explodes himself
– When Palestinians kill each other Palestinians

Catholic Sunni Shia at Meanwhile in Palestine and Iraq has some questions for the media regarding a specific incident:

Hi, Western media where are you? Are you still pretending that Hamas burned down that church in Gaza?

When in reality it was most likely done by the thugs being supported by the West in order to cause even more internal Palestinian divisions. It probably isn't going to work, the majority of Christians in Gaza have said that they are waiting this one out and that they do not feel compelled to leave just because Hamas has control of Gaza. This is an American attempt at sectarian conflict in Palestine. How stupid are the Americans (and Israelis) though? Palestinian Christians have been as vocal as Muslims in expressing their hatred and disgust of the immoral Israeli occupation. Christians ran on the Hamas ticket during the elections. When a Palestinian church was attacked in Nablus last year after the Pope made his ridiculous remarks, I remember reading all over the Palestinian (and some Western media) that Hamas took up positions outside of the Nablus church in order to protect it. Of course, that no longer matters. Fatah thugs did this (maybe out of hatred for Christians but probably because someone put them up to it in order to blame Hamas).

Philip Rizk of Tabula Gaza fills us in on what actually happened:

In the past number of days, one of the most common headlines related to Gaza was something along the lines of a “desecrated church,” when in reality it was a case concerning the looting of a Christian school.

A friend of mine living near the school, himself a Fatah security member told me that members of the Preventative Security Force would often station themselves on the roof of the school building during attacks on their headquarters just behind the school. This was the case last week as well, as Hamas forces carried out an attack on the building from three directions.

Like many buildings that were used as strongholds the doors were blown open with an RPG to secure no resistance coming from inside it. Succeeding the attack the building was then vandalized, crosses were broken and much was stolen. It is highly unlikely that Hamas carried out this vandalism; they were after all fighting a war.

Within days Hamas had identified some of the thieves and returned six stolen computers. Gaza’s Catholic priest, Emanuel Mussalam was interviewed on Hamas radio yesterday calling for the man to be put on trial who had ordered the forced entry into the school.

Mohammed Mar'i at Arabisto wonders if there remain any lines that cannot be crossed, and concludes there may be one:

Perhaps one last redline left in Gaza after killing in the streets and looting of official and private premises; Hamas may declare women of Fatah officials as war captives and marry them.

Dew, in Gaza, repeats some questions that people are asking:

Was the authority so blind and naive that it didn't see Hamas preparing to seize Gaza? or was Hamas drawn to a big trap that was set from the Authority and Israel? why? to sack Hamas from the government i think…

Was Iran responsible for what happened either in Gaza, Lebanon or even Iraq so everybody will keep preoccupied with the M.E. and Iran can continue with it's nuclear programme?!

Was the whole thing a big charade, and both Hamas and Fatah collaborated together to deceive innocent people like us so Hamas can justify accepting negotiations with Israel?!

Too many theories but no one really knows what did really happen… but we all know one thing, that it's not over yet, it's still the beginning… beginning of what, nobody knows exactly.. too many roomers and too many assumptions, some are built on facts and some are just lies..

Naj also writes from Gaza, but remembers Ramallah:

On the third day of the clashes.. the so called Hamas-Fateh fighting, I wondered, while looking through the window of our kitchen at a couple of birds jumping and falling along the noise and passage of bullets, i wondered how do these birds perceive this status.. Death…? Facing death… but with unpaid prices… and overpaid prices. Calculations of who you are and what bullet you receive, and whether you are meant to die or no, or the source means to target someone like you or not… all these features of the perception of facing death.. What would they look like or sound like to these two birds. ? as soon as i saw them reacting to the exchange of fire around our quarter, i remembered the group of pigeons which i saw in an early morning of the Israeli invasion of Ramallah in 2002, on a very quiet morning, we wake up, I stand on my balcony checking the scene, and the pigeons stand on the tank gun playing. It was a very strange picture.. but it was lovely and sad in a way.

This time, my thinking suddenly went deeper.. to ask them what does this mean to you.. ? birds?

Asad Al Nimr in Ramallah is feeling depressed:

And I keep wondering… What do we want to achieve? What reasons can cause such death and anarchy? It looks like we are paying a very high price for nothing…
Does the anarchy in Gaza serve anyone? … How can life continue in Gaza after such events? What options have left for the citizens of Gaza? I can't really see how their life can return to normal if there is a lack of food and petrol. How families can survive and enjoy life? I am really depressed and I can truly say that my hopes are dissolving…

On World Refugee Day, Zinjabeelah takes some comfort from the coverage she has seen:

…My faith in mainstream media is somewhat restored. Two days ago, I predicted that little if any mention would be made about the Palestinian tragedy on World Refugee Day.

Well, today is World Refugee Day, and I have seen two segments on CNN, while working on some book reviews, about the misery of Palestinian refugee life. Right now Ben Wedeman is interviewing a Gaza Strip Rap/Hip Hop crew, “The G-Town Boys,” who are really talented and have some hard hitting messages.

Last night, also on CNN, I saw a clip of Angelina Jolie expressing shock at the conditions and psychological distress she witnessed in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Amal has come across an article in the Economist about the treatment of gay Palestinians:

… Israel is not interested in Palestinian gay men except as vulnerable subjects to blackmail and make into collaborators.

The article is exclusively about gay Palestinian men, not women, who do not have the men's particular experience. However, Israel's Shin Bet has used attitudes to women's sexuality as a way to blackmail both non-gay men and women into collaboration.

The only way to prevent such blackmail is to fight against homophobia and sexual discrimination in Palestinian society. Among other things, they do leave Palestinian society vulnerable for exploitation of this kind. But if men and women, gay and straight, are not made to feel ashamed of their sexuality, if their sexual choices are not criminalized, then they will not be such easy victims of colonial blackmail.

In other words, speaking up against homophobia and sexual discrimination should be part of an anti-colonial national resistance strategy.

She has learnt a new word this week:

Reading the news this morning, I learned a new Arabic word. It appears in Ali Jaradat's article in Al Ayyam. The word is “Gharbaleh,” used about the body of one of the Fateh men executed by Hamas. It means that his body was “sieved” or “made into a sieve.”

How do you do that?

45 bullets.

Moving onto other matters, loolt has asked herself why she blogs, and has discovered a number of reasons:

I started because I felt I lacked external stimulation (translation: sad little bunny with no social life)… Blog in place, and even though my social life took off, I became addicted to the adrenaline rush when someone comments… My third point, blogs are a great way to have deep discussions

[…]

Ranting, lets face it a blog is one of the best stress relievers there are, mind you that only really works when you are properly anonymous, otherwise, well you are either careful or a total insensitive.

Getting a message out, in my case the Palestinian message, and even though there are many far superior blogs that deal with the topic, it makes me feel that at least I am doing something.

For the rest of loolt's reasons for blogging see here. We end on a humorous note with Jasim in Jordan, who has had a humiliating experience with his mother:

I was sitting doing nothing, mainly gazing at nothing because even at TV there was nothing good to watch, when my mother came in the room and said: “Hey! Why do not you come with me and pick some Thyme? You are bored and doing nothing, but I will be good with you and give you 1 JD ($1.40).” I looked at mother, and I mean 1 JD is too much to handle, but what the hell I was really bored, so yep I went to pick Thyme with mother.

While picking thyme, his mother engaged him in conversation:

At first my mother started gossiping about nearly everyone, and I was listening to her and all of I was saying is “Aha. Yes. Oh I know. Really? Oh I hate her too!” I mean really I do not like to gossip, but hey when your mother is talking you have to pay attention, although I did not really know half the people she was talking about!

When my mother felt like she was losing me, she decided to launch a counter attack, and here how it went:

“Jasim, how come you spent 50 JDs in one day?!“
“What?!“
“How the hell did you manage to spend 50 JDs in one day? Come on, I will not tell anyone.”
Then came the sneaky smile of her.
“I do not know! It is my money okay! Anyway let us change the subject.” And boy I wish I did not ask for that!

For the rest of the conversation see here. More from Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora next week…

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