Report from the Gaza Strip. (Current Affairs)

By Shahin, Mariam | The Middle East, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Report from the Gaza Strip. (Current Affairs)


Shahin, Mariam, The Middle East


As certain Arab leaders bowed to pressure from the United States, and called on Palestinians to stop the violence, the struggle to liberate the West Bank and Gaza Strip was dealt another blow. By not contextually linking the demands made of Chairman Yasser Arafat with an end to the continued Israeli occupation and violence against the Palestinians, the Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian leaderships were seen, on the Palestinian street as having "caved in" to American arm twisting.

With Israeli tanks still placed deep inside the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank cities surrounded by the Israeli army, the Arab call to Palestinians to "halt the violence" and implement security arrangements that would essentially save Israeli lives while Palestinian lives remain threatened, is unprecedented. The almost daily loss of life on the Palestinian side, goes largely unreported, while every Israeli casualty is widely broadcast as being the result of "Palestinian violence". The Israelis are reported as making concessions by not launching major invasions, meanwhile, their `minor' daily invasions are reported as mere `incursions', `retaliatory missions', or simply `operations'.

The Palestinians have been annoyed by demands from Israel and the US for PNA internal reform. This, they feel, is an internal matter, for which they have pushed for nearly half a decade. When the perceived dishonest broker, the US, and the enemy, Israel, come out and demand Palestinian reforms it is seen as interference and possibly a "devious" ploy.

On the one hand Palestinians are sick of violence, having been on the receiving end of it for more than half a century. On the other hand the Israeli yolk around their necks continues to suffocate them. After almost a decade of negotiations they feel they have seen insufficient evidence of Israeli goodwill, in fact they have seen almost none.

Illegal Israeli confiscation of Arab land, denying the Palestinians rights to property legally theirs, as well as restricting freedom of movement, access to water resources on their own land and the right to self determination, has only reinforced Palestinian disgust with Israel. More than that, it has created anger and opposition to the Palestinian leadership, which is widely seen as weak, corrupt and worst of all, partially co-opted by the Israelis and their American patrons.

Among the ruling leadership, only Arafat and to a greater degree local leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti, are seen as still holding true to the much-curtailed Palestinian dream of a homeland cum State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

With Arafat clearly unwell after his month long confinement to three rooms in his Ramallah compound, and the likes of Barghouti dead or in Israeli dungeons, horizons have shrunk. Palestinians now believe that there is indeed a plan, mapped out by Israelis; sanctified by the US administration; swallowed by the Arab governments and now, imposed upon them. The plan is one, which spells surrender.

Arafat is unwilling to sign the declaration of surrender to the occupier. But some of his handpicked lieutenants, who have become increasingly visible, are clearly headed in that direction.

Ahmad Qurei, (Abu Ala'a) and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) until recently, "heirs" to Arafat's reign, have all but disappeared into the woodwork.

So, who are these new Palestinian lieutenants? There is no great line-up. Just the same old hands reshuffled. Increasingly prominent is the head of preventive security in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, a 41-year-old veteran of the first Intifada, trained in preventive security matters by the CIA. Then there is Mohammad Rashid, also known as Khalid Salam. Rashid is an Iraqi Kurd who joined the once awe inspiring Palestinian revolution in its heyday some 25 years, or more, ago. Now, the 50 something outsider has harnessed considerable economic influence, as a result of Arafat's trust and backroom support. …

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