Aristotle considered chaos to be a very likely outcome of the competing interests given voice in democracy. In Gaza, Palestinian differences have been exploited to bring about Aristotle’s predicted internal division. On a national level US leadership is determined through a democratic process. Yet, in its foreign policy US leadership resembles an oligarchy, a wolf in sheep’s clothing that hypocritically insists on an increased spread of democracy while forcing its personal agenda on world leaders. Abu Mazen is its latest victim forced to promote “democracy”, yet consent to the demands of the US-aligned oligarchy. The giving in to this duplicitous policy will, much like the Native American experience, lead to the demise of the Palestinian cause.
The Failing of Gaza
Transportation is one of the few sectors of Gaza’s economy that is relatively constant. No matter how dire the financial situation, collective taxis are always shuttling people along the main roads of the Gaza Strip. This past week saw an exception to even this rule, reflecting the severe desperation of Gazans. There are a few reasons for this.
Many people are afraid of what the future may bring. Militarily, Hamas has shown its domination over Fatah by ousting the latter in 48 hours. Yet, politically, Hamas has dug itself into a hole, with seemingly little foresight for a political agenda of realpolitik. Because of Fatah’s unwillingness to hand over power and Hamas’ weak position on the world’s political stage, it is the people who will suffer.
The US and Israel are now, more urgently than ever trying to bring about the weakening of Hamas, for their deeper goal of conquer and divide. Yet neither has learned that starving a people does not break their determination, it only reinforces it. Fatah has lost a vast amount of legitimacy in the eyes of its people, while Hamas is being internationally weakened; as a result the Palestinians are more divided than ever. The oligarchy and its partners continue to use whatever means necessary, be it force or a vernacular of promoting the people’s rights, to attain their personal interests.
In Gaza government employees, despite being largely unpaid, still attended their work until Hamas took over the Gaza Strip last week. President Mahmoud Abbas’s new US-backed emergency government has called for all government employees, including the police force not to report for work while promising to finally pay them a full month’s salary. Economic borders with Israel are largely sealed slowing trade down to a trickle. Many Gazans are staying home because of the uncertainty of their future. These are difficult days and yet many rather save their money for the even harder times ahead.
On the Egyptian side of the Rafah border thousands of Palestinians are once again living in tents in refugee camps like in 1948. Wednesday morning Egypt declared it would not open the border, thus effectively closing Gaza’s only gateway to the world. The emergency government canceled Palestinian passports last week calling for their reissuing in the West Bank. Gazans are left without access to the rest of the world, without internationally recognized travel documents, with only the bare minimum of food to survive on and are largely unemployed in a depleted economy. The Western backed emergency government is complicit in the creation of this sealing off of Gaza and the further severing of Gaza from the West Bank.
How long can Gaza survive while its civil servants are ordered to stay home by its Fatah leadership whom they are loyal to, yet which has deserted them? How long can Gaza go on with school teachers, ministry employees and policemen remaining in their homes? These should answer to their elected government and yet the oligarchy has illegitimized it and instated a puppet government, while international leaders follow suit.
One taxi driver told me security is more important than bread because what does one do with all the money in the world if you don’t have security to keep you alive to enjoy it. Another driver told me a man can’t get married and say to his wife, “good morning, habibti, my love,” and then disappear for the rest of the day without providing for her and their home. Palestinians cannot survive without bread.
After the Hamas military takeover in Gaza, Olmert’s government promised to ease roadblocks and security restrictions in the West Bank. This statement was put on hold after the Israeli army raised objections. Further promises have been made that Palestinian taxes, illegally withheld by Israel over the past year and a half are to be returned to the new emergency government. The details of when and how much and if at all, still lie in Israel’s hands. Olmert was reported saying Tuesday,
"We aren’t deluding ourselves… there are concerns that Abu Mazen will be tempted to do what he did with the Mecca agreement, and enter into a new unity government alongside Hamas." Israeli Minister Eli Yishai said, “funds should be transferred to the PA in stages, in order to determine whether it has any practical effect in terms of strengthening Abbas.”
Israel seems hardly concerned with the legality of its actions or even its dialogue partner Abu Mazen’s needs.
On Tuesday Egyptian President Husni Mubarak explained, "Fatah has also committed mistakes, but it is clear that Hamas started the whole thing and confused the world."
Mubarak rightfully points out the “confusion” that reigns after recent events in Gaza. Yet, the sources of this deliberate “confusion” are the world oligarchy’s leaders and its partners. Mubarak went on to say, “Hamas had made a dangerous mistake in allowing chaos to prevail.”
On Tuesday US secretary of state envoy to the Middle East David Welch said, “We are supporting the legitimate security forces and enhancing them in order to establish a Palestinian entity which will be able to provide security and stability for Palestinian citizens, and we will be committed to this in the future.”
In his leaked report retired UN special envoy to the Middle East Alvaro De Soto contradicts such statements saying, “the Americans clearly encouraged a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas and worked to isolate and damage Hamas and build up Fatah with recognition and weaponry.”
Since Hamas has taken rightful control in Gaza, the people have witnessed a complete turn-around in its security situation. No civilians are seen walking the streets carrying arms, no more gunfire is heard as was becoming the norm while Fatah security forces dominated, reports of theft and crime are almost unheard of and drug lords are being round up and criminals brought to justice. Mubarak’s claim of chaos prevailing under Hamas doesn’t hold water and the US’s effort of training illegitimate security forces brought anything but peace and security.
The Way Out
In addition to the rhetoric President Mubarak also had something insightful to say Tuesday, “Unify the Palestinian ranks through dialogue… a common Palestinian position” is “an immediate requirement that can bear no delay.”
Indeed these two factions so torn apart must sit together once more and find a way forward. Hamas is calling for dialogue already. Fatah needs to prioritize their own people’s choices and silence Western voices that are tempting them with legitimacy in the world’s eyes if they concede to the oligarchy’s demands.
After Hamas’ election victory early last year, Fatah was not able to come to terms with its election loss. 16 months later, Fatah is still in denial of the ultimate outcome, Hamas’ seizing of power in the Gaza Strip. For Fatah, the Palestinian national agenda seems to be buried beneath a pride and the prioritizing of certain individuals of their personal interests tied closely to those of the oligarchy. This could well lead to the movement’s downfall while taking the Palestinian national agenda years to recover.
A regular contributor to PalestineChronicle.com, Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German who has lived in Gaza since August 2004 where he works and writes. Philip runs a blog: tabulagaza.com