Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

Er, despite appearances, these masked men are not exactly mirror images of one another.

Still, even after Palestine's worst in-fighting for years, it seems premature and utterly simplistic for the west to believe that the Palestinians have split themselves into two easy pieces. Sure there's seaside Gaza Strip, cheekily dubbed "Hamastan" after its seizure by the fundamentalist Muslims, and the larger, more moderate "Fatahland", which US and Israeli policy makers want to inject with belated foreign cash as a deterrent to creeping Islamofacism. Say what?
Both enclaves still are rife with feuding factions and gangs armed with smuggled weapons.

Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu-Mazen) succeeded Yasser Arafat and was elected in January 2005 to head the Palestinian Authority. He promised to reform the security apparatus and to enforce law and order. To avoid confrontation, Abbas incorporated elements of the militias into his official security organs. But he dithered and failed to consolidate the security services or to appoint new and loyal officers who could control them. Abbas also blew a chance to impose law and order in Gaza after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in the summer of 2005. That's why he gets scant respect inside Palestine.

In contrast to the Fatah-led PA, Hamas doled out welfare and education services to the people, and earned a reputation for comparative honesty. Being deprived of funds to govern, Hamas's political wing was crippled and after 18 months, the militant extremists prevailed.

Now several million Palestinian civilians must try to eke out ordinary lives in the turmoil of kidnaps, targeted killings, honor killings, revenge killings, assorted atrocities and depravity. They're desperate for calm to return, however fleeting. The West Bank's population is 75% Muslim (mostly Sunni), plus 17% Jewish,and 8% Christian; overwhelmingly Islamic Gaza has less diversity. Only 0.7% are Christian, and 0.6% Jewish, and these minorities are fearful of what the future might hold under tightened blockades.

Israeli's new Defence Minister Ehud Barak has just instructed officials to give temporary asylum to Gazans needing urgent medical care. Up to 600 Gazans were sheltering Wednesday inside a tunnel on the south side of the Erez border crossing. Many incapacitated people lay on the bare concrete amid their own filth. If they managed to crawl into the Israeli-controlled area of the tunnel, tear gas would hiss into the confined space, so a spiral of razor wire was hung up as a reminder.

Israeli Physicians for Human Rights petitioned the Supreme Court to force the authorities to offer immediate medical treatment. IDF tanks had blocked all movement after a militant hurled a grenade at the checkpoint and exchanged gunfire with Israeli soldiers.

In the lull after the heavy conflict, Hamas has been aping the Americans' PR tactics familiar from the War on Terror. Witness this poster,
which, unlike the Americans' Iraqi deck, shows a royal flush of Fatah fighters. The defunct Ace is a much-feared hit man called Sameech Almadhoun, nicknamed “Almaleoun” (the cursed one). Hamas systematically executed his cohorts and finally Sameech himself in the Northern Gaza Strip and issued the new poster as both boast and a threat. It does not look as if Hamas is ready to fold and shuffle off anytime soon.

1 comment:

jawjawwarwar said...

It's worth checking out Charlie Levinson's conflict blotter, at where he has been asking Fatah fighters in Gaza hospitals how come they wimped out and failed to "kick Ham-ass". The latest line seems to be that Fatah's non-fighters were supposed to surrender, those whose mums did not haul them out of harm's way in the trenches, that is. It was conspiracy, not collapse. Off the wall, to pledge not to fight the brethren but knuckle under. You buy this?