Saturday, June 16, 2007

Palestine: state of emergency

At an East Jerusalem party last night, a tipsy aid worker stood up to toast to the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC captive. He'd just read the news wires on his Blackberry, and so we all whooped with relief and launched some fireworks. It was a hint of good news in a very dire week. Hours later, poor Alan still is not free. (Nor is Gaza, although now ordinary people at least are able to walk the streets.)

We all have been concerned about Alan's safety and state of mind the past few days, held prisoner inside a tower block for three months in Gaza City, now listening to bombs, rocket-fired grenades and gunfire all around, smelling the blood and the smoke and not being able to find out the cause. Journalistic hell---being on the spot but effectively deaf and mute. Three other western journalists (from McClatchey, NPR, and Britain's Sunday Telegraph) were reporting from the strip when the most vicious fighting of the year broke out, and all were with local fixers and the Fatah factions. None were able to board the clandestine fishing boat to Egypt with the fleeing Fatah warriors after Hamas declared the place "an islamic republic." Bloody chaos.

After the score-settling and summary executions in the street, granting amnesty for Fatah fighters is a welcome gesture from Hamas. But will they be able to control the other militant factions, like Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa brigades, so they'll refrain from provoking Israel with rhetoric and rocket fire?

In Gaza, this week's coup d'├ętat by Hamas-- the elected government,if you recall-- has thrown the west for a loop. About 1.5 million people still live there amidst gun-toting masked men, so is it fair to write the place off as ungoverned and ungovernable? Some 18 months ago, the majority of Palestinians turned their noses up at corrupt Fatah politicians and their graft, and voted in what Israel and the West consider "the wrong guys." Many outsiders do not distinguish between the militant wing and the political leaders, who were not given the means to govern. (Both wings are attached to the same venal bird of prey, they complain.) Even the Arab League condemns the savagery of the Gaza feud, and branded some actions as war crimes. After the abandoned house of Yasser Arafat was looted, Hamas ordered gunmen to demask and show their faces, except when shooting at Israelis. In the West Bank, where the parliament was overrun by gunmen bent on vengeance, Fatah militants still hide behind the skimasks. Guess it's all downhill from here.

Both the US and Israel balk at dealing with a Hamas government until and unless it formally recognized Israel's right to exist. This will be a long wait. Pragmatic politicians must deal with the world as it is, not an idealized version. (When the US for years refused to recognize Red China, over Taiwan, the Sino-powerhouse did not magically vanish.)

Fatah took its cue from Jerusalem and Washington and has refused to relinquish its power. The "unity" government that was belatedly agreed on in Mecca four months ago never obtained the Western backing it needed. Now, Hamas has taken by force the victory it won 18 months ago at the ballot box. Their brutal tactics wrenched apart many lives and have created political dead-ends for any humanitarian progress. And to re-label Gaza as "Hamastan" is as erroneous as it is to gloat at the two-state solution the Palestinans now have lumbered themselves with; Hamas has staunch supporters in the West Bank as well, and a civil war there will not enhance Israel.
Israelis are expected to ease some restrictions on the West Bank and to further squeeze the Gazans in their narrow seaside enclave, which on the map is shaped like a crude Kalashnikov.

Jan Egeland, who advises the UN Secretary General, said: "This is a product of failed Palestinian policies, failed Israeli policies, failed international policies." It is also the fallout from the catastrophic blunders in Iraq, which have distracted and discredited America and inspired Islamic militancy the world over. Bloodshed is likely to spill over into the West Bank and there will be limited tolerance for stooge politicians. Hebron, especially, is a potential flashpoint.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert travels to Washington soon, and the talk show diva Oprah Winfrey, tagging along with Elie Wiesel, is expected to generate some star power back in the blighted Holy Land. The small screen star-cum-Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson will head here this summer, too. There is no indication that these celebrities plan to venture into the West Bank towns or to Gaza, where there's definitely a lack of Law and Order. Da-dum.
Israelity bites.


pondering jew said...

"A member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs` Brigades, a violent offshoot of Fatah, said his group planned to take control of all Hamas institutions, in response to Hamas` takeover of Gaza" Haaretz reported today.

Before Israelis gloat over Palestinians turning on each other, remember that Al Aqsa Martyrs` Brigades (an offshoot of that weakling stooge Abbas`s Fatah party) are the guys behind the worst acts of violence against Israel, not Hamas.

Palestein Pete said...

It's like a tragi-comedy with no applause. We ought to have predicted this Abbas and Costello routine of 'who's on first'--just doesn't quit.

Izzy Bee said...

Here is the latest from Hebron. Kinda scary Saturday.
Gunmen from al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Fatah, stormed government offices, fired in the air and demanded that pro-Hamas supporters quit. Al Aqsa militants also set up checkpoints throughout Hebron, searching for Hamas supporters.

shlomo said...

My friends...the chaos in Gaza and the West Bank will not pass..IT will simply and surely be replaced by other tragedies, others getting violated and fucked over.

Shabat shalom

Fahid said...

Stop the madness for a moment and hang your heads.
Best to heed the words of Muhammad Radwan, of al-Misri al-Yawm: "Please stop. stop the humiliation to our martyrs and your martyrs...We have stopped believing in many important things and we do not want to reach the stage of stopping to believe in our right to live."

Izzy said...

Shalom to all of you, may you be safe in your houses and armchair philosophies.
Al very tragic, but where does it leave room for Olmert and his comedy capers to manoeuvre? This is Politics Iraq style. In the end only the peace of the graveyard will remain. Let's be careful not to step in and get our own share of this madness. We lost the last rumble, we can't win this tombola.
Who sends a thank you note to Mr Bush for his service to worldorder?

shelley said...

Those Hamas boys can be ironic. Jeru Post reports that looters in broad daylight broke in after Friday prayers and snatched Arafat's peace prize (the one he shares with Shimon Peres, the new Israeli president.)

bagel boy said...

By perverse Palestinian logic, gang-ridden Gaza Strip wasn't worth the fight so Abbas lost to Hamas on purpose, acc to some pundits in Washington. This make any sense? Aid to flow to West Bank while Gaza goes begging.

Anonymous said...

Nasty new developments on day 101 which may mean further delay for Alan's release: The Army of Islam, led by Momtaz Dogmush, earlier claimed responsibility for Alan's kidnap.
Now a Dogmush family member was reportedly shot dead yesterday. Dogmush clan blame it on a family linked politically with Hamas.