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Palestinian Uprising Enduring Most Critical Phase

Palestinian Uprising Enduring Most Critical Phase

By Ramzy Baroud

In an oversimplified gesture of a defused crisis, Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat and his Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei kissed, hugged and raised victory signs. Not too far away, Israeli army Special Forces snooped using their US supplied binoculars as Arafat concluded his heated declarations to a crowd of reporters who quickly dispersed, and to a batch of relieved officials, happy to keep their jobs until the next cabinet crisis.

Tuesday, July 27 seemed like just another typical day around Arafat’s compound, where the Palestinian leader has been imprisoned for many long months by Israeli forces after they declared him to be an ‘obstacle’ and ‘irrelevant’ to the peace process.

To pave the way for peace and to locate a more relevant and suitable alternative to Arafat, Israel’s trigger-happy soldiers wreaked havoc in the occupied territories; since the Palestinian uprising commenced some four years ago, the Israeli army killed 3,421 Palestinians. Moreover, incessant Israeli attempts to remold the Palestinian political structure to undermine uncooperative figures and give rise to more lenient ones proved equally futile, at least until now.

Recent events in the occupied territories, sweeping Gaza and spilling into the West Bank are translated among Israeli officials and media as reverberations of delight; finally, Israel has a commanding argument that can demonstrate through the uncritical western media that Israel’s early calls for Palestinian reforms – which were unquestionably parroted by President Bush’s administration – were well reasoned, and that under the current Palestinian leadership, a ‘viable’ Palestinian statehood cannot possibly be attained. In short, Palestinians are not qualified to govern themselves.

To Israel however, there is more to this argument, now central to the Israeli political discourse in the light of the internal crisis in Gaza and the West Bank, than a subtle realization – a racist one if placed within a proper context – that Palestinians are incapable of leading their own fate. Such designations are always the prelude to a much more dangerous and elaborate political scheme, the latest of which is the most iniquitous.

“It can well be said that never has the very existence of the Palestinians – both as a nation and as individuals – been in greater danger than now,” rightfully noted Uri Avnery, a respected Israeli journalist and a peace activist. The source of danger is not only the too obvious aggressive policies of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but the near lack of any consequential opposition to these policies anywhere; additionally, the full utilization of American foreign policies in the Middle East to serve the interest of only one party, Israel, has granted Sharon free reign to experiment so ruthless a policy with his unilateral moves. But what Avnery really meant to emphasize, through his solemn warning, is the dispiriting strife within the rank of the Palestinian Authority’s leading faction, Fatah. The Fatah power struggle has tragically manifested itself in an extremely critical time.

Bleak is too optimistic a word to describe the reality on the ground today: a series of giant walls, trenches and fences are effectively breaking down the West Bank into miniature entities with little hope of any political or economic continuity; a huge investment in more illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and the extension of the inhumane policies of Israel inflicted for years, that of assassinations, house demolition, night raids and roadblocks, just to name a few.

This is the political context in which Israel is happily serving by using the ongoing crisis in the occupied territories, a crisis that would not have been possible without four years of a revolting campaign of Israeli army terror and an equally vicious campaign of political smearing and misleading notions that it was Arafat’s hardheadedness which invited this terrible gridlock.

While the Israeli role and advantage reaped from the crisis in the West Bank and Gaza must be comprehended, one should not dive into self-congratulating notions that Israel and only Israel deserves blame.

Palestinian factions who have taken it upon themselves to cleanse the Palestinian Authority of corruption in Gaza and elsewhere couldn’t have possibly picked a worse time, since the world’s attention was supposed to remain on Israel’s Apartheid Wall, made officially illegal by an International Court of Justice verdict just recently.

Chances are these factions – some understandably fed up with the unmistakable corruption among Arafat’s Fatah party – have bought into the ruse that Sharon does in fact intend on leaving Gaza. In reality, Sharon is determined to merely reconfigure the impoverished small strip to serve Israel’s ‘security’ interests while allowing for limited control over the territories, inhabited by over a million people living a hapless life of poverty and despair.

It must also be made clear that while the methods used by disfranchised Palestinians to bring attention to the compelling and real problem of corruption and nepotism among the political elite reflect the level of urgency of the situation, kidnapping of foreign nationals is an unforgivable mistake; to scapegoat those who dared to stand alone in the face of world apathy in support of Palestinians and their cause, shall taint the legacy embodied in the Palestinian struggle for years to come.

Doubtlessly, the PA requires serious reformation, not that envisioned by Israel with the aim of subduing any elements which dare to challenge Israel’s brutal policies, nor that preached by Secretary of State Collin Powell so focused on ‘cracking down on terrorism’ without a word of critique regarding Israel’s more substantiated state terrorism.

Reforms, eloquently stated by Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouthi, is the “formation of a national unity leadership to lead the national struggle, to promise free and democratic elections and treat in an effective way all the manifestations of corruption and favoritism without loosing our focus on the primary enemy and challenge: Israel.”

Any interpretation that stands at odds with this discourse must be rejected as loudly as the rejection of the Israeli attempt to capitalize on the looming crisis. Equally discarded should be any means of internal violence to achieve the goals of unity and transparency; political hooliganism never solved such problems. Any diversion from this discourse could jeopardize the Palestinian people’s remarkable steadfastness and desecrate the blood of all 3,421 victims of Israeli terror, who died so that the rest might live, and live in peace.


- -Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist, head of research at English and editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle.

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