May 19 2007

A new Nakba in the making

Published by at 11:21 am under Uncategorized

A new Nakba in the making
Daoud Kuttab

The abhorrent news from Gaza of illogical killing among Palestinians has hurt the Palestinian cause. Palestinians in the West Bank, where it is rumoured that all available weapons and ammunition have been purchased by militants from one faction or the other, are bracing for some difficult days ahead.

Palestinians can’t blame anyone but themselves. Despite the economic siege and restriction on movement placed on Gaza, there is little that anyone can say by way of explaining the madness. The way attempts at self government have been executed leaves little hope for successful peace talks. An outside observer can easily be excused for asking how Palestinians who cannot learn to administer power fairly, apply the rule of law and understand the meaning of power sharing and rotation of power in Gaza can guarantee that they can do it in the rest of the Palestinian territories.

While the current fighting is a black spot in Palestinian history, some contextualisation is necessary. Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem) have been under a brutal foreign military occupation that has violated international law by moving Jewish population to houses built on lands expropriated from Palestinians. The Fourth Geneva Convention specifically prohibits the occupying power from moving its people into areas under occupation.

Since the Israelis left Gaza, the only open border to the over one million Palestinians living was closed many more days than it was opened. The Israelis say they regularly close the Rafah crossing point because of the still unresolved problem of the captured Israeli soldier. Again, such action constitutes collective punishment and is a violation of international law.

Furthermore, the unjust economic siege by which the international banking system prohibits a single penny from being transferred into an account of the Palestinian Authority has caused extreme poverty and unemployment. With little hope for the present or the future, it is not difficult to predict more chaos.

The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fateh resulted in an agreement by which the dominant legislative authority (Hamas) agreed to give up power in order to please the international community and break the unjust economic siege. But three months into the new national unity government no lifting of siege has been witnessed.

Sources from Gaza indicate that the current round of fighting was instigated by some hardline officials who were asked to leave in order to make room for the national unity government. Some of these leaders are wondering how to share power with Fateh if the latter has not been able to bring an end to the economic siege.

One can argue that Hamas cannot blame Fateh for the continuation of the siege. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that the commitments made by Hamas in Mecca were not enough. It was hoped that the movement would show more moderation by moving closer to the demands of the international community.

Whatever arguments are made by any side, the pictures coming out of Gaza are disagreeable to anyone supporting the Palestinian cause. As Palestinians were remembering 59 years since the Nakba (catastrophe), the time when the Palestinian refugee problem was born, Palestinian newspapers ran eight-column headlines in black and red calling what is happening in Gaza a new Nakba. But while commemorating the Nakba is supposed to remind the world of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and homes, the new Nakba is threatening to make the dream of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as difficult as the right of return.

Friday, May 18, 2007

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