On the fifth anniversary of Arafat's death

Are Hamas and Fateh the new "notables of Palestine"?

November 11 was the fifth anniversary of the death/murder of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Abu Ammar. Much has been written about Abu Ammar. Those who loved him thought of him as a saint, the very symbol of Palestinian nationalism, Mr. Palestine. Those who disliked him/hated him blamed the setbacks of the Palestinian national movement, unfairly but squarely, on him. In the last stage of his life, the George W. Bush administration adopted the Israeli view that Arafat is the problem and that that he should not be "isolated." Arafat, with the Arab and Islamic world watching, was held as a prisoner in his compound. Israel barged into his compound destroying and wrecking havoc to shake his resolve. He remained steadfast as he always liked to say, "ya jabal ma yhizak reeh," a mountain is not shaken by strong winds. To the very end, the symbol of the Palestinian national movement, remained steadfast to the principles of the Palestinian struggle - the right of return, the end of the occupation and an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. He died on November 11 in France. Some say he was assassinated, not a far-fetched possibility given Israeli behavior and American official acquiescence to the terrorism of the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila," as Palestinians have come to know Ariel Sharon.

The Post Arafat Period
Five years ago the post- Arafat Palestinian era began. Those who disliked or hated Arafat expected change and promised it in irrational exuberance. They expected that the Palestinians will be crushed by the death of their leader and will take whatever their regional- power occupier, backed by the world's superpower, throws their way. The Israeli thinking was that a segment of Palestinians who have benefited from the Israeli status quo would have a vested interest in pleasing Israel and would sell their people on whatever Israel gives. Settlements continued. Checkpoints multiplied. The collective punishment of the Palestinians continued. Violations of human rights and international law continued. Israel continued the colonization of East Jerusalem and the oppression and gradual uprooting of its people. Israel unleashed more wars on Palestinians. The criminal siege of Gaza was followed by a war designed to break the will of the Palestinians to fight the Israelis, as the Goldstone Report concluded. After years of all these violations of human and international laws the will of the Palestinian people to be steadfast did not weaken. Israel with all its crimes, a world which watches passively while Israel piles abuse over abuse on the Palestinians and a super power giving Israel a de facto veto power in the Security Council did not shake their determination. Even the world's fixation on Israeli prisoner of war Shalit while ignoring the plight and illegal imprisonment of 11,000 Palestinians by Israel did not move them. The world's behavior and Israel's behavior are things the Palestinians got used to. They were not expecting and did not deserve to see their biggest groups Hamas an Fateh act the way they have been acting.

Hamas and Fateh
Every Palestinian who cares about his people laments the travesty that is going on in Palestine. Hamas takes over Gaza and suppresses Fateh, even disallowing the observation of Arafat's anniversary. Hamas begs Israel to negotiate with it and agree to a "long term truce," uses force against those who want to attack Israel from Gaza, suppresses basic freedoms and focuses on curtailing individual freedoms. Their steps to "liberate Palestine" are checking the IDs of men and women seen in public together and forcing female attorneys to wears an Islamic scarf because some of them allegedly "have been wearing clothes clinging to their bodies, walking into court with sunglasses holding their hair and wearing bright colors that might distract male attorneys." The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is controlled by Fateh. The U.S. and Israel keep pushing Mr. Abbas and his group for more and more humiliating concessions while Israel is marching on with its settlements and massacring of Palestinians. The Palestinian house is beyond disorder.
Always on the Losing Side of History?
The Palestinians are facing a vicious enemy in the Zionist movement, a movement organized and focused to take over all of historical Palestine and remove its rightful owners and native population, the Palestinians. Justice, international law and human rights organizations are on their side. The setbacks and failures of the Palestinians are mostly the result of forces beyond their control. However, the Palestinians can do a lot to strengthen their position for the ongoing conflict with the Zionist movement. Having trusted leaders and functioning institutions is a must in the struggle. It is time to have new elections in Palestine, choose new leaders, and revitalize Palestinians national institutions. Let history not repeat itself. Let us read and act upon the conclusions of Issa Khalaf. Issa Khalaf in Politics in Palestine: Arab Factionalism and Social disintegration, 1939-1948 writes "[T]o the Palestinian notability of the 1940s, politics was a profession of continual conflict and little compromise. They were able neither to unite nor to organize themselves, much less lead their people. Compromise and cooperation were practically unknown, as each man pursued a disruptively individualistic path and jealously guarded his prerogatives." He adds, "[T]hroughout the mandate, the notables were unable to achieve any significant length of time a united political program or to cooperate in effectively creating local autonomous institutions, that would have served as a basis for governing their people. Despite the fact that they were denied legislative councils, the Palestinians could have developed self-governing institutions at the community level at their own initiative. However, the notability worried that such institutions would mean wider participation ad more democratic participation and therefore a weakened grip."

Are Fateh and Hamas the new notability unwilling to compromise and leading Palestine to more setbacks and failures in the epic confrontation with the Zionist movement?

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