Palestine gripped by political turmoil

The latest spate of kidnappings by Palestinian factions of Palestinian security officials and subsequent resignations have highlighted a ten-year-old call for reform in the Palestinian Authority.

Quraya handed his resignation but Arafat rejected it
Quraya handed his resignation but Arafat rejected it

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was in a state of disarray on Saturday after the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya, as hundreds of Palestinians marched in Gaza, calling for President Yasir Arafat’s ousting and for an end to the corruption rampant throughout his security apparatus. 


The political chaos is a reflection of the deep-seeded frustrations and boiling indignations felt by Palestinian society, particularly with the PA’s inefficacy. The disenchantment is finally finding an outlet, say analysts.


“This is not a new problem, but the PA has failed completely in the past ten years to approach the issue or engage in one single dialogue on it. So naturally, it built up,” said Ghazi Hamad, political analyst and editor of the Hamas weekly news magazine Al-Risala.


“I do not think [the PA] has been able to solve one single problem in all its existence. Their policy is one of imposing band-aid solutions and putting problems on the backburner.  It’s led to absolute chaos and a major security lapse.”


Hamad believes the problem is in Ram Allah, not Gaza, where he claims Arafat is playing his loyalists like chess pieces, as he tries desperately to retain his ever-diminishing command.


“The problem is Arafat. He is turning a blind eye to all of this.  He shoulders the big responsibility. Once withdrawal happens, the matter will only be one-thousand times worse than what it is now.”


Anarchy risk


While the intentions of the recent Gaza upheaval are shared by most Palestinians, the method is not. 


Civil society activist Mustafa Barghuthi called the actions of the factions “hooliganism” and “a total lack of law and order that reflects a serious internal weakness”. 


Musa Arafat’s appointment wasbitterly opposed by factions

Musa Arafat’s appointment was
bitterly opposed by factions

“What happened reflects lack of rule of law in general in the PA, and the absence of an independent judiciary system and of efforts to eliminate corruption, nepotism, and abuse of people, their lands, their public property and so on,” Barghuthi said.  


He said it was understandable the factions had a right to be upset, but advised that their grievances had to be managed effectively so as to avoid creating a lawless environment.


“Kidnapping is unacceptable on any terms,” said Barghuthi, who is secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, or Mubadara, a recently established democratic opposition movement in the realm of Palestinian domestic politics.


In Israel’s interests


Barghuthi described Friday’s events as intra-factional – not inter-factional – politics that are only serving as “a distraction” from the main issue at hand: “The struggle against occupation and the apartheid wall”.    


“What we need is to eliminate all forms of corruption, establish a democratic system of elections so all forms of nepotism and factionalism will disappear and people can make real democratic choices,” he added.


Barghuthi said the last municipal elections were held in 1976, before the majority of Palestinians living today were born.


“But it’s not strange to see that Israel is trying to prevent these elections,” he alleged adding that Israel “wants this mess to continue; they want to see all Palestinian security forces fighting among each other”.


Internal crisis


The developments are also symptomatic of a widening internal crisis within the Palestinian Authority, and in particular within Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement. 


Arafat finds himself between a proverbial rock and a hard place, unable to alienate his own old guard and likewise unable to hit hard against the new post-intifada forces that have sprung from his own party, such as the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Janin Martyrs’ Brigade, and the Popular Resistance Committees. 


Critics blame the Palestinian leadership and its “stone-age” mentality for failing to make the transition from a “resistance” movement to an administrative authority. 


Has Arafat failed to create a responsible administrative body?

Has Arafat failed to create a
responsible administrative body?

“Because the PLO developed in exile as a guerrilla movement not bound by or used to operating within the framework of the law, much of the old-guard of its leadership see the law as a threat to their livelihood,” said Azmi Shuyabi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Secretary-General of AMAN – the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity.


“Until today there is no serious feeling on their part that the law is one of the main tools for an effective government, and that it tells people where their best interests are at.”


The Palestinian police force has also been criticised for not viewing itself as independent from politics or from the Palestinian resistance. Increasingly, Palestinians on the street, and now, rival political factions, are beginning to ask: To whom are Arafat’s security agencies answerable?


“What is being asked for is simple: Keep the streets safe for Palestinian citizens. Now, as the situation stands, every other person is armed,” a disgruntled Palestinian preventive security source told


“Arafat has not taken this issue [of corruption] seriously in the past, and now the time has come for him to act: This has become a wide-scale Palestinian demand.”


Weapon of disenchantment


The two groups behind the kidnappings, the Janin Martyrs’ Brigade and the Abu al-Rish Brigade, resorted to kidnappings to force the resignation of Chief of Police Ghazi al-Jabali.


The groups are thought to be disgruntled offshoots of Arafat’s own Fatah movement.

French aid workers were let goshortly after being kidnapped

French aid workers were let go
shortly after being kidnapped


In response to the captors’ demands, Arafat reshuffled the security cabinets, replacing al-Jabali with Saib al-Ajaz and head of public security in Gaza Abd Al Razzaq Al-Majaidah with Musa Arafat, a first cousin of the Palestinian leader.

In addition, Gaza preventive security chief Rashid Abu Shabak and head of Palestinian general intelligence, Amin al-Hindi, submitted their resignations to Arafat earlier in the day. 


A new head of preventive security has not yet been named.


Not satisfied


Abu Iyad, a spokesperson for the Janin Martyrs’ Brigade, told his faction was not satisfied with the new heads of security, calling them more of the same.


“We will not allow corruption to return ever again. The Palestinian street will assume responsibility for prosecuting the authority, and we count ourselves at the top of the list.


“What we are demanding is that Arafat fire the new heads of security … otherwise the situation will progress from bad to worse,” he warned.

Source : Al Jazeera

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