Gaza and after ...

After the tragic events in the Gaza Strip, and the complete takeover of Gaza by Hamas in a military coup, we think that it is important to stress the following points:

(1) We condemn the military coup by Hamas, and its ramifications of tearing Gaza away from the West Bank. This new situation will eventually complete Israel’s process started since 1991, to disintegrate the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and create two separate entities, and this puts into jeopardy the political and geographical unity of the OPT.

(2) It’s so obvious now that the bloody infightings were direct and indirect consequences of the Israeli long-standing policy of siege, closure, expropriation of lands, and settlements, etc., which led to high poverty and unemployment rates as well as devastated trading opportunities since Israel as an occupying power has strictly limited Palestinian movement within the West Bank and with the Gaza Strip.

(3) The international community, mainly the USA and the European Union, is also blamed for exacerbating Palestinians’ distress and agony by the imposition of political sanctions and economic blockade on our people since early 2006.

(4) We also admit that the state of corruption in the Palestinian Authority, and security anarchy, and the lack of measures to remedy this situation, has contributed in generating tension and hostilities.

(5) The huge bipolarization of Palestinian society by Fatah and Hamas, and their policy, before and after the Mecca accord, to bisect and monopolize the power between them, paved the way towards excluding all the political factions and the civil society from being real partners, and this complicated more negatively the internal scene, and encouraged the internal infighting.

So what we can say now is that we are very concerned concerning four matters:

(1) The assault on the legitimate authority and the military takeover by Hamas in Gaza.

(2) The complete separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

(3) A wide-scale humanitarian crisis in Gaza if Israel implements its threats to cut off vital services and supplies.

(4) The upcoming situation under Hamas control, and what will happen in regard to secular civil society and individual and public freedoms as well as women’s rights, etc., taking into consideration certain declarations by Hamas leaders that they are going to establish an Islamic Authority in Gaza.

Now if there is a lesson from what happened in Gaza, here it is: Starving, drying up and blocking a whole population do not sear the consciousness and do not weaken political or ideological movements. On the contrary, after one year and a half of the policy of international boycott of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has become stronger, and the boycott policy has failed. The American notion that it is possible to topple an elected government by applying external pressure on the population suffered a complete failure.

On the other hand, it was unwise behavior by certain elements in Fatah and the Authority to count on the external pressure, and to follow certain policies that depend completely on the American and the Israeli good wishes.

The question now: where to go from here? To go on with the boycott policy by the USA and Israel and the European Community will lead to more disasters.

The international community needs to change direction, and it has to deal with one legitimate authority, and with one legitimate government without previous conditions. The international community should from now on deal with the Palestinians through their government and not on the personal level, as it was before through the so-called Temporary International Mechanism. It should help the Palestinian government to deal with its people in the West Bank as well as in the Gaza Strip, and not go over its head, or through putting conditions and giving instructions.

Only through giving the Palestinian government and President Abbas the full responsibility for his people on the political, financial, economic and security levels, without any external intervention, could he succeed to make a breakthrough and to go back to the status quo ante in the Gaza Strip.

The so-called policy of strengthening President Abbas should be based on a real political approach, and substantial steps towards a final solution to the Palestinian problem, and not only financial aid and the removal of some military checkpoints.

As preliminary steps there should be a complete and mutual ceasefire, a full withdrawal from the Palestinian populated areas, removal of all the military checkpoints, massive release of prisoners, and dismantling of the illegal settlements. Such measures could create a new environment and give hope for the Palestinian population that the political path did not fail. All the efforts to face Hamas, without undertaking a dramatic step such as pushing for an accord based on the Arab Peace Initiative, will be meaningless. And without offering a genuine political alternative, extremism and fundamentalism will continue to succeed.

Hanna Amireh is a member of the Palestinian People’s Party Political Bureau and the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee. This article was distributed by the Palestinian People’s Party June 25.