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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    The Death of a Nation

    The journalist Jon Lee Anderson had written about the Palestinian tragedy in 1992. He wrote that most students ‘adhered to Yasser Arafat’s stated vision: that a secular Palestinian state [should] be established in the Occupied Territories to exist alongside Israel.’ But he witnessed at that time that the population was becoming increasingly ‘radicalized,’ by Israeli ‘collective-punishment tactics.’ The ‘soldiers were ordered to break the bones of rioters,’ they incarcerated ‘thousands of Palestinians’hellip; for months, without trial,’ and they ‘impos[ed] domestic-confinement curfews on entire communities’hellip; sometimes for days on end.’ He witnessed this in the 1980s.

    Today the Palestinian issue has reached a critical and pivotal moment. The nation has been divided by two separate governing bodies. The brutal treatment the Palestinians have endured has been long-lasting and continues to this day. Brian Whitaker, from the Guardian, reported in Dec. 2000 that ‘Palestinians had succeeded in cutting unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 30% in 1996 to 12% last year, but it had risen to 40% – more than 260,000 people – as a result of the blockade.’ This was a previous blockade, but it is an all too familiar aspect of Palestinian reality.

    In Jan. 2006, the Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, which was widely deemed fair, even though the U.S. and Israel, as usual, used their muscle to sway the results in their favor. To their surprise the Hamas movement won with a startling mandate. The U.S. and Israel immediately began to punish the Palestinians for their horrendous crime- not voting for Washington’s candidate. USA Today reported that ‘even before Hamas’ takeover, 1.1 million Gazans received foreign food assistance, a figure that rose sharply as a result of Israeli trade restrictions and an international aid embargo imposed after Hamas won 2006 elections.’ The American media began issuing broad propaganda phrases like the ‘Islamic takeover,’ ‘Hamastan,’ ‘the new terror government,’ and other nonsense to provide a justification for their states actions.

    Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian-American author, wrote, ‘Whatever serves American interests represents true democracy; anyone who dares to challenge these interests is duly ostracized and removed. However, friendly regimes (from the US point of view) that fail to exhibit even a token of democratic governance are viewed as ‘moderate,’ as opposed to the ‘extremist’ others who could be very democratic, such as Hamas.’ This is common U.S. policy and can be viewed from U.S. support for Somoza, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, Ceausescu, etc.

    It was clear that the West was unwilling to recognize that the Palestinians were tired of Fatah and the Palestinian ‘Authority.’ British journalist Robert Fisk wrote, ‘I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a P.A. [Palestinian Authority] official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell’hellip;But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps – or variations of them – were what cost Fatah its election.’ This is precisely why Fatah lost and this is obviously just a small glimpse of the problem; while Hamas had offered the population social services and a movement that was not preaching the struggle and practicing capitulation.

    Israeli author and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery, wrote that ‘It is not easy to conduct elections under occupation, when the occupier is overtly fighting against one of the major parties, arresting and even killing candidates.’ Former President Jimmy Carter stated that ‘the Bush administration’s refusal to accept Hamas’ 2006 election victory was ‘criminal.” Carter further stated that the U.S., Israel, and the E.U. were attempting ‘to divide Palestinians into two peoples.’

    In Washington they decided they would not allow Hamas the chance to even attempt to govern. Hamas had gone to great lengths to organize a national unity government with Fatah, under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and they were praised by the international community for their moderation. However, the arrangement was constantly being subverted by Washington and Israel. The West proceeded to terminate the majority of the financial assistance previously promised to the Palestinians, which was also somewhat of a lifeline for the population. As Carter said, ‘The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah.’

    This election had been hailed by the West as the most democratic election ever in the Middle East and there was massive popular support for the electoral decision. However, there is an important lesson to be learned here. Democracy means absolutely nothing to those with economic leverage and vast weaponry in the West.

    The United States began to encourage Mahmoud Abbas to accrue considerable power single-handedly. Earlier this year, when tensions between Hamas and Fatah became clear, the World Net Daily reported that Washington sent approximately ‘7,000 assault rifles and over 1 million rounds of ammunition’ to Fatah. They also promised $86.4 million to bolster security forces loyal to Abbas. Fatah’s strongman in Gaza, Mahmoud Dahlan, accepted a great deal of these weapons. In the following months Hamas attempted to reach a deal with Dahlan. Dahlan, one of the richest men in the Palestinian territories, controlled a force of 20,000 fighters. However, when fighting became intense, Hamas proved considerably more motivated and routed U.S. and Israeli backed Fatah forces from the Gaza Strip all together.

    Now Palestine is left with a house divided. Fatah is cementing its hold in the West Bank and Hamas is effectively in control in the Gaza Strip. Hamas continues to make appeals to Abbas, but their requests are falling on deaf ears. Abbas has already created an illegal and un-elected emergency government and demanded the Rafah border, the only crossing between Egypt and Gaza, closed.

    This act has left Gaza on the brink of collapse. Filippo Grandi, the U.N.’s Deputy Commissioner General warned that in a few weeks Gaza would ‘be one hundred percent aid dependent.’ The B.B.C. reported that ‘All 600 garment factories in Gaza have shut down because they cannot import raw materials and 90 percent of factories involved in the construction industry have closed.’ Thousands of Gaza’s citizens are stranded at the border in desperate conditions and at least 31 people have already died. Haaretz reported that Abbas personally requested for ‘Israel and Egypt [to] prevent the movement of people from Egypt to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing’ and ‘Abbas and a number of his aides asked that the request not be made public.’

    While Abbas has indisputably been embracing the occupying force, and administering the suffering of the Palestinian people, Hamas has actually faired better than expected. They have managed to pay wages to government workers whose salaries Abbas seized. Hamas has also continued to extend an olive branch to Fatah. However, Abbas continues to receive shipments of weaponry.

    The government of Abbas and Salaam Fayad has called on all the resistance forces to unilaterally disarm. The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees recently announced a warning to the emergency government in a press conference on July 28th. The group, which is a coalition of resistance forcers from different Palestinian factions, including Fatah, ‘dubbed Abbas, Fayyad and other members of the government the ‘Ramallah traitors’ and vowed they will receive an ‘identical response as to the Israeli occupation.” It appears the Hamas rank and file appears to be losing patience.

    To conclude, these actions are common procedure from Washington. If one wants to examine the duplicity consider these reports which were printed two days after each other. On February 12, 2006, the New York Times published a review by New York University’ professor Noah Feldman of statements by Osama bin
    Laden. He described how horrendous it was for bin Laden to believe ‘that since the United States is a democracy, all citizens bear responsibility for its government’s actions, and civilians are therefore fair targets.’ On February 14, 2006, the New York Times published another article by Steven Erlanger where he wrote that ‘The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again.’ The U.S. and Israeli ‘intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.’

    This elicited no outrage whatsoever. The hypocrisy is glaring and Americans can choose to ignore the facts but they should not be confused or enraged when others do not.

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