No 1748 Posted by fw, August 11, 2016
“But the truth is, for many within the Palestinian leadership, unity is not an urgent matter and, for them, the ascendency of the faction will always trump the centrality of the homeland. This is partly because factional politics is deeply rooted in Palestinian society. And like the Israeli Occupation, factionalism is an enemy of the Palestinian people. It has constantly overwhelmed any attempt at fostering dialogue and true democracy among Palestinians…. Without unity in politics, it is difficult to envisage unity in purpose, a national liberation project, a unified resistance strategy and the eventual freedom of the Palestinians. There can never be a free Palestine without Palestinians first freeing themselves from factional repression, for which they, and only they, are ultimately responsible. For Israel, Palestinian factionalism is a central piece in its strategy to divide and rule. Sadly, many Palestinians are playing along, and by doing so are jeopardizing their own salvation.” —Ramzy Baroud, counterpunch
There you have the depressing thesis of Baroud’s article. It’s is doubly depressing coming hard on the heels of the celebration with the Green Party membership for its strong endorsement this past weekend of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In this article, Baroud unveils his arguments to support his thesis: politically- and factionally-driven elections even at the largely irrelevant local level; persistent disunity between Fatah and Hamas; political leaders’ flawed concept of democracy; and US-Israel collusion to sabotage Fatah-Hamas unity. Baroud asks: If Palestinian prisoners can achieve unity, why can’t Palestine’s privileged elites? Little wonder that prospects for a lasting Palestinian peace and freedom are bleak.
Canada’s pro-BDS activists cannot allow Palestinians’ self-defeating political factionalism to undermine our pro-BDS actions. Would backing off our BDS commitments not be tantamount to collective punishment of all Palestinians, for the dysfunctional practices of their political leaders? And would that not be analogous to holding all small “c” conservative Canadians to account for the misguided policies of the Harper regime?
Moreover, as Baroud pointed out in a March 2016 article entitled Why BDS Cannot Lose: A Moral Threshold to Combat Racism in Israel:
“What options are then left for Palestinians, who have been victimized and ethnically cleansed from their own historic homeland for 68 years, when they are described and treated as ‘beasts’, killed at will, and suffer under a massive system of apartheid and racial discrimination that has never ceased after all of these years? BDS has, thus far, been the most successful strategy and tactic to support Palestinian Resistance and steadfastness while, at the same time, holding Israel accountable for its progressively worsening policies of apartheid. The main objective behind BDS, an entirely non-violent movement that is championed by civil society across the globe, is not to punish ordinary Israelis, but to raise awareness of the suffering of Palestinians and to create a moral threshold that must be achieved if a just peace is ever to be realized.”
Below is a repost of Baroud’s factionalism piece, with my added subheadings and text highlighting. Alternatively, read his original piece by clicking on the following linked title.
Bleak prospects for October’s municipal elections in the Occupied Territories
As Palestinians in the Occupied Territories begin preparations for local elections which are scheduled for next October, division and factionalism are rearing their ugly head.
Palestinian political platforms and social media are abuzz with self-defeating propaganda: Fatah supporters attacking Hamas’ alleged failures, and Hamas’ supporters doing the same.
Overlooked is fact that Palestinian municipal politics are irrelevant in the greater scheme of things
What is conveniently overlooked by all sides is that the performance of Palestinian municipalities is almost entirely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.
Local councils in West Bank are virtually powerless, and governed by strict Israeli-Palestinian Authority arrangement
In the West Bank, local councils are governed by strict Israeli-PA arrangement. Aside from very few chores, village and town councils cannot operate without a green light: an endorsement from the Palestinian Authority itself conditioned on a nod from the Israeli Occupation authorities. This applies to almost everything: from basic services, to construction permits to digging of wells. All such decisions are predicated upon political stipulation and donors’ money, which are also politically-motivated. Blaming a local mayor of a tiny West Bank village that is surrounded by Israeli military walls, trenches and watchtowers, and is attacked daily by armed Jewish settlers, for failing to make a noticeable difference in the lives of the villagers is as ridiculous as it sounds.
Local elections are politically and factionally-driven
The local elections, however, are also politically and factionally-driven.
Fatah invents ways to be a relevant political force but ultimate control rests with Israeli authority, donor money and US-Western backing
Fatah, which controls the PA, is buying time and vying for relevance. No longer having a major role in leading the Palestinians in their quest for freedom, Fatah constantly invents ways to proclaim itself as a relevant force. It can only do so, however, with Israeli permission, donor money and US-Western political backing and validation.
Hamas is under strict Israel siege in Gaza; its regional politicking is costly and unreliable
Hamas, which might endorse selected candidates but is unlikely to participate in the elections directly, is also embattled. It is under a strict siege in Gaza and its regional politicking proved costly and unreliable. While it is not as corrupt – at least, financially – as Fatah, it is often accused of asserting its power in Gaza through the use of political favoritism.
National unity between Fatah and Hamas is essential but illusive without fundamental changes
While one must insist on national unity, it is difficult to imagine a successful union between both groups without a fundamental change in the structure of these parties and overall political outlook.
Factors that contribute to Palestinian dysfunctional politics
[Flawed concept of democracy] — In Palestine, factions perceive democracy to be a form of control, power and hegemony, not a social contract aimed at fostering dialogue and defusing conflict. Thus, it is no wonder that supporters of two Fatah factions, one loyal to PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and another to Mohammed Dahlan, recently clashed in Gaza. Several were hospitalized after sustaining injuries. Of course, a main case in point remains the civil war of 2007, a year or so after Hamas won parliamentary elections. The Fatah-Hamas political culture failed to understand that the losing party must concede and serve in the opposition, and the victorious party cannot assume the vote as a mandate for factional domination.
[US-Israel colluded to undermine Hamas and block formation of Fatah-Hamas unity government] — Other factors contributed to the Palestinian divide. The US, at the behest of Israel, wanted to ensure the collapse of the Hamas government and conditioned its support for Fatah based on the rejection of any unity government. Israel, too, inflicted much harm, restricting movement of elected MPs, arresting them, and eventually entirely besieging Gaza.
[US bullied EU and UN] — The European Union and the United Nations were hardly helpful, for they could have insisted on the respect of Palestinian voters, but they succumbed under American pressure.
[Factional divisions also jeopardized unity] — However, there can also be no denial that these factors alone should not have jeopardized Palestinian unity, if the factions were keen on it.
If Palestinian prisoners can achieve unity, why can’t Palestine’s privileged elites?
To appreciate this further, one must look at the experience of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Although they divide themselves based on factional and ideological affiliations, they tend to exhibit much more solidarity amongst themselves. When a prisoner from a certain group goes on a hunger strike, he or she is often joined by a few, tens or even hundreds of other political prisoners from all factions.
These prisoners find ways to communicate and transfer messages amongst themselves, even when in solitary confinement or shackled to their beds.
They even hold elections in larger prisons to choose their own representatives, and issue joint letters to Palestinians outside, calling for unity and a common strategy.
If shackled prisoners are able to foster dialogue and adhere to a semblance of unity, those living in Ramallah mansions and those free to travel outside Palestine should be able to do so, too.
The truth is, unity is not an urgent matter for Palestinian leaders – factional ascendancy is
But the truth is, for many within the Palestinian leadership, unity is not an urgent matter and, for them, the ascendancy of the faction will always trump the centrality of the homeland. This is partly because factional politics is deeply rooted in Palestinian society.
Factionalism is an enemy of the Palestinian people
And like the Israeli Occupation, factionalism is an enemy of the Palestinian people. It has constantly overwhelmed any attempt at fostering dialogue and true democracy among Palestinians.
Democracy is also suffering a crisis in the US, UK, and Brazil
It is true that democracy is suffering a crisis in various parts of the world. In Brazil, a parliamentary subversion pushed an elected president out of office. In the UK, Labor Party plotters are entirely discounting the election of a popular leader. In the United States, democracy had been reduced to clichés while powerful elites are bankrolling wealthy candidates who are, more or less, propagating the same ideas.
Without unity in politics, it’s difficult to envisage a unified resistance and eventual freedom of Palestinians
But Palestine is different. It ought to be different. For Palestinian society, dialogue and a degree of a democratic process is essential for any meaningful national unity.
Without unity in politics, it is difficult to envisage unity in purpose, a national liberation project, a unified resistance strategy and the eventual freedom of the Palestinians.
There can never be a free Palestine without Palestinians first freeing themselves from factional repression, for which they, and only they, are ultimately responsible.
For Israel, Palestinian factionalism is a central piece in its strategy to divide and rule
For Israel, Palestinian factionalism is a central piece in its strategy to divide and rule. Sadly, many Palestinians are playing along, and by doing so are jeopardizing their own salvation.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. His website is: ramzybaroud.net
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