TERRITORIES: WHAT'S LEFT?
In this Gaza, nobody wins; Our leaders have only served to further
Ariel Sharon's plan, and to de-legitimate our claim to self-government
19 June 2007
The Globe and Mail
Two years ago, the Egyptian security envoy in Gaza told me that if
there were a military confrontation, Hamas could easily defeat the
predominantly Fatah security forces and take over all of Gaza in
three days. "I've seen both sides," he said, "and it is clear that
Hamas scores much higher in five areas: leadership, discipline,
training, arms and, most important, the motivation." He said the
security forces would be hobbled by being stationed in buildings,
while Hamas fighters would be able to hit and run. To the shock of
the terrified population of Gaza, that's exactly what happened last
week. An Israeli military analyst said the Palestinian Authority
forces were like a paper tiger.
I went on a tour Sunday morning. Gaza was wearily quiet and people
were bewildered. An old man said to me, "Okay, they destroyed the
corrupt. We welcome that. Can they feed us now?" I saw what was left
of the looted home of Mohammed Dahlan, commander of Gaza's preventive
security service, and of the beach chalets that were used for
training his new recruits.
My family and I had spent several traumatic days and sleepless
nights, trying to find a safe corner in the house as the shooting and
shelling raged around us. My baby son was with his grandparents when
the fighting erupted and we could not bring him home or even see him
until it subsided. The most alarming thing was the inhuman treatment
of those who were captured: One man was tied and thrown from the 10th
floor of a building; some injured fighters were killed in their
hospital beds; and stories of insane torture were numerous and
It's not easy to explain what has happened here and why. On the
surface, it looks like a power struggle that grew out of the U.S.-led
blockade of the Hamas government and even to efforts at forging a
Hamas-Palestine Liberation Organization unity government.
Last year, I was among a small group of Palestinians that met Elliott
Abrams, President George Bush's deputy national security adviser. He
was blunt that the Hamas government, which was democratically
elected, must be pushed out at any cost. We're not Hamas followers,
but we tried to persuade him and other officials that engagement,
rather than confrontation, is the better choice; but their
determination was unshakable. We warned there would be suffering and
starvation and even armed conflict, but to no avail. It wouldn't be
the fault of the U.S. if that happened, he said.
The siege imposed on the Palestinians has been biting. Poverty has
reached unprecedented levels, along with unemployment. According to
the World Bank, 60 per cent of Palestinians live on less than $2 a
day. Israel, which is in full control of all Gaza borders and its sea
coast, intensified the blockade by curtailing Palestinians' movement.
At times, even fishing has been prohibited.
Already overcrowded, lawlessness became rampant in Gaza. Kidnapping,
theft and armed robbery have frightened everyone. Last week, my
brother's car was taken away at gunpoint. Many people have been
forced to surrender their wallets or cellphones. Beggars roam the
streets asking for money or bread. For more than 18 months, civil
servants did not receive a salary, only parts of it every now and
then. Municipal workers were given a bag of bread every day instead
of their wages.
The explosion was bound to happen, and the last straw came when the
interior minister declared that he could not fulfill his duties and
resigned. He blamed the obstructive attitude of Fatah's director of
Of course, Palestinian affairs are not purely Palestinian. The big
players are in Washington, Tehran and Tel Aviv. It seems to us that
the U.S. and Iran are fighting their war in Gaza, and in Lebanon and
But this situation is more than just a power struggle. It stems from
the absence in Palestine of a culture of democracy and the rule of
Emerging in the mid-1990s from Israel's occupation, we Gazans dreamed
of a new era. Instead, our Palestinian Authority continued the
culture of the gun. This culture is based on loyalty, secrecy and
decisively rooting out opponents. There is no regard for human rights
or the rule of law or even human life itself.
What began in the name of resistance to the Israeli occupation became
worse during Yasser Arafat's years in power. Many times, I was
confronted and even jailed by officials of the security forces -
people who had once been in the resistance but showed no
understanding of the seriousness of torture and abuse of the law.
The culture of the gun is contagious. Armed people exhibit a euphoric
and self-confident image as the gun in their hands compensates for
inner impotence. In the face of defeat and humiliation against the
powerful outside enemy, people look for smaller enemies they can win
over. The armed militia leader becomes the new model, the symbol of
power who can kill at will and torture others without a hint of
As the dream of an independent Palestine fades - the result of
Israel's continuing grab of West Bank land and the anarchy of Gaza -
we now imagine the nightmares that may come next. Will there be three
states instead of two: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza? Will there
only be one? Will Gaza become an even more extreme place than it is
Palestinians are bitterly divided in politics and in geography, as
the emergency cabinet sits and operates in the West Bank, while the
Hamas-led government sits and operates in Gaza. Separating our two
territories was one of the objectives of Ariel Sharon's plan of
unilateral withdrawal. The tragic irony is that Palestinian leaders
have only served to further the Sharon plan, and to de-legitimate our
claim to self-government.
The only solution is a government that is made up of neutral people
of integrity who advocate peace negotiations with Israel but insist
on keeping Palestine intact.
Eyad Sarraj received the 1997 Physicians for Human Rights Award and
the 1998 Martin Ennals Award for human-rights defenders.
Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program[newprofile message1221] Eyad sarraj Palestinian Territories What's left
A new map of the West Bank (see below), 40 years after its conquest by Israel in the Six Day War, gives the most definitive picture so far of a territory in which 2.5m Palestinians are confined to dozens of enclaves separated by Israeli roads, settlements, fences and military zones.
Produced by the United Nationss Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it is based on extensive monitoring in the field combined with analysis of satellite imagery. It provides an overall picture officials say is even more comprehensive than charts drawn up by the Israeli military.
The impact of Israeli civilian and
military infrastructure is to render 40 per cent of the
territory, which is roughly the size of the
The process of enclosing the
civilian enclaves has accelerated in the years since the
outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and the
A network of roads designed to ease the movement of Jewish settlers limits access between Palestinian enclaves. A secondary network being built would allow Palestinian limited movement via tunnels, bridges and trenches.
say the effect of the infrastructure changes would be to
formalise the de facto cantonisation of the
The map is one of a number of
documents whose publication has coincided with
Mondays anniversary of the 1967 war. Amnesty, the
rights group, issued a report that accused
Copyright The Financial Times
EU boycotts Israels
celebration of 1967 war