You wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media in the West but the two territories that are supposed to comprise a future Palestinian state are engaged in an increasingly bitter political and economic war with each other.
Local elections were held in the West Bank yesterday with “local” being the operative word. No such elections were held in Gaza and Hamas is boycotting the elections in the West Bank. With only Fatah participating, the result will be a foregone and pointless conclusion.
The split between Hamas and Fatah goes back to at least the middle of the last decade when Israel ended its presence in Gaza. In June 2007, Hamas set about systematically slaughtering anyone in Gaza connected with Fatah. Within a few days, after between 100-200 deaths, they had inflicted a bloody and crushing defeat on their rivals and have been in control of Gaza ever since.
Fatah remains the dominant Palestinian party in the West Bank but is increasingly nervous about growing support for Hamas there. .And if recent student elections at Bir Zeit University are anything to go by, they have every reason to be worried with a Hamas-backed party winning them for a third year in a row. If these elections are a good gauge of public opinion, then Fatah is under pressure in its West Bank heartland and would explain why Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t held any proper municipal, legislative or presidential elections since 2006.
Since 2007, there have been various attempts at reconciliation between the two sides but all have failed. In the last few days, the Fatah leader signed a decree ordering Gazans not to pay taxes to Hamas. This follows an earlier decree from Abbas cutting off funding for electricity to Gaza as well as another order from Fatah slashing by 30-50% the salaries paid to public servants in Gaza.
Anyway, this is all part of what seems to be an increasingly pointless campaign by Mahmoud Abbas to re-establish Fatah control of Gaza. Abbas is unable to visit Gaza and arguably would end up being hanged or flung from one of the city’s high-rise buildings, as a number of his Fatah colleagues were in the last ten years. He is persona non-grata in a large chunk of what’s supposed to be his future state. Just remember that next time someone tells you that Israel is the obstacle to Palestinian sovereignty.
What relevance does this have to little old Ireland? Well, the denizens of the “Fair City” might wonder why Dublin City Councillors were in such a tizzy to express solidarity with “the people of Palestine” recently when one part of this “Palestine” is inflicting stringent economic sanctions on the other part. Shouldn’t solidarity begin at home? For the record, if the Israelis were to do this, e.g. in response to missile attacks, there are UN resolutions, protests and much outrage. When the Palestinians do it to each other, the world yawns.
Also, there were some rumblings a few months ago that the Oireachtas would vote to recognize a Palestinian state. The idea seems to be on the back-burner now with wise heads in the Department of Foreign Affairs pointing out that Swedish recognition last year had no effect apart from seriously damaging Israeli-Swedish relations.
What should be of equal concern is the pointlessness of recognizing an entity that would clearly be incapable of being even remotely stable. Even by the fractious standards of the Arab world where religious, tribal and clan identity is usually much stronger than national identity, this proposed Palestine would be so riven by internal divisions that it would collapse into chaos before you could say “failed state”.
The Oireachtas members who are pushing to recognize “Palestine” would do well to ponder these issues. What is the point of recognizing a state divided between two warring cabals that don’t even recognize each other? Answers on a postcard, please to Irish4Israel.