Palestinian Anarchy

NYT (AP) – Gunmen Attack Security Office in Gaza

YahooNews (AP) – Palestinian Offices Burned Down in Gaza

Gunmen burned down offices of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority in Gaza Sunday, as anger spread over the Palestinian leader’s overhaul of his security forces that many saw as falling short of genuine reform. . . . Dozens of militants belonging to an extreme offshoot of Arafat’s Fatah movement stormed an office building in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis shortly after midnight to protest Arafat’s appointment of his cousin, Moussa Arafat, as chief of security. One security guard was wounded in a gun battle with the militants, who seized control of the building, stole weapons, and burned two offices and several cars parked nearby, witnesses and officials said. Moussa Arafat’s appointment was part Arafat’s reforms to his security forces, as demanded in the “road map” peace plan sponsored by the United States and supported by Egypt. However, members of Arafat’s own Fatah movement were infuriated, accusing Moussa Arafat of symbolizing the corruption and cronyism of the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the unhappiness at the appointment, Moussa Arafat took control of the security forces at a handover ceremony in Gaza City on Sunday, saying he was prepared to fight all “potential enemies,” and would ignore the protests. “I take my orders from His Excellency President Arafat. The one who appointed me is the only one who can ask me to quit my job,” the new security chief said. Moussa Arafat — previously the head of the Palestinian intelligence services — is known as a fierce commander, and completely loyal to Yasser Arafat. He was among the founders of Fatah in 1965.

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“Arafat now is at a crossroads. Either he makes a revolution inside his authority or the Palestinian people will make a revolution against him, said Ahmed Jamous, a student at Ramallah’s Bir Zeit University. “The people want elections and good government, not to be ruled by a group of corrupt thieves,” Jamous added.

In Gaza late Saturday, an estimated 2,000 protesters — many of them armed — marched to the Palestinian Legislative Council building. Referring to Arafat, they chanted: “Listen, listen Abu Amr, we don’t agree with your decisions and we don’t agree with the appointments.” “There is a consensus in the Palestinian nation and not just in Gaza that what is happening now can’t continue,” Soufian Abu Zaida, a Fatah leader in Gaza told Israel Radio. “The new thing is … that people won’t accept what had been accepted until now.”

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The United States and Israel have tried to sideline Arafat, whom they see as the spoiler of Mideast peace efforts, but Qureia’s government is paralyzed by Arafat’s refusal to back their reforms. “I think this is the opportunity to get rid of Arafat,” said Health Minister Danny Naveh. “Even in the Palestinian street they won’t cry too much,” he told Israel Army Radio.

This is interesting indeed. Arafat has long been an impediment to solutions in the region. I fear, however, that his replacement could be worse. No Palestinian leader will ever have the power Arafat once enjoyed; the historical circumstances won’t repeat themselves. But every indication I’ve seen is that young Palestinians are much more militant and drawn to the Islamist cause that the generation that founded the PLO in the late 1960s.

Roger Cohen’s piece, “Israel’s Wall: Building for Calm by Giving Up on Peace” [RSS] seems almost ironic in this context.

Inside the “War Room,” as it is informally called, Israeli soldiers gaze at banks of computer and television screens. What they see are images of the wall or fence or barrier – it is all these things in different places – that is transforming the physical and mental landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their job is to stop anyone crossing the barrier and so make Israel safer. An officer shows off the gadgetry: night-vision cameras trained 24 hours a day on a barrier loaded with electronic gizmos that signal the precise location of anyone who touches it, ensuring that Israeli forces reach the area within two to eight minutes to stop the sort of infiltration of Palestinian suicide bombers that brought nearly 100 Israeli deaths in March 2002 alone. The barrier, destined to run over 430 miles, from the northern West Bank to its southern rim, with numerous protrusions into the area, has become an article of faith for these soldiers and officers. It is an effective tool, they say, not a political statement. Projected to cost well over $1 billion, it works and must be completed. If Israelis are going to the beach and to clubs again, and if bombings have become rare, it is thanks in large part, they insist, to these ditches and guard towers and coils of barbed wire and miles of wire fencing that separate two peoples, demarcating the gulf between them.

Belief in the barrier is by no means confined to the army. Most Israelis are tired of the conflict, exhausted by it. They want to forget what goes on over there, in the West Bank. A wall helps them do that. They feel peace was within reach in the 1990’s, but now the best that can be hoped for is damage limitation. A fence makes the task of Palestinians who want to kill them harder. “There is a feeling that you cannot resolve this situation for the coming decades, you can only manage it,” says Tom Segev, a historian. “The wall is ugly and terrible, but it is also a way of managing.”

So when the International Court of Justice in The Hague rules that the barrier is illegal, or when Israel’s Supreme Court says its planned path must be changed, many Israelis shrug. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s insistence that the barrier is necessary for self-defense finds a generally sympathetic domestic reception. Opinions diverge on the reasons for the precipitous fall in Palestinian bombings this year. Is the intifada exhausted after almost four years? Was Yasir Arafat cowed by the Israeli killing of Hamas leaders? Did the removal of those leaders throw Palestinian militants into disarray? Have the ceaseless patrols by more than 12,000 Israeli soldiers in the West Bank blocked attacks? Perhaps each theory has its share of truth. But whoever espouses these ideas also tends to see the barrier as an effective, additional guarantee of some semblance of normal life in Israel. Sure, the price is high – the defeat of hope – but so be it.

What often seems to be missing from these Israeli musings is any grasp of the life of the Palestinians on the other side of the barrier. On those war-room screens the most common sight is a Palestinian in a donkey cart trundling along a dirt track. The contrast between the high-tech Israeli cameras that deliver these images and the abject existence of the Palestinians photographed provides an apt summation of the divergence of the societies: a first-world Israel forging ahead as best it can, a third-world Palestinian society going backward.

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Look one way from the Mount of Olives and you see the golden walls of the Old City, refracting light. Turn east toward the village of Abu Dis and there is this gray monument to defeat, deadening light. To one side, minarets and churches and onion domes and synagogues piled, it seems, one on top of the other. To the other, the razor cut of a wall through land and psyche.

Life is an accumulation, war a dissection. It is clear in Jerusalem today that the logic of war has won.

As most Americans learned the hard way with the 9/11 attacks, it’s quite logical indeed to join a war if the other side is already fighting it.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Chuck says:

    Refractions/reflections! Oy! Onions! Olives! I’m starving mit your description of a Deli plate. So? All of a sudden Life’s an accumulation?
    Medic!