By: Daniel Breslau
Week 2,017-2,018 of occupation
19 January 2006 - 31 January 2006
The ballot-box intifada?
Many Palestinians used the 25 January elections of the legislative council to declare their desire for a leadership that cares more for national goals than their own enrichment. The media focused on Palestinian anger at the corruption of Fatah-affiliated leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
While corrupt PA officials have only themselves to blame, corruption itself was not one of the two main reasons for the resounding defeat of Fatah. The first reason was the failure of the Fatah government to further the national cause. Israel has responded to Palestinian willingness to negotiate and to restrain violence with continued military operations, construction of settlements, confiscation of land, and construction of an annexation wall. All of this has served to discredit the Fatah platform. Without this failure of the Fatah strategy to improve the lives and national prospects of Palestinians, the corruption of government officials would not have been as much of an election liability.
Second, the real weakness of Fatah in the elections was the movement`s disorganization and fragmentation. Here again, Israel shares the responsibility. Over at least the past five years, Israel`s policy has been to prevent the emergence of a unified, moderate leadership. A close look at the election results shows that the disappointing showing of Fatah was above all the result of its fragmentation, infighting, and lack of a unified election slate or strategy. Had a single Fatah candidate run, with the movement`s endorsement, in each district, the Palestinian Legislative Council would today feature a roughly even representation of the two largest movements, rather than a lopsided Hamas advantage.
The world reacts
While it is not clear how Hamas will approach the task of setting up a government, or how it will govern, the rest of the world did not hesitate to lecture the election winners. British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, a proven authority on democracy and violence, stated that `those who participate in democratic elections have to understand that democracy and violence are incompatible.` This, from a leader of a government that willfully subverted democracy to wage an aggressive war that killed many thousands of innocents, to the elected leadership of a people whose country is occupied and colonized through violent means. Straw continued, `so Hamas faces a very clear choice: does it renounce violence and go in the direcation of all democratic parties of using argument and vote to achieve what it wants?` He forgot to mention that the Palestinians have virtually no political rights in their own land, and therefore have no chance of using `argument and vote` to achieve their basic rights.
Children in the crosshairs
Despite the elections, and pledges not to interfere, Israeli military operations in the occupied territories, and severe restrictions on movement, did not let up.
On Monday night, an unarmed 13-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by IDF troops near Ramallah. Munadel Abu Elai`a was shot when he and two friends were walking on the settler bypass road near their village of Al Mughar. In explaining the shooting, the IDF said that the boys were preparing to throw stones at cars passing on the Israelis-only road.
On Thursday evening, January 26, IDF soldiers shot and killed a 9-year-old Palestinian girl by the border of the Gaza strip east of the Khan Yunis refugee camp. Soldiers saw Aya al-Astal near the border fence and opened fire, hitting her in the neck and the stomach. They later claimed that she had been seen carrying a large bag, although no bag was found at the scene.
The Amona clashes
The Amona Outpost was established in 1995 on privately owned Palestinian land, with the help of over 2 million shekels of government money diverted from the Ministry of Construction and Housing (roughtly 700,000 US dollars at the time). The Defense Ministry turned a blind eye when settlers started building permanent structures at the illegal outpost in 2005. Despite demolition injunctions issued in late 2004, nothing was done to enforce the law, and construction continued.
Finally, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, gave the order to demolish the nine permanent buildings that his ministry had allowed to be built. On Wednesday, 1 February, soldiers and police were met with unprecedented resistance from settler youth that had congregated at the site. The settlers pelted police with cinder blocks, stones, paint buckets, and whatever objects they had stockpiled on the roofs of the buildings to be demolished. Security forces responded with water cannons and batons, without distinguishing between violent and non-violent protesters.
Numerous police, settlers, and other protesters were hurt, although only a small number with serious injuries. The event, which was a show of force for the Kadima government in advance of the March elections, and a demonstration of force for on the part of the settlers too, has been viewed in Israel as a watershed. It exposes the unbridgeable rift between the realist, security-minded wing of the expansionist right, and its religious-ideological wing.
Sources: Ha`aretz, Ynet, IMEMC, Peace Now, Palestine Centre for Human Rights.