Thursday, 8 February 2007

Good news about Palestine, it seems...

After a ceasefire and oh-so-much conflict, some progress is being made in Palestinian politics. The BBC has it covered:

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have signed a deal to form a national unity government.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal signed the accord after talks in the Saudi city of Mecca.

It follows weeks of factional violence in Gaza and a year-long international embargo against the Hamas government.

Mr Abbas urged the new government to "respect" previous accords signed between the Palestinians and Israel.

But reports said the text of the agreement contained no reference to formal recognition of Israel.

Hamas has consistently refused to recognise the Jewish state - a key demand of the countries behind a crippling economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a bitter power struggle since Hamas defeated Fatah in elections in January 2006. Hamas remains the largest group in the Palestinian legislature.

Abbas and Meshaal said they would not leave the holy Islamic city of Mecca until they reached a deal, and, low and behold, they finally have! At the risk of sounding optimistic about a topic usually drenched in pessimism — and rightfully so — I think this might be a huge step in the right direction. The West, however, needs to recognize that, as does Israel. Hamas has two wings: the often-terrorist 'security' wing and their more appropriate political wing. They were elected into power over a year ago in a fair, democratic election, but western nations distanced themselves. It is ironic one of the few democratically-elected governments in the Middle East is disowned by supposed champions of democracy, mainly the United States, just because they are seen in a bad light. The Saudis have been helpful in this peaceful solution and Egypt has, as usual, also had a role. (Too bad they both have atrocious human rights records!)

I neither like the militant wings of Fatah or Hamas or some of their militant supporters; but the militant face of these two major Palestinian political parties is surely different from their political side. Israel has kidnapped (for lack of any more accurate word) many Hamas cabinet ministers; funding that keeps the Palestinian Authority alive has largely been frozen. The Palestinian people spoke and elected Hamas in January 2006, why shouldn't the West honor that decision? Hamas did not overthrow the government by a coup, they were democratically elected. And it is not hard to understand why. Palestinians are scared and terrorized by countries like Israel and the United States — whom they see as collaborators. Just because Palestinians made a decision right to them, they should starve for it? Their own tax dollars should be taken away because of it? Won't that only increase support for terrorism and forces much more dangerous than Hamas? The Hamas leadership has already shown itself as seemingly helping their people at the risk of their own political capital. Recognizing Israel would further damage their capital and might split the party (imagine militants against civil servants), though it looks ludicrous not to. In addition, put yourself in Mahmoud Abbas' shoes, trying to please the people and government, trying to hold the PA together, and keeping relations with Israel and the West open — all at the same time!

Israel and the United States should pick their enemies and choose the lesser of evils, not inflame the situation and, on top of that, be hypocritical. With terror — even somewhat justified on Israel's behalf — comes more terror and counter-terror that, in turn, breeds even more terror. Trashing Palestine and occupying their land is enough, but ruining one of the only democratic government in the region... Obviously this ties into my fire paradox. Might I point out that Israel has made some right decisions, and it is the things they have not done that make them better than the things they have done (i.e. the bad actions). Actions one has not taken are less in the spotlight than actions one has taken, which is why Israel often looks like a menace but, in truth, is not. Following international laws would be a start, though, and you do not see Israel receiving punishment for not following such laws — and making their own situation worse by firing up the extremists.

The United States' role in all of this makes Israel look like even more of a menace tin the eyes of some Arabs. If someone does not like Israel or the US, imaging how much they would hate them even more when they seem as one, a collaboration of 'enemies' fighting against your lifestyle, land, and government. The US already has a bad enough reputation, with Iraq and all.

Songs stuck in my head right now: "The Bends" by Radiohead, "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse, and "X&Y" by Coldplay.

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Wil Robinson said...

Great post! I agree - the US should recognize a democratically elected government regardless of who they might be.

I'm hopeful about this recent agreement, but we'll see what happens. the problem seems to be a lack of representation by the ordinary folk...Abbas and Meshal are simply figureheads and perhaps too detached from day to day life of average Palestinians.

Real peace - between both the Palestinians themselves and with the Israelis - needs to be in the heart of every Palestinian and every Israeli. that could take a while, and can't be made by an agreement between political elites at a summit.

clearthought said...


I totally agree, action really starts with the people — especially in two democratically-based governments such as Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

I still find it amazing Palestine is still not a technical nation-state and I don't know who's radar that is on; and Israel is still breaking international law. The Palestinian land has been in limbo for decades, I guess.

There are plenty of Israelis and Palestinians who agree on peace, or on vengeance and fear of the other 'enemy'. When scared both sides turn to violence, the non-Israeli side being much less moral and civil, though it is not a government.