By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria
As Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) struggles to hold onto power, his Israeli-backed reign of the Occupied West Bank is turning into a colossal disaster for the Palestinians.
Amidst encouraging signals from Cairo’s unity talks between Hamas and Fatah, it appears that in Ramallah, Abu Mazen remains determined to excel as the Zionist state’s most obedient surrogate.
His role as head of the Palestinian Authority remains unimpressive. Not merely despite his dual position as leader of Fatah and the PLO, but in spite of this, Abu Mazen has dismally failed to advance the cause of his people beyond the rim of his framed lenses.
This is evident in the hopelessness of his leadership characterized by constantly yielding to pressure and “giving” without “receiving” anything in return. It’s a disastrous failure by him and his utterly discredited fellow elites to recognize the asymmetry in power relations between Israel and the PA. Tragically, remaining static as a functionary of a colonial settler state allows him no mobility, neither does it permit him the space to permit the mobilization of any form of resistance.
The result of abandoning resistance in lieu of the mirage of “peace talks” is what Ben White, writing in the Guardian, describes in his recent column titled “The real Israel-Palestine story is in the West Bank”. Life in the West Bank is shockingly described as “occupation as normal” while Abu Mazen remains in slumber, waiting to be awoken in time for a photo-shoot with Israel’s new rightwing leaders.
“For three consecutive days this week, Israeli forces invaded Jayyous, a village battling for survival as their agricultural land is lost to the wall and neighbouring Jewish colony. The soldiers occupied homes, detained residents, blocked off access roads, vandalized property, beat protestors, and raised the Israeli flag at the top of several buildings.”
This is not all. Also earlier this week, Israel tightened still further the restrictions on Palestinian movement and residency rights in East Jerusalem, closing the remaining passage in the wall an the Ar-Ram neighbourhood of the city. This means that tens of thousands of Palestinians are now cut off from the city and those with the right permit will now have to enter the city by first heading north and using the Qalandiya checkpoint, according to White.
As Abu Mazen concentrates on smoking the “peace-pipe” with Netanyahu in a bid to retain his “legitimacy” as a credible partner, his vision is obscured by the ugly reality of events unfolding around his precious throne. As White reports, Israel has continued its process of Judaisation, enforced through bureaucracy and bulldozers. Shockingly – yet not surprising since Abu Mazen is a key component of one the tools of occupation, bureaucracy – not a word of protest from any of his fellow elites, or by extension his diplomats posted abroad, about the latest tightening of the noose in Ar-Ram.
Indeed in South Africa, President Kgalema Motlanthe, while pledging the country’s solidarity with Palestine, said at an election rally in Lenasia that diplomatic ties with Israel will remain. This decision he explained is to allow SA access to the Occupied Territories. That the ANC-led government is unwilling to yield to demands by one of its key alliance partners, COSATU to sever links with Israel is reflective of the weak representation of Abu Mazen’s ambassador in Pretoria.
The last we heard from Ali Halimeh, the ambassador of Fatah in South Africa was when he was afforded an opportunity during mid-January to inform members of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee about the horrors of Israeli slaughter in Gaza. He botched up then by blaming the victims for inviting Israeli wrath. In a disappointing partisan approach, Halimeh’s submission facilitated the following day’s input by the Israeli envoy, who found it remarkably easy to blame Hamas.
This is precisely the problem of “bureaucracy” when it is twinned with “bulldozers” to rapidly advance Israel’s absorption of all of Palestine and the confinement of Palestinians into “Bantustans”. Halimeh’s failure to lobby for Israeli isolation in the wake of Motlanthe’s emphatic insistence to retain ties is symbolic of Abu Mazen’s weakness.
Is Abu Mazen’s daydreaming of any sincere initiatives by Israeli leaders a realistic expectation he shares with his ruling elite? Or is it more realistic to expect that such wishful thinking is yet to be shattered by fresh information about the path of the wall?
Indeed the path of the wall and the huge number of Palestinians it directly and indirectly affects, continues to make a mockery of any plan for Palestinian statehood, is the assertion by White.
It’s not surprising therefore those developments in the West Bank are correctly viewed by many mainstream, liberal commentators in the US – especially in the wake of the Israeli elections – as the end of the two-state paradigm. White’s allusion to this new fact is underlined by his reference to Juan Cole, a history professor and blogger, who pointed out that there are now only three options left for Israel/Palestine: “apartheid”, “expulsion”, or “one-state”.
Abu Mazen’s anti-Hamas sentiment echoed by his elite colleagues, including Halimeh, ignores the fact that before the existence of Hamas, Israel was colonizing the occupied territories and maintaining an ethnic exclusivist regime. These observations by White, coupled with the fact that if Hamas disappeared tomorrow, Israeli colonization certainly would not, is the reality of the stark choice facing Abu Mazen: resist or surrender!
– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.