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Gaza and the Failure of the National Project

Jul 15 2017 / 6:38 pm
'Besieged Childhood,' a mural co-created by Belal Khaled, on a Gaza City tower. (Photo: Abed Zagout, Electronic Intifada)

By Haidar Eid – Gaza

In order to understand the draconian measures taken by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority against the Gaza Strip, which has already been enduring a suffocating, decade-long Israeli siege, one has to scrutinize the Fatah movement’s diminished ideological and national agenda.

There is already a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, documented by international, local and Israeli human rights organizations. To add insult to injury, Israel has imposed severe restrictions on the import of construction materials needed for rebuilding the thousands of homes and institutions destroyed during the 2014 Israeli onslaught.

Palestinians of Gaza do understand that the Israeli siege is rooted in the history of Zionist settler-colonialism where the native is completely dehumanized and her death is not counted.

The Gaza Strip is itself a large refugee camp – 70 percent of its 2 million residents are refugees – a reminder of the original sin committed in 1948, when Zionist militias and later the Israeli army expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their original homes.

Israel is motivated to finish the job, to make sure that the unwanted surplus population are kept in a large prison, but without naming it as such.

And at the same time, those ungrateful “Arabs” of Gaza must understand that the siege is their fate since it is supported by a complicit international community, Arab regimes, and – most importantly – some of their own leaders. Hence comes the idea that Gaza is a place of infinite darkness, figuratively and literally.

This unbearable humanitarian situation in Gaza is further compounded by the Palestinian Authority’s decisionin April to suspend payments to Israel for electricity for Gaza, and its decision to reinstate taxes on fuel destined for Gaza.

This ultimately caused a shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant, which was already operating at reduced capacity due to damage sustained in repeated Israeli bombardments over the years, reducing electricity available to the Gaza Strip to the lowest levels ever.

Going even further, the PA has reduced funding to Gaza’s hospitals and clinics as well as put into effect drastic pay cuts to public sector employees whose salaries have provided a vital stream of revenue in the besieged coastal strip. For example, the salaries of Al-Aqsa University employees have been slashed by 80-90 percent for the fourth month in a row.

The latest immoral decision taken by the PA was to force 6,000 Gaza civil servants, most of whom work in education and health, into early retirement.

All of these deadly measures have been taken in a bid to pressure Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, into relinquishing its control and “reconciling” with the PA.

Some Fatah apologists have gone even further and claimed that all of these measures have been taken in defense of the “national project” which has supposedly been under tremendous threat by Hamas.

They, however, fail to explain how an academic’s salary ended up being a “threat” to the national project.

In order to understand the PA’s measures against Gaza, one has to examine the weaknesses of Fatah – whose name is an acronym for “Palestinian Liberation Movement” – and its failure to achieve any of its declared goals, including its inability to accept its own defeat in the 2006 democratic elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

I would also argue that the latest Palestinian Authority strangulation of Gaza reflects not only the demise of Fatah – the faction that dominated the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for decades – but the demise of contemporary Palestinian nationalism in general.

Fatah started as a national liberation movement aiming to “liberate Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, through the barrel of the gun,” but it has moved into the postcolonial condition without achieving a single gain in democracy, justice or liberation for the Palestinian people.

It transformed into a bantustan organization bearing the trappings of a nonexistent “state.”

Through a mechanical and self-pitying analysis of the outcome of the 2006 elections and subsequent events in the Gaza Strip, Fatah has made its position clear: the dire humanitarian and political situation in the Gaza Strip has been caused by Hamas. And since most Gazans voted for Hamas, they have to pay this heavy price.

Fatah was the driving political force behind the Oslo accords that the PLO signed with Israel in 1993, and which have been associated with corruption and the selling-out of principles of self-determination as defined by international law, and of liberation.

As a right-wing party, Fatah has been unable to understand the enormous changes and paradigm shift in politics in the Gaza Strip as a result of the three massacres Israel carried out between 2008 and 2014. These include a loss of faith in the ability of the current leadership to come up with any solution that guarantees justice, the dwindling support for the two-state solution and the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. So Fatah leaders continue to reiterate the long-held misbelief that the Oslo accords are the only political route to a Palestinian state.

This remains a stark indication of their loss of faith in the power of the Palestinian people to reclaim their land and rights. Their approach is a repudiation of the undeniable, unprecedented steadfastness shown by the people of Gaza, the growing forms of popular resistance in the West Bank and the success of the global BDS movement.

Interestingly, the worst and most inaccurate comment made by Oslo supporters currently is that Oslo has nothing do with the situation and events in the Gaza Strip these days.

On the other hand, one wonders whether the de facto government in Gaza seriously believes that its new alliance of convenience with its political nemesis, former Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, can provide a solution to Gaza’s unending politically created challenges.

Dahlan was a mortal enemy of Hamas, but fell out with Fatah boss and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, meaning that Dahlan and Hamas are now making common cause.

Through the alliance with Dahlan, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates and close to the Egyptian regime, Hamas was able to secure a few days supply of fuel for Gaza’s power plant.

But allowing in a few liters of fuel through the Rafah crossing is pressure valve politics, nothing more.

In an article for Al-Shabaka, I argued that Palestinians must consider “dis-participation” in the current political system which has become illegitimate and ineffective.

The Gaza blockade comes in the context of Israel’s intrinsic genocidal tendency as a settler-colonial project that is characterized by a multitiered system of oppression.

In order to address the “Gaza crisis,” Israel, like apartheid South Africa before it, has to pay a heavy price.

This is what the BDS movement is doing. It is the only window of hope that we Gazans think will make an impact.

– Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor at the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. He is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). This article was first published in Haidar’s blog in the Electric Intifada. He contributed this article this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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