Amira Hass: Growing Bitterness in Gaza

By Amira Hass
The wave of killings in Gaza on Thursday of last week was sparked by a suspicion: Hamas members feared that containers Israel allowed to enter Gaza held weapons for the Presidential Guard. They fired on the trucks, killing four members of the Guard, and Gaza once again entered a lethal whirlpool: 30 dead and more than 200 wounded.

No rifle or bullet was displayed for the TV cameras, which made it clear to everyone that Hamas propagandists either lied or relied on false information. The containers held only routine equipment, not weapons, for the Presidential Guard.

Surely the attackers would have greeted the trucks with flowers had they known the trucks held equipment designed to "improve the fabric of their life." What is the connection between security equipment, the Presidential Guard and an improvement in everyday life? It can be found in a document the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) presented on January 12 regarding the "easing of daily life." One of its headings: ‘The comprehensive plan for improving the Palestinian population’s fabric of life."

The first paragraph is "Steps to empower Abu Mazen," and it includes: "Coordination with the PA chairman’s office and those subordinate to him – Approving entry of donations (security equipment) for the Presidential Guard by expedited procedure; easing the movement of VIPs and senior Palestinians…."

From the document we cannot learn about "easing of conditions," but rather about the mentality of an occupier. The document demonstrates that the security establishment continues to adopt methods that played – and still play – a decisive role in the accumulation of tremendous bitterness among the Palestinian public toward senior Fatah officials.

It is not important whether the document presented referred to that very security equipment. The important thing is that when the war between the Palestinian security services threatens to turn into a civil war with numerous victims, the security establishment identifies the "empowerment of Abu Mazen" with the strengthening of a security apparatus, and both with an improved "fabric of life."

There is no mention in the document of possibly allowing Gaza residents to go to work in Israel, because there is no intention of allowing them to do so. But in the Gaza Strip if thousands could earn a livelihood, that would help Abu Mazen more than security equipment.

It is also unimportant whether senior Fatah officials Mohammed Dahlan and Nabil Amr crossed checkpoints in the West Bank and traveled to Mecca as VIPs. What is important is that they traveled without delays, while the Israeli authorities at the Allenby checkpoint delayed the exit of Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al-din Al-Shaer and of acting Finance Minister Samir Abu Eisheh on their way to that crucial meeting in Mecca by a day.

What is important is that the security establishment is easing the travel restrictions for some chosen individuals who are close to senior Fatah officials, teaching the public to be suspicious of anyone who receives such favors and to identify them with the clandestine game of "give and take."

Three pages in the document deal with the arrangements for the entry of citizens of Western countries (most of them of Palestinian origin) to the territories. While the diplomats were promised in December 2006 that, in effect, their citizens, mainly the non-Jewish ones, would not suffer discrimination, the Interior Ministry continues to block their entry.

For example, Mahmoud Ali, 70, from Chicago, wanted to see his wife, a resident of the West Bank. On January 20, his entry was denied. Abd al-Jammal, 67, and Qawthar Ali, 52, flew from Florida to visit their daughters. After seven days of detention at Ben-Gurion International Airport, they were flown to Amman on January 16.

In reply to a question about the contradiction between the promises and the reality on the ground, a COGAT spokesman said that "the procedure for the entry of foreigners is being formulated jointly with the Interior Ministry. Today exceptions are approved at the recommendation of COGAT, under the aegis of the Interior Ministry.

This is the essence of the easing of restrictions: Basic rights are enjoyed by "exceptions," according to the decision of the security establishment. And, thus, the exceptions become suspects. The Palestinians ask themselves: What made these people acceptable to the occupation authorities? Why were they lucky? And if this is not suspicion, what we have here is bitterness, jealousy and animosity – surefire components for any civil war.


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