Palestinian Affairs: 'What about our war?'

While some praise Hizbullah, others worry it's distracting attention away from their own struggle.

Palestinian demo 88 (photo credit: )
Palestinian demo 88
(photo credit: )
For the Palestinians, the timing of the war in Lebanon could not have been worse. The fighting erupted at the height of IDF military operations that began in the West Bank and Gaza Strip almost immediately after the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit three weeks ago. In a desperate attempt to win back the attention of the international community and media, Palestinian militias went as far as organizing an unprecedented "military" parade of armed women in the streets of Gaza City. The women were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov rifles and pistols and sent to the streets to show the world that the Palestinians were prepared to fight with Hizbullah against Israel. But the event drew almost no attention as the world's eyes continue to focus on the massive Israeli air raids on Lebanon and the Hizbullah rocket attacks on the North. In fact, many foreign journalists who had arrived in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of Shalit have been sent to the North to cover the war between Israel and Hizbullah. "Of course we're unhappy with the fact that the war in Lebanon has diverted attention from what's happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," said Abu Haitham, one of the commanders of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various militias that has been operating in the Gaza Strip for the past five years. The committees were behind the show of women that took place in Gaza City on Monday. Their leaders claimed that the new army of women consisted of over 100 members who were all trained to carry out suicide missions inside Israel. Over the past few days, several IDF operations, especially in the Gaza Strip, have gone almost unnoticed. On ordinary days, the death of 10 or 15 Palestinians in one day or the destruction of the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry building would have won wide coverage in the foreign media. Earlier this week, the IDF sent large troops into Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip in what was described as the biggest incursion since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip one year ago. Several houses were demolished during the operation, which lasted for a few hours, and at least eight Palestinians were killed. "That story hardly made it to the media," complains Munir Abu Shamalah, a resident of Beit Hanun. "In the past, when Israel used to carry out smaller operations, we would see journalists from all around the world here, including Japan and China. Now no one cares about us all because of what's happening in Lebanon. When one Israeli is killed by a HIzbullah rocket, that story makes headlines. But when scores of Palestinians are killed, no one reports about it." Similarly, Wednesday's IDF operation in Nablus, where the headquarters of the PA security forces were surrounded in search of wanted Fatah gunmen, would have turned into a major event in the media had it not been for the Lebanon war. Again, the fact that 12 Palestinians were killed and more than 50 wounded on that day hardly made it to the front pages of major newspapers around the world. PA officials fear that Israel will exploit the international community's preoccupation with Lebanon and Hizbullah to escalate its attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the aim of removing the Hamas government. Both Hamas and Fatah leaders have been careful not to appear as siding with Hizbullah to avoid providing Israel with an excuse to portray them as allies of the radical Shiite organization in Lebanon. Yet this has not prevented many Palestinians from taking to the streets to voice their support for Hizbullah. Even Fatah members were among those who marched in the center of Ramallah and Rafah, chanting slogans calling on Hassan Nasrallah to bomb Tel Aviv: "O' beloved Abu Hadi, bomb, bomb Tel Aviv!" (Abu Hadi is Nasrallah's nickname.) The Palestinians are now searching for ways to attract the attention of the international community to their plight. Some are prepared to go as far as launching attacks inside Israel, with the hope that the international media would shift its attention to the Palestinian issue. These attempts are spearheaded by Fatah's various militias, some of which have been on Hizbullah's payroll for some time. This week the Israeli security forces managed to foil two suicide attacks by Fatah in Israel, when the would-be- suicide bombers were intercepted in the last minute.