There's enough blame to go around, but the context has to be the 40-year-old brutal occupation.
By DAOUD KUTTAB
The senseless killing among Palestinians that peaked two weeks ago has hurt the Palestinian cause. Palestinians in the West Bank, where it is rumored that all available weapons and ammunition have been purchased by militants from one faction or the other, are bracing for some difficult days ahead.
A trend is developing in which Palestinians and Israelis use attacking the other side in order to deal with their internal problem. The spike in rocket attacks by Hamas took place precisely when the movement's reputation was hurt because of their unprovoked assassination of members of the Palestinian national security forces stationed outside the strategic Karni cargo crossing point.
Palestinians can't blame anyone but themselves. Despite the economic siege and restriction on movement placed on Gaza, there is little that anyone can say by way of explaining the madness that occurred when Palestinians began killing each other for no apparent strategic advantage. The way in which attempts at self-government have been executed leaves little hope for successful peace talks.
An outside observer can easily be excused for asking how Palestinians, who cannot learn to administer power fairly, apply the rule of law and understand the meaning of power-sharing and rotation of power in Gaza can guarantee that they can do it in the rest of the Palestinian territories.
WHILE THE internal fighting is a black spot in Palestinian history, some contextualization is necessary. Palestinian territories - Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem - have been under a brutal foreign military occupation for 40 years. Since Israelis left Gaza, the only open border - to Egyptian Sinai - for over 1 million Palestinians has been closed many more days than it was opened.
Because of the still unresolved problem of the captured Israeli soldier, Israel has frequently used its influence to press European monitors to close the Rafah crossing into Sinai. Such action constitutes collective punishment, and therefore is a clear violation of international law.
The Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are also a violation of international humanitarian law.
Furthermore, the unjust economic siege by which the international banking system prohibits a single penny from being transferred into an account of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has caused extreme poverty and unemployment. With little hope for the present or the future, it is not difficult to predict more chaos.
The Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah resulted in an agreement by which the dominant legislative authority (Hamas) agreed to give up power in order to please the international community and break the unjust economic siege. But three months into the new national unity government, no lifting of the siege has been witnessed.
Sources from Gaza indicate that the last round of internal fighting was instigated by some hardline officials (unconfirmed reports have even pointed to the former ministers of foreign affairs and interior) who were asked to leave in order to make room for the national unity government. The talk in Gaza has been that these ousted leaders are wondering why their movement has decided to share power with Fatah if the latter has not been able to bring an end to the economic siege.
ONE CAN argue that Hamas cannot blame Fatah for the continuation of the siege. President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that the commitments made by Hamas in Mecca were not enough. It was hoped that the movement would show more moderation by moving closer to the demands of the international community.
The rocket attacks against Sderot and the harsh Israeli response has given a relief to Palestinian internal fighting.
Last week as Palestinians were remembering 59 years since the nakba - catastrophe - when the Palestinian refugee problem was born, Palestinian newspapers ran eight-column headlines in black and red calling what is happening in Gaza a new nakba. But while commemorating the nakba is supposed to remind the world of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and homes, the new nakba is threatening to make the dream of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as difficult as the right of return.
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