A Palestinian girl stands in a damaged building - photo courtesy of UN official website A Palestinian girl stands in a damaged building - photo courtesy of UN official website

Opinion: Palestine is paying the price of political polarization

Fri, Jul. 7, 2017
CAIRO – 7 July 2017: The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on Tuesday forced more than 6,150 employees in the Gaza Strip (GS) into early retirement. Ismail Haniya, in his first official statement as the chief of the Hamas political bureau, on Wednesday praised the Qatari efforts in supporting the GS during the wars and the forced siege. He also praised the Turkish government for providing political, humanitarian and financial support to the GS. Haniya did not forget to mention the third triangle rib, Iran, and also praised it for supporting the Palestinian resistance.

Did Hamas forget the price that Palestinians had to pay as a result of Yasser Arafat's decision to support Iraq in its occupation of Kuwait 1990? Did Hamas forget the devastating effect of this discussion on the lives of thousands of Palestinians who were deported from Kuwait and other Arab countries?

Hamas must realize that abandoning the Arab states side for the sake of the terrorist Qatari-Turkish-Iranian alliance would never benefit the Palestinian cause. Qatar only supports Hamas, and has never been supportive of the Palestinian cause as it claims. It has always sought to provide financial support to Hamas during any crisis, only to ensure the continuation of the Palestinian fragmentation that only serves Israel.

For a Palestinian from Gaza who is not affiliated with any political party, I cannot explain the mixed feelings I have when I read or hear the news on Palestine. Mixed feelings of anger to have these two parties, Hamas and Fatah, representing the fair 69 year old Palestinian 69 cause; with feelings of sorrow for our generation and the coming generations who have to pay the high cost of political polarization and to witness the internal fragmentation tearing our social fabric since 2007.

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) policies and practices towards the GS have exacerbated the already worsened situation. The PA mentioned that the early retirement policy will target a total of 23,000 employees in the GS, in addition the PA forced restrictions in the medical sector affecting the most vulnerable in the Strip. Furthermore, the PA forced pay cuts in March only on Gaza’s employees. According to AFP, the PA stopped paying Israel for electricity to be delivered to Gaza in June, leaving the Strip with just two hours of power a day until Egypt offered some fuel as aid.

The PA, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, is still making a bet on a popular revolution in the GS to face the oppressive rule of Hamas. The PA has adopted a dangerous approach, as any confrontation with the only armed party controlling the Strip would lead to blood baths and worsen the social fragmentation.

Isolation and restrictions are not the solution, it does not impact Hamas; it only distresses the inhabitants of Gaza and nourishes the Israeli created gap between Palestinians in the GS and the West Bank.

In 2008, I was working with a national women’s organization in Gaza. The organization has a branch in Ramallah, and on a daily basis I used to communicate with my colleagues in Ramallah over the phone. It was not until 2010 when I managed to meet one of my colleagues from Ramallah in person. It was not in Gaza, nor was it in Ramallah; it was in Iceland. That is how deep the restrictions on movement for Gaza’s population is.

In addition to the internal division between Hamas and Fatah, there is the Fatah-Fatah conflict between Abbas and the dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan recently accused Abbas and Ramallah prime minister Rami Hamdallah of being responsible for the power cuts and financial crisis in the GS. “Abbas is committing a major crime targeting the survival of people in the Strip by deducting 30% of the Authority's employees’ salaries without any legal justification,” said Dahlan to press in April 2017.

On the other hand, Hamas’ repressive policies have increased the suffering of Gaza’s population. These policies include prosecution of journalists and imposing restrictions on the freedom of expression, even on social media platforms. In addition, Hamas built tunnels along the border line with Egypt to smuggle goods into the GS and sell it with double the price, as well as to support terrorist organizations in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

For ten years, Hamas promised Palestinians with freedom and promoted itself as the guardian of the Palestinian resistance. However, Palestinians did not witness the return of an inch of the occupied Palestinian land, contrary to Hamas claims.

The political scene has recently shown an indication of new political arrangement and change in the position of Hamas amid the Qatar crisis. The movement is actively trying to restore the relations with Egypt as it finally admitted the undeniable facts characterizing the Palestinian-Egyptian historical relationship.

This change came about after the nine-day visit to Cairo on June 4, where Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, met with Dahlan. Hamas started to offer signs of goodwill gestures by building a security zone along the Egyptian-Gaza border at a depth of 100 meters and 13 kilometers length.

In addition, in his Wednesday speech, Haniyeh referred to opening a new chapter of bilateral relations with Egypt where he formally praised the Egyptian leadership.

Overview of the humanitarian situation in the GS:

The Israeli occupation remains the root cause of the deteriorated situation in the GS. However, the internal Palestinian political divide is also a vital contributing factor. The Palestinian fragmentation has gravely depleted the coping capacities of Gaza’s population and negatively affected the Palestinian cause at large.

A “Gaza Crisis Urgent Fund Appeal” by humanitarian agencies in Palestine on Monday identified 2 million people in the GS in need of humanitarian assistance for life-saving interventions, including health, water, sanitation, hygiene and food security.

“Failure to respond to these needs will exacerbate human suffering and increase the risk of a new round of violence,” stated Gaza Crisis Urgent Appeal in July 2017.

A 2015 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) described Gaza as “uninhabitable” by 2020 due to ongoing ”de-development”.

The economic well-being of Palestinians living in Gaza is worse than twenty years ago, with the unemployment rates reaching 42 percent in general and 60 percent among youth, the highest level on record according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

According to PCBS, the poverty rate in the GS reached 39 percent, while severe poverty is 21 percent. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2017 indicates that 47 percent of the families in Gaza are food-insecure. The percentage is even higher among refugees, with 39 percent, and female-headed households with 32 percent.

In addition, the Strip faces a range of “discriminatory” economic policies by the occupation, including withholding almost $700 million of Palestinian clearance revenue coming from taxes on imports into Palestine, compounding a fiscal crisis for the PA.

Your fighting is destroying the Palestinian identity .. dear Palestinians!

Have mercy on the 2 million hostages in the GS. They have already lost ten years of their lives for internal fragmentation, three wars, and the siege. During this period, children and youth have and are still suffering from deteriorating health, psychological, social and educational situations, and many of them are forced to resort to illegal immigration.

“Donor support remains a necessary but insufficient condition for Gaza’s recovery and reconstruction. Donor aid will remain vitally important but will not reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment in Gaza,” reported UNCTAD.

Palestine must be the priority again, as we are still under occupation, which covers more than 75% of Palestinian land, according to PCBS. The time has come to move away from political fragmentation, personal agendas and desire for authority.

On a daily basis, the Israeli occupation is stealing our land and resources; killing and capturing Palestinians, particularly youth; demolishing Palestinian houses while building and expanding settlements; and changing the demographic makeup. According to the “Jewish Telegraphic Agency”, more than 200 immigrants from North America arrived to Israel on Tuesday. All of this is happening while Palestinians are busy with internal fighting and accusing each other of betrayal.
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