الأربعاء, 13 حزيران (يونيو), 2018
"Ramallah witnessed a large demonstration in which protestors from various parts of the West Bank and Palestinians from inside Israel [Palestinian citizens of Israel] took part under the slogan 'lifting the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip'," notes Hani al-Masri on Tuesday's independent Palestinian www.masarat.ps.
With this demonstration, the West Bank has finally come out in support of the Gaza Strip, in the sense of demanding an end to the punitive measures imposed on it. For it has always been on the Strip's side, especially when confronting the criminal Israeli siege and repeated Israeli aggressions.
What happened in Ramallah is very significant because it confirms that the Palestinian people are a single nation that shares the same fate despite the distances, circumstances, and tasks that separate them; despite the divisions over the national cause, the people, and the land created by the Oslo Accords; and despite the fragmentation and factionalism created by [Hamas's 2007] 'coup and military solution.'
We claim that this demonstration expresses the majority will of Palestinians, as evident from the fact that various forces, sectors, institutions, and figures have expressed their total rejection of the punitive measures – so much so that at the latest PNC (Palestinian National Council) session, which primarily expresses the forces within the PLO and especially Fatah, the great majority of its members demanded an end to the punitive measures imposed on the Strip. Even the president ['Abbas] announced at the PNC's final session that he would pay the salaries of the Strip's employees the very next day, and that he would never punish his own people.
It is worthy noting that numerous members of Fatah's Central Committee and its spokespersons, and especially its leaders in the Gaza Strip, have held the Palestinian [PA] government responsible for the failure to lift the sanctions and implement the president's decision. For its part, the government has rejected this charge, sometimes by claiming that it has implemented the president's instructions, at other times by talking of a technical failure, and on yet other occasions by claiming a budget deficit.
Quite simply, it is possible to respond that the government is that of the president. It is he who appointed its PM, asked him to form the cabinet, and endorsed it. It has not been brought before the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council) for a vote of confidence because of the PLC's absence. Such a vote would have empowered the government and bestowed a degree of independence on it; but this did not take place. And this means that the responsibility shifts to the president: If he believes that his government is not implementing his instructions, he should fire it; and if he deems that the pretexts that the government has offered represent his own policy, then he, his spokespersons, and the PA's spokespersons, should defend and justify these measures. To simply shift the blame and shrug off the responsibility – as if it were someone else's fault – no longer fools anyone.
If the failure to pay salaries is the result of a technical failure or a budget deficit or any other such reason, why were the deductions not distributed over all the PA's employees? Why was spending not cut or changes made to the budget's items? After all, given their sacred status, salaries should never suffer except in unavoidable circumstances, and then only on the basis of treating all employees equally.
A question emerges in this regard: Did the PA's budget for this year not include the Gaza Strip's share? When it was announced, the PM said that it includes an annex that takes spending into account should [Gaza/West Bank] unity be restored. How could the budget deficit have reached the point of not paying the PA's Gaza employees' salaries, despite the fact that the government has not been burdened by any new expenditure such as paying the salaries of Hamas- appointed employees?
Is the PA the authority of the West Bank alone, as suggested by an unsigned banner in [Ramallah's] Manara Square during the demonstration claiming that the fact that the PA has spent 17 billion dollars on the Gaza Strip is its duty and should not be portrayed by anyone as a 'favor'?
The punitive measures were a mistaken – not to use a different term – attempt to implement the 'hijacked plane' theory that we have often heard as justification. The claim is that the goal is to save Gaza from its 'hijackers' even if there are some casualties among the 'passengers.' But the advocates of this notion forget that those 'hijacked' are two-million Palestinians who have been paying the price for 11 years, only for the PA come up with nothing but punitive measures that make things worse.
The aim, it is said, is to exert pressure on Hamas's de facto authority in the Gaza Strip to force it to empower the PA in the entire Strip or face a popular revolution. That way the inter-Palestinian split would come to an end, the conspiracy of separating the West Bank from the Strip would be foiled, and 'Trump's [peace] deal' would be defeated.
Any assessment of this policy's results would not only conclusively demonstrate that these aims have not been achieved, but the exact opposite. And this means that this policy should be reviewed and retracted immediately. For it makes no sense whatsoever for the PA employees and our people in the Gaza Strip to be held accountable for a crime they did not commit and are not responsible for. After all, the PA is responsible for our people in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It should not shirk its responsibilities and harm the employees and our people's inalienable rights merely to secure political aims – assuming for argument's sake that such aims are achievable. The fact is that we do not need national unity if it entails trampling on people's rights and using such means as a bridge to achieving it.
Ending Hamas's exclusive control of Gaza requires reliance on the people, fortifying their steadfastness, and securing their rights instead of undermining them. This is what is necessary if the aim is to reinstate a professional and patriotic PA that represents the people as a whole and not the factions alone, free from factional and party-political share distribution, especially in the security agencies.
The PA has totally mismanaged the issue raised by the demonstration calling for the sanctions to be lifted. Some of its spokespersons have claimed that foreign parties were behind the demonstration, aiming to sow the seeds of sedition and anarchy as a means of smuggling through outside conspiracies. But how can this be true when those taking part included members of the PLO's Executive Committee, Fatah's Central Committee, and the PLC as well as leading figures, cadres, and members of the various factions and representatives of civil society organizations, students, activists, intellectuals, journalists, academics, and businessmen?
For this activism to continue and succeed in ending the punitive measures, it must restrict its slogans and activities to this goal alone and steer clear of any accusations of treason, exclusion, or incitement so as to avoid drowning in domestic conflicts that drive us away from the main conflict with the occupation. After all, the battle is not with the PA or the president, despite the urgent need to alter the PA's policies and functions. In spite of their great differences, interests, and alliances, and with very few exceptions, all the Palestinians are in the same boat. They are all being targeted by the hostile American and Zionist schemes, and primarily 'Trump's deal.'
The secret to ensuring the new activism's success is to preserve its unity and peaceful character and broaden participation by including all those who are convinced that these punitive measures must be lifted, even if they disagree over other issues. The activism must steer clear of anything that may provoke or fuel tensions, or divert attention towards other very important issues that cannot all be achieved at one go. There is a lesson for us in what happened in Jordan recently and in the July 2017 Jerusalem uprising that focused on a single aim, which was then achieved, without this meaning that other issues should be ignored.
None of this is to suggest that resistance to the occupation must be postponed. (It never ceases, as evident from the daily resistance in the West Bank and everywhere the Palestinians are present and the Marches of Return). Nor should resistance to 'Trump's deal' or work towards ending the split be postponed until the punitive Gaza measures are lifted. After all, when a fire breaks out in a house, priority is given to extinguishing it without ignoring the other threats, and in order to ensure the ability to confront them.
It is possible and necessary for numerous marches to be held in parallel. We say this while bearing in mind that lifting the Gaza sanctions will create the most suitable climate for ending the split and regaining unity on patriotic and democratic basis with genuine political accord and participation. That would ensure the best and most effective resistance to the occupation and its schemes.
"It would also end Hamas's exclusive control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah's domination of the PA and the PLO's centers of power, placing the resistance's weapons under the protection of a national umbrella and under a single national leadership that pursues a new strategy capable of achieving victory," concludes Masri.