Last week, I wrote about how the Palestinian Authority stands in the way of the Palestinian struggle. The PA isn’t helpless in the face of the atrocities being committed in Gaza, I argued; rather, it has chosen to do nothing.
Nevertheless, if we consider the latest Israeli actions in Gaza as a very final test for the PA, I believe it can easily be said that it has failed in every possible respect.
As death and destruction in Gaza reach new heights, the reactions of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority sound like something out of a farce. A considerable number of major PA officials in the occupied West Bank and abroad, including the president himself, seem to be rallying against the desire of Palestinians facing the daily terror in Gaza.
Officials have also been making plenty of statements to Palestinians locally and foreign envoys that serve to blame Hamas and score political points, rather than address the heinous crimes Israel is committing and has been committing since it imposed the siege on Gaza.
For example, in an interview on 11 July with Al Mayadeen satellite channel, the PA President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of being “merchants of war” and called on them to accept the Egyptian ceasefire initiative and proceed with political negotiations later.
Five days later, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, director-general of the PA presidency and member of the Fatah Central Council, commented on Hamas’ rejection of the Egyptian proposal. He accused Hamas of serving regional agendas and “sacrificing Palestinian blood in the service of a global Muslim Brotherhood plot.”
Any rational political analyst following the situation in Gaza with sufficient background knowledge on the siege and on Hamas would know that Abdel Rahim’s claims are ludicrous.
Riyad al-Maliki, the PA’s foreign minister, has also reportedly said in a conversation with Frans Timmermams, the Dutch foreign minister, that the current escalation in Gaza only serves Hamas’s political interests. Abbas, Abdel Rahim and al-Maliki’s statements are only a sample of the rhetoric coming from the PA which blames Hamas for the escalation rather than addressing the horrific daily reality in Gaza: the siege and closure of all border crossings; the contaminated water system; the destroyed basic infrastructure; the raging poverty and humanitarian crisis that has been plaguing the Strip for years.
PA officials are echoing the Israeli government’s narrative, putting the blame on Hamas for the high loss of civilian life in Gaza and ignoring the reality imposed on the Strip. Mohammed Omer, an award-winning journalist based in Gaza, has written a report which reflects a reality that Abbas and the PA are trying to deny: that there is popular support for the resistance in Gaza. Omer writes, “The paradox of Gaza is that as the death toll increases, so does the defiance of its people.” He quotes 66-year-old Amnah Odeh, who said: “This situation cannot continue, or return as it was even days ago – under Israel’s eight-years-long siege – where life was equally, if not worse, long-term.”
It goes without saying that Palestinians in Gaza wish to see an end to the bloodshed. But returning to the slow-death *status quo* does not seem to be an option anymore.
If Abbas, as president of the PA, wishes to represent the interest of Palestinians in Gaza, he wouldn’t be traveling to Turkey and the Gulf, where he has urged governments to seek that Hamas accept the Egyptian proposal. Sky News reporter Tom Rayner satirizes Abbas’s futile efforts in this tweet:
Hamas has indeed put forward five realistic and achievable ceasefire conditions. Qatar and Turkey have sponsored an initiative that has seen significant support in Gaza. Yet, instead of backing those initiatives, the PA continues to mobilize efforts against what Palestinians in Gaza think serve them best.
People in Gaza want to see an immediate end to the bloodshed, but not according to the defeatist conditions put forward by Israel, Egypt and the PA leadership.
As I mentioned in my piece last week, the Palestinian Authority is still capable of invoking the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and seeking justice through international law. The PA has always claimed to be pursuing that objective. When Abbas condemned Hamas’ actions, he made sure to declare: “We will only fight them [Israelis] with what they fear most, international law.”
The PA has never been true to that statement yet.
The PA has been able to seek access to the ICC since 2012.
In the interim, there have been two Israeli offensives against Gaza, thousands of new buildings have been constructed in Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and hundreds of Israeli human rights violations have been documented. Yet the PA refuses to turn its words into actions.
The PA hasn’t been serious about the international law to which it constantly refers. Its attitude towards the latest attack on Gaza is inexcusable.