Authoritarian, corrupt and unfit for purpose: President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority denounced in letter to Arab League and EU

By: Duncan Thomas – ForMENA

President Abbas’ and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) long-fomenting crisis of legitimacy has reached new levels, with representatives of three hundred and fifty unpaid public-sector employees denouncing the administration in a scathing letter sent to the Arab League, European Union representatives and the Palestinian Legislative Council. Seen by ForMENA, the letter criticises Abbas’ personal appropriation of power and the increasing authoritarianism of his regime. The authors state:

“The Palestinian Authority – supposedly committed to the liberation and defence of our people – has joined the ranks of Palestine’s oppressors. The PA now violates, rather than ensures, the rights of Palestinians; it systematically destroys, rather than builds, the institutions of a future Palestinian state; it appropriates funds for its own political purposes, rather than using them to create a democratic, professional and accountable government.

“The PA is not currently fit to represent the Palestinian people, who have no confidence that, under this administration, their struggles and sacrifices will lead to an independent and free state.”

The letter also claims that the PA’s failure to pay the salaries of its employees – including doctors, civil servants and security personnel – is politically motivated, targeting those who criticise Abbas’ policies. It comes in the context of significant dissent from figures within Fatah itself, who similarly accuse Abbas of playing politics with public money. With around 150,000 people on the PA payroll, the ability to switch cash flows on and off at will through allegedly extra-legal means gives the President significant coercive power over a considerable section of the Palestinian population.

This power is enhanced by extremely high dependency ratios – with an average of more than five people, mostly family members, reliant on each wage-earner. Not only the three hundred and fifty employees themselves, but around 2000 others thus face imminent destitution. The severity of their situation is indicated in the wider state of the Palestinian economy: according to the Palestine Economy Research Institute, 38% of Palestinians in the West Bank and 50% in Gaza live below the poverty line, with World Food Programme figures showing that across both areas, half the population suffer from food poverty.

To anyone familiar with recent events, the letter’s charge that President Abbas is abusing his control of aid money to silence dissent comes as no shock. Public sector salaries and revenues have long been used a political tool, whether in the factional struggle between Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas or in Israel’s ongoing refusal to release tax money to the PA as punishment for latter’s attempt to bring alleged Israeli war crimes before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

According to information obtained by ForMENA, such political gamesmanship has a further troubling consequence: with few other employment opportunities – particularly in Gaza, where Israel’s long-standing and likely illegal siege has all but destroyed the economy – civil servants and security personnel whose salaries have been blocked over recent years are increasingly being forced to join radical Islamist militant groups as a means to survive.

Targeted for criticising Abbas and members of both Hamas and Fatah, these individuals – whose full names must remain confidential for their own and their families’ safety – include:

“MQ”, a resident of the al-Nasser al-Gharbi neighbourhood of Gaza City. Prior to his sacking, MQ worked for official intelligence services. He then became active in the al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas, before joining the more extreme Tawhead and Jihad Brigade. He later moved to Syria to fight for the al-Nusra Front against the regime of Bashar al-Asad and was killed in the countryside around Aleppo in December 2012.

“MT” followed a similar road. An employee of the PA’s national security forces and resident of Gaza City’s al-Sheikh Radwan district, MT was sacked in 2007 and, like MQ, joined the al-Qassam Brigades. Since 2010, he has also been active within the Tawhead and Jihad Brigade.

“MN” lived in the impoverished al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City and worked for the Palestinian police force. He was sacked after defying Abbas’ orders by continuing to work in the aftermath of Hamas’ victory in the 2006 elections. With no alternative source of income, MN joined Mumtaz Doghmush, leader of the Army of Islam faction. He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2010.

It is not simply that mundane economic, as much as ideological, factors drive individuals towards hard-line militant factions. More importantly, the above stories highlight the extent of the destruction of the Palestinian economy and civic life under the twin handicaps of a corrupt and self-serving PA on the one hand and a debilitating Israeli blockade and occupation on the other. The increasing politicisation of public money – almost all of which comes through foreign aid – threatens to push the occupied territories towards a humanitarian crisis, the threat of which is already very real.

The Police State of Mahmoud Abbas

The letter goes on cite a litany of other abuses, including a flagrant disregard for human rights, the executive’s unconstitutional domination of the judiciary, arbitrary arrest and incarceration of dissenters and a despotic personalisation of power by Abbas and his inner circle. The signatories also urge the United Nations and foreign governments to pressurise the Palestinian Authority into finally holding elections, with the democratic mandate of President Abbas having long expired. Again, for regular observers, such accusations are unsurprising. Indeed, far from a vehicle for Palestinians’ liberation and self-determination, the PA is increasingly coming to represent a police state actively hostile to its citizens’ basic democratic rights in the name of “security”.

This sector – driven by a long-standing policy of co-ordination with the Israeli military, which President Abbas has publicly described as “sacred” – consumes an increasingly large proportion of the $15billion of foreign aid money received directly by the PA since the 1993 Oslo Accords. 44% of the nearly 150,000 PA civil servants are currently employed as police or intelligence officers, with the coercive branches of government power swallowing 26% ($1billion) of the PA’s annual budget – compared to just 16% on education, 9% on health and a shockingly low 1% on agriculture, despite this being crucial to Palestine’s economy.

The authoritarian impulses of this rapidly emerging police state are most immediately evident in the PA’s treatment of journalists. Reporters Without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index lists the West Bank and Gaza – thus also implicating Hamas – as 138th out of the 180 countries surveyed. Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East”, comes in at a dismal 96th.

Indeed, whatever their other differences, the PA, Hamas and the Israeli government are united in their suppression of free speech: the Committee to Protect Journalists recorded 500 press freedom violations committed by the two Palestinian factions and a further 800 by Israel in 2013 alone. These violations included beatings, imprisonment without trial (what Israel refers to as “administrative detention”) and shooting journalists in the head at point blank range with rubber-coated steel bullets during non-violent demonstrations.

In recent months alone, the PA-controlled sections of the West Bank have seen numerous incidents of this kind. In November, Palestinian police violently assaulted and illegally imprisoned Mohamed Jaradat, an independent journalist who was targeted for photographing police brutality against peaceful protestors. In the same month, a march organised by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate against previous violations of press freedom was brutally repressed. In September, two journalists were arrested for “defaming authorities” – that is, expressing political opinions contrary to Abbas’ dictates – on social media sites.

This targeting of journalists is part of a broader and systematic campaign by the PA against the freedoms of public assembly and expression. In November of last year, representatives of the Union of Public Employees were arrested during strike action, with Abbas responding to criticism by outlawing their union. Demonstrations organised by official opposition parties are also regularly targeted and attacked, as are an increasing number of more ad hoc public protests against the PA’s vast corruption and recent, brutal austerity drive.

The recent letter to high-ranking international bodies is thus noteworthy not because the concerns it raises are novel, but because the signatories’ decision to bypass the PA altogether in their complaints indicates the degree to which an increasing number of Palestinians no longer feel that the Abbas regime has anything to offer them, nor any intention of responding to their legitimate demands. Indeed, many Palestinians increasingly see the PA as nothing more than an outsourced Israeli policy force. As one demonstrator succinctly put it: “now we have two occupations — the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government”. His analysis was seemingly confirmed during Israel’s euphemistically named “Operation Pillar of Defence” last year, as the PA routinely and violently repressed protests in the West Bank held in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza.

Peace or Pacification? The role of aid.

The signatories of the letter are fully justified in their statement that “donor countries’ grants to the Palestinian Authority are, first and foremost, support for the Palestinian people, not for the President or his personal agenda” and demand that aid-givers – primarily the United States and European Union – enforce stricter regulatory mechanisms.

However, a growing body of academic literature has come to question the entire role and purpose of aid in Palestine: whether through misuse or Machiavellian design, this money has thus far supported the violent pacification of the Palestinian population through a dependent and clientelistic PA, rather than building any coherent vision of justice and peace. While the degree to which donor countries’ own agendas or the PA are culpable for this failure is a matter of debate, it is clear that making aid work for Palestinians’ interests rather than against them will require fundamental reform, rather than tangential regulatory tweaks.

In particular, the balance of aid money must shift away from mere firefighting towards long-term investment in economic improvement, civil society and democratic institutions. With the vast majority of money now spent on staving off immediate crises or footing the bill for Israel’s regular destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, no meaningful social, economic or political advance for Palestine is possible.

Additionally, the top-down manner in which aid is administered provides massive opportunity for corruption. The monopolisation of decision-making by political and business elites and de-politicised NGOs must thus give way to a decentralised, grass-roots model of distribution involving academics, representatives of civil society and local community-based organisations dedicated to empowering Palestinians and furthering their struggle for statehood and self-determination, rather than simply keeping them marginally above destitution and impoverishment.

In short, if aid money is to ever fulfil its so-far empty promise to the Palestinian people, it must be controlled by those people themselves, not by either a self-serving domestic political class or the interests of donor countries.

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تسلط، فساد، ومنتهي الولاية: التنديد بالرئيس عباس والسلطة الفلسطينية في رسالة إلى جامعة الدول العربية والاتحاد الأوروبي

بقلم: دنكان ثوماسمن مجلس شؤون الشرق الاوسط وشمال افريقيافورمينا ” . 

وصلت أزمة شرعية الرئيس عباس والسلطة الفلسطينية على المدى الطويل إلى مستويات جديدة، بعد تنديد ممثلي ثلاثمائة وخمسين موظفاً من القطاع العام والذين لم يتم دفع مستحقاتهم، وقد ندد الممثلين عنهم في رسالة لاذعة أرسلت إلى جامعة الدول العربية وممثلي الاتحاد الأوروبي و المجلس التشريعي الفلسطيني. وبعد اطلاعفورميناعلى الرسالة، وجدت بأنها تنتقد استحواذ عباس الشخصي على السلطة، والتسلط المتزايد من قبل نظامه. وذكرت الرسالة:

إن السلطة الفلسطينيةالتي من المفترض أن تلتزم بالتحرير والدفاع عن شعبهاقد انضمت إلى صفوف مضطهدي فلسطين. الان السلطة الفلسطينية تنتهك القوانين، بدلاً من أن تضمن حقوق الفلسطينيين. وتدمر بشكل منهجي بدلا من أن تبني، مؤسسات الدولة الفلسطينية المستقبلية. وتخصص الأموال لأغراض سياسية خاصة بها، بدلاً من استخدامها لإنشاء حكومة ديمقراطية ومهنية خاضعة للمساءلة

إن السلطة الفلسطينية لا تصلح حالياً لتمثيل الشعب الفلسطيني، الذي ليس لديه ثقة أن نضاله وتضحياته سوف تؤدي إلى قيام دولة مستقلة وحرة في ظل هذه الإدارة.”

تدعي الرسالة أيضاً أن فشل السلطة الفلسطينية في دفع رواتب موظفيهابما في ذلك الأطباء وموظفي الخدمة المدنية وأفراد الأمنله دوافع سياسية تستهدف أولئك الذين ينتقدون سياسات عباس. ويأتي ذلك في سياق معارضة كبيرة من شخصيات داخل حركة فتح نفسها، والذين يتهمون عباس باللعب بالمال العام لتحقيق أهداف سياسية، ولتصفية حسابات شخصية. في ظل وجود حوالي مائة وخمسين ألف شخص على قائمة رواتب السلطة الفلسطينية،  فإن القدرة على تبديل التدفق النقدي على نحو متقطع من خلال وسائل غير قانونية تعطي رئيس السلطة  قوة قسرية كبيرة على قسم كبير من المواطنين الفلسطينيين.

وما يعزز هذه القوة هو نسب الإعالة العالية للغايةبمتوسط أكثر من خمسة أشخاص، معظمهم من أفراد الأسرة، يعتمدون على كل موظف. بالتالي، فإن حوالي ألفين آخرين يواجهون فقرأ مدقعاً وشيكا وليس فقط الثلاثمائة والخمسين موظف أنفسهم. وتظهر شدة وضعهم في الدولة بالنظر إلى الاقتصاد الفلسطيني من منظور أوسع: فوفقاً لمعهد بحوث اقتصاد فلسطين، فإن ٣٨٪ من الفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية و ٥٠٪ في قطاع غزة يعيشون تحت خط الفقر، بالإشارة إلى أرقام من برنامج الأغذية العالمي والتي تظهر أن نصف السكان يعانون من الفقر الغذائي عبر كل المناطق.

إن التهمة التي توجهها الرسالة أن الرئيس عباس قام باستغلال سيطرته على أموال المساعدات لإسكات المعارضين، وهذا ليست بمثابة صدمة لأي شخص مطلع على الأحداث الأخيرة، فمنذ فترة طويلة والرواتب وعائدات القطاع العام تستخدم كأداة سياسية، سواء في الصراع الداخلي بين فتح التي يتزعمها عباس وحماس أو في رفض إسرائيل المستمر للإفراج عن أموال الضرائب للسلطة الفلسطينية كعقاب على محاولة الأخير لوضع جرائم الحرب الإسرائيلية أمام الدولية المحكمة الجنائية.

ووفقاً للمعلومات التي حصلت عليهافورمينا، فإن الألاعيب من هذا القبيل السياسي لها نتيجة مثيرة للقلق: مع قلة فرص العمل الأخرىوخاصة في قطاع غزة، حيث  الحصار الإسرائيلي الغير القانوني طويل الأمد على الأرجح دمر الاقتصادفموظفي الخدمة المدنية وأفراد الأمن الذين تم حظر رواتبهم خلال السنوات الأخيرة ينضمون مجبرين بشكل متزايد إلى جماعات إسلامية متشددة متطرفة كوسيلة من أجل البقاء.

ومن بين هؤلاء الأفراد الذين تم استهدافهم لانتقادهم عباس وهم أعضاء من حماس ومن فتح ايضاوالذين يجب أن تظل أسمائهم سرية للحفاظ على سلامتهم وسلامة أسرهمما يلي:

م.قمن سكان مدينة غزة حي النصر الغربي، كان يعمل في المخابرات العامة، تم فصله من عمله، وإنتقل لاحقاً للعمل في كتائب القسام الجهاز العسكري لحركة حماس. انتقل عام ٢٠٠٩م للعمل في كتائب التوحيد والجهاد المتطرفة، وغادر غزة إلى سوريا للقتال إلى جانب جبهة النصرة ضد النظام السوري. قتلم.قفي ريف حلب في ديسمبر ٢٠١٢م.

م. طمن سكان غزة الشيخ رضوان، كان يعمل في قوات الأمن الوطني بالسلطة الفلسطينية، وتم فصله من عمله عام ٢٠٠٧م، إنتقل لاحقاً للعمل في كتائب القسام، ثم إنتقل عام ٢٠١٠م للعمل في كتائب التوحيد والجهاد المتطرفة

م.نولد ١٩٨٥م من سكان مدينة غزة مخيم الشاطئ، كان يعمل في الشرطة الفلسطينية وتم فصله من عمله ثم إنتقل للعمل مرافقاً مع ممتاز دغمش قائد جيش الإسلام، قتلم.نفي نوفمبر ٢٠١٠م في قصف إسرائيلي لسيارته

وسواء كانت العوامل التي تدفع الأفراد نحو الفصائل المتشددة المسلحة اقتصادية أم أيديولوجية. فان المهم ان القصص المذكورة أعلاه تسلط الضوء على مدى تدمير الاقتصاد الفلسطيني والحياة المدنية تحت المعوقات المتمثلة في ممارسات الفاسدين في السلطة الفلسطينية لخدمة مصالح ذاتية وانتهاكهم للقانون و من جهة أخرى الاحتلال الإسرائيلي . كما أن التسييس المتزايد للمال العامالذي يأتي معظمه من خلال المساعدات الخارجيةيهدد بدفع الأراضي المحتلة نحو أزمة إنسانية وخطر بات بالفعل حقيقياً جداً

دولة محمود عباس البوليسية

تستشهد الرسالة بسلسلة من الانتهاكات الأخرى، بما في ذلك التجاهل الصارخ لحقوق الإنسان، وهيمنة السلطة التنفيذية الغير دستورية على السلطة القضائية والاعتقال التعسفي وحبس المعارضين والاستغلال الاستبدادي للسلطة من قبل عباس وحاشيته. يحث الموقعين على الرسالة أيضاُ الأمم المتحدة والحكومات الأجنبية للضغط على السلطة الفلسطينية لاجراء انتخابات، مع تفويض ديمقراطي بعد أن انتهت صلاحية الرئيس عباس منذ فترة طويلة

مرة أخرى، لمن يراقب الوضع باستمرار، فإن مثل هذه الاتهامات ليست بالمفاجئة. في الواقع، وبعيداً عن كونها وسيلة للتحرر وتقرير المصير للفلسطينيين، فالسلطة الفلسطينية أصبحت وعلى نحو متزايد تمثل دولة بوليسية معادية لنشاط مواطنيها وحقوقهم الديمقراطية الأساسية باسمالأمن“.

هذا القطاعتقوده سياسة طويلة الأجل للتنسيق مع الجيش الإسرائيلي، الذي وصفه الرئيس عباس علناً بأنهمقدس” – يستهلك نسبة كبيرة آخذة في التزايد تقدر بخمس عشرة مليار دولار أمريكي من أموال المساعدات الأجنبية الواردة مباشرة للسلطة الفلسطينية منذ اتفاقات أوسلو عام ١٩٩٣. ويعمل ٤٤٪ من ما يقارب مائة وخمسين ألف من موظفي السلطة الفلسطينية حالياً في مناصب في الشرطة أو ضباط استخبارات، مع فروع قسرية من سلطة الحكومة البالغة ٢٦٪ (مليار دولار أمريكي) من الميزانية السنوية للسلطة الفلسطينيةمقارنة فقط ب١٦٪ على التعليم، و ٩٪ على الصحة وانخفاض صادم على الزراعة بنسبة ١٪ وعلى الرغم من أهميته لاقتصاد فلسطين.

تبدو الاندفاعات الاستبدادية لهذه الدولة البوليسية حديثة النشأة الأكثر وضوحاً من خلال معاملة السلطة الفلسطينية للصحفيين. وفقاً لأحدث مؤشر حول حرية الصحافة لمراسلون بلا حدود تأتي الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزةبضمها لحركة حماس أيضاًفي المركز ١٣٨ من أصل ١٨٠ دولة شملها الاستطلاع. بينما تأتي إسرائيل،الديمقراطية الوحيدة في الشرق الأوسط، في المركز ٩٦.

في الواقع، مهما كانت الاختلافات الأخرى، فإن السلطة الفلسطينية وحماس والحكومة الإسرائيلية متحدون في قمعهم لحرية التعبير: فقد سجلت لجنة حماية الصحفيين ٥٠٠ انتهاك حرية للصحافة تم ارتكابها من قبل اثنين من الفصائل الفلسطينية بالإضافة إلى ٨٠٠ انتهاك من قبل إسرائيل في عام ٢٠١٣ فقط. وشملت هذه الانتهاكات الضرب والسجن دون محاكمة (ما تشير إسرائيل له باسمالاعتقال الإداري”) واطلاق النار على الصحفيين في الرأس من مسافة قريبة بالرصاص المطاطي خلال مظاهرات سلمية.

شهدت أقسام تسيطر عليها السلطة الفلسطينية في الضفة الغربية في الأشهر الأخيرة، حوادث عديدة من هذا النوع, ففي نوفمبر الماضي اعتدت الشرطة الفلسطينية على محمد جرادات واعتقلته بشكل غير قانوني، وهو صحفي مستقل الذي كان مستهدفاً لتصويره وحشية الشرطة ضد المتظاهرين السلميين. وفي الشهر نفسه، نظمت نقابة الصحفيين الفلسطينيين مسيرة ضد انتهاكات حرية الصحافة والقمع الوحشي السابقين. وألقي القبض على اثنين من الصحفيين في سبتمبر بتهمةالتشهير بالسلطاتوهو الإعراب عن الآراء السياسية المخالفة لإملاءات عباس على مواقع وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية.

إن استهداف الصحفيين هو جزء من حملة واسعة ووممنهجة من قبل السلطة الفلسطينية ضد حرية التجمع العام والتعبير. حيث ألقي القبض على ممثلي اتحاد الموظفين العموميين خلال الإضراب في نوفمبر من العام الماضي، بينما رد عباس على هذه الانتقادات بحظر نقابتهم. كما يتم استهداف ومهاجمة مظاهرات تنظمها أحزاب المعارضة الرسمية بانتظام، بالإضافة إلى أن عدداً متزايداً من الاحتجاجات الشعبية المخصصة ضد الفساد المتفشي في السلطة الفلسطينية وقيادتها الوحشية.

تعتبر الرسالة الأخيرة الموجهة إلى هيئات دولية رفيعة المستوى جديرة بالاهتمام ليس بسبب المخاوف التي تثيرها، ولكن بسبب قرار الموقعين عليها بتجاوز السلطة الفلسطينية تماماً في شكواهم والذي يشير إلى الدرجة التي وصل اليها عدد متزايد من الفلسطينيين من عدم شعورهم بأن نظام عباس لديه أي شيء ليقدمه لهم، أو حتى أي نية للاستجابة لمطالبهم المشروعة. وفي الواقع يرى الكثير من الفلسطينيين على نحو متزايد أن السلطة الفلسطينية ليست سوى سياسة إسرائيلية بوجه آخر. وكما وصفها أحد المتظاهرين بإيجاز: “لدينا الآن احتلالانالسلطة الفلسطينية والحكومة الإسرائيلية”. وأكد تحليله على ما يبدو مما حدث خلال  “عملية عامود السحاب، حيث قمعت السلطة الفلسطينية الاحتجاجات باستخدام العنف بشكل روتيني في الضفة الغربية والتي خرجت تضامناً مع الفلسطينيين في غزة.

دور المعونة: السلام أو التهدئة؟

برر الموقعين على الرسالة بشكل كامل في بيانهم أنأموال الدول المانحة للسلطة الفلسطينية هي، أولاً وقبل كل شيء لدعم الشعب الفلسطيني، وليس للرئيس أو لأجندته الشخصية، ونطالب تلك الدولالولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي في المقام الأولفرض آليات تنظيمية أكثر صرامة.

ومع ذلك، فإن مجموعة متزايدة من المؤلفات الأكاديمية أضحت تشكك في دور وغرض المساعدات لفلسطين بشكل كامل: سواء من خلال سوء استخدام أو تصميم المكيافيلي، وهذا المال بالتالي لدعم التهدئة القسرية للشعب الفلسطينيي من خلال سلطة فلسطينية تعتمد على الخدمات والبضائع مقابل الدعم السياسي، بدلاً من بناء أي رؤية متماسكة للعدالة والسلام. في حين أنه إلى أي درجة يمكننا أن نعيد هذا الفشل للأجندات الخاصة بالدول المانحة أو لسياسة السلطة الفلسطينية، حيث بات هذا موضع نقاش، فمن الواضح أن استخدام المساعدات لخدمة مصالح الفلسطينيين وليس ضدهم سيتطلب إصلاحاً جذرياً، بدلاً من التعديلات التنظيمية.

إن الموازنة بين أموال المساعدات على وجه الخصوص يجب أن تتحول من كونها مجرد حلول مؤقتة إلى حلول استثمارية طويلة الأجل في سبيل التحسن الاقتصادي والمجتمع المدني والمؤسسات الديمقراطية. في حين أن الغالبية العظمى من الأموال الان تنفق على درء الأزمات المباشرة أو دفع فاتورة التدمير المنتظم الذي تقوم به إسرائيل للبنية التحتية الفلسطينية، وباستمرار ذلك لن يكون أي تقدم اجتماعي واقتصادي أو سياسي ذي معنى لفلسطين.

بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن الطريقة التي تتم بواسطتها إدارة المساعدات توفر فرصة هائلة للفساد. فاحتكار صنع القرار من قبل النخب السياسية ورجال الأعمال والمنظمات غير الحكومية يجب أن يفسح المجال لنموذج لامركزي لقاعدة شعبية للتوزيع والتي تشمل الأكاديميين وممثلي المجتمع المدني والمنظمات المجتمعية المحلية المكرسة لتمكين الفلسطينيين وتعزيز نضالهم من أجل إقامة الدولة وتقرير المصير، بدلاً من مجرد ابقائهم تحت العوز والفقر تماماً.

وباختصار، إذا كانت أموال المساعدات تسعى لتحقيق الوعود للشعب الفلسطيني، فان السيطرة على أموال الدعم يجب ان يكون من قبل الفلسطينيين أنفسهم، وليس من قبل أي فئة سياسية داخلية لخدمة مصالح ذاتية, أو مصالح البلدان المانحة.

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The war of salaries

Israel decided, as an immediate response, to President Abbas going to the UN Security Council and then to sign the membership application to join some international treaties, not to transfer tax revenues to the authority budget, which is considered the main income, without which the Palestinian Authority is unable to cover the salaries. This is not the first time in which Israel takes such a step and then withdraw it after a month or two where they are dealt with as a warning rather than a strategic decision knowing that this matter, if it persists, will lead power to a stage where it will not be able to function, which could lead to its collapse, and Israel, at least for now sees that there is interest to keep this power.

And when the Al-Shati agreement signing was announced in May between Fatah and Hamas, which resulted in forming a “national reconciliation” government or as large proportion of the Palestinians wish to call it the government of “national hypocrisy,” Hamas were not to accept almost whatever that is requested from them, particularly naming the ministers, if they knew that this matter will not solve the salaries of its employees, which reached the stage of not being able to provide them with the salaries of more than a year and a half, and there is no doubt that the main factor that determines the practical success or failure of reconciliation begins with solving the problem of Hamas employees. Failure to implement the reconciliation articles that have been announced in the Shati refugee camp and the inability of the unity government to exercise its powers on the ground and the lack of agreement on border crossings and what comes of it from disruption to the process of reconstruction is mainly and directly caused by not finding solutions to the problem of Hamas employees, whether in the merging process or providing a salary.

Since president Abbas became chairman of the authority for nearly ten years, and especially after he decided to remove his former ally and current foe, Mohammad Dahlan, the use of salaries as a means of punishment or deterrence or terrorism, against who dares to express their position or opinion that conflicts with a decision to be made whether this decision is legal or an illegal, immoral or unethical, or even a decision regarding or concerning the authority. According to this logic, the salary is not an acquired right of the employee, whether military or civilian, but is the sword used by the governor to consolidate his power and impose his will on the staff who are treated as slaves at his farm.

So, there is a lot of talking these days, and after what thousands in the Gaza Strip have been through, which mostly belong to the Fatah movement, there are lists that may be sent to the Palestinian Ministry of Finance of the names of dozens of cadres and members who had their salaries cut by a decision from the President of power on charges of “opposing the general politics of the State of Palestine “ or accused of lack of discipline. The formula or format isn’t important. In the end, this is a nuclear weapon, internationally forbidden for its brutality and lack of morality to be used to cut off the livelihood of people for expressing their opinion. This means that the right of each of the affected or will be affected in the future to return to all legal means available, including international institutions, donor countries and local laws, to prosecute everyone who is involved in this matter.

Using salary as a weapon by the enemies of the Palestinian people and their opponents in order to adapt them to accept positions or punishing them for positions they are taking or have taken is not new, which is understandable from the perspective of enemies of you and your national cause. This is how the United States acted after the first Gulf War when it surrounded and blockaded all the financial resources of the PLO to a stage the organisation was no longer able to provide salaries or even food for its employees and its military forces. That’s what Israel has been doing since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority for more than twenty years, where the initial and immediate act is the punishment of the Palestinian people and its leadership position when it’s angry of a specific behaviour to prevent the transfer of tax money which is the property of the Palestinian people.

But to use this weapon against each other, in the internal disagreements in the bullying process, that’s something the mind can’t imagine or accept. And whoever resorts to this method against their people have no right to blame the Israelis, accusing them of being involved in immoral acts  incompatible with the international law and could be considered as a war crime that requires bringing the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court, as described by Dr. Saeb Erekat.

If freezing the transfer of the money is not a war crime, what do we call cutting the salary of an employee because he clicked “Like” or have written an official doesn’t like, or participated in a peaceful demonstration expressing a particular decision or demanding something specific? What do we call it? Legal or moral action, or humanitarian work?

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Israel freeze of Palestine tax funds is a”war crime”. And so is cutting the salaries!

Since President Mahmoud Abbas announced signing to join international treaties and institutions, including the International Criminal Court, Israel, backed by its “official sponsor”, the United States, started threatening and intimidating. They have the right to be very frustrated and refute their dark fate, and the future they never dreamt of, if the “Palestinian step” continued pushing forward until the end, and wasn’t hampered by any hidden actor that’s non-national!

Since the step Abbas has taken, which was met with appreciation and national and popular support, and is perhaps the first step that receives this favourable response since months ago, there was no active Palestinian presence of what would be a national and real national movement after the “signature”, only statements from right and right, some said without focus, as if the speaker has internal fear of what happened..

It was very logical, judging from the historic Palestinian experience, that “a legal-political work cell” is formed to monitor reactions and next steps as well, after the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation be inlaid with representatives of some of the powers and serious competencies, not escorts, held a series of meetings, to begin the journey “fully-loaded political battle”, and prepare for what could be a reaction of forces enemy and their allies. It is logical that this is could be the Palestinian scene..

But what happened is unrelated to what should have happened, but the big surprise, was that President Abbas did not hold any meeting to discuss the next steps or possible reactions of Israel and Washington, and what are the “national choices” to any obstructive step. He didn’t even form any “work cell” to insure the supposed evolution that “qualitative development” will have significant side effects, which requires hard work, when all the features that should be prepared to keep the united image as a one man were absent, and a Palestinian only needs to read everything that happened after the Signature scene on Wednesday evening..

This is because the issue is not being tracked for the failure for the political and unjustified lazing by President Abbas and his own cell. What we’re looking for, is the president to call, from his position and responsibility, for a required meeting of the leadership of the organisation and representatives of the absent forces, to mark the beginning of the national movement, and for everyone to be aware that there is a new national Palestinian and that the decisions taken are not only part of a different political orientation to put an end to the path of cynicism that has prevailed for many years, in the negotiations journey after the assassination of Yassir Arafat, without benefits and without any results to mention, but a shameful outcome of further supported settlements and Judaisation and obstructed the path to get rid of the occupation..

But the surprise that nobody could expect, sane or semi-sane, and certainly not the crazy mainly because they have lost their senses, was the leaking a list of dozens of staff from those who live in the Gaza Strip will be have their salaries cut because they are accused of being biased to the current MP Mohammad Dahlan, which coincides with the decision of Israel to stop the trasnsfer of “tax returns” to the Palestinian budget, in response to the decision to go to the ICC..

Verifying both news, in spite of the contrast, we find that the decision to cut salaries of employees for political reasons or violation is not accepted by who’s in charge in Palestine, forgetting that the salary is not in exchange pf political position or political allegiance, not being part of the budget or your faction or body, it is a right for the employee as a result of work or the price paid in advance through the long path of freedom. The faction or body has the right to freeze or disconnect or terminate any relationship with those who believe that they are no longer part of what they want, and that’s a special regulatory issue, but the salary is an inviolable right under any circumstances, there is no need to recall what happened with the characters betrayed the nation and the cause, including some people the President Abbas knows well..

If Israel’s decision to freeze the transfer of the tax revenue, a Palestinian absolute right, and a war crime in every sense, the decision to cut the salary of any employee under any pretext or charge or what could be is also a “crime” punishable ..

Isn’t it weird to export “misfortunes” to a Palestinian home, instead of working to mobilise their energies to confront the enemy and their plans to besiege the Palestinian reaction, you could consider such an approach and practice a step that indicates that there is a serious national decision to face Israel and to get rid of the occupation ..

After giving it some thought, who looks for a comprehensive and serious confrontation can not be doing such behaviour from absenting the leadership to cut the salaries. A bit of brain is necessary if the protection the homeland and its cause project is what’s wanted..!

Note: Public Works Minister announces: money does not come for reconstruction because “the government does not control the situation in the Gaza Strip” .. Is such a statement passes without permission without questioning? And does Hamas remain silent without being aware of the danger of it!

Special mention: the death of the Al-Hobi boy is a human tragedy that requires the presidency and the government question the truth of what happened .the murdered young Palestinian requires questioning who is a representative of the people of Palestine!

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UPDATE: Good Intentions Gone Bad

After coming across several saviour complex conversations in real life and on social media, particularly in Palestine, this article comes to address a few things every international “saviour” needs to read and keep in mind before committing another such action. This is not a direct accusation to anyone in particular and is to serve as an opinion expressed by an indigenous from a land where a lot of people choose to “volunteer” in. If you feel offended by this post, it’s most likely that you have a saviour complex problem and might want to reconsider the way you look at such “benevolent excursions”.

To hell with good intentions

For years, many international “do-gooders” who advocate political and humanitarian causes in Palestine in particular usually end up deciding on going for an excursion or “mission-vacations” there –often the West Bank and Gaza sometimes- in order to “volunteer”. By that, they would think they help the local community by giving out food or medicine forgetting that there are people in that very community who can and are willing to do this job. Therefore, instead of actually helping the people, they not only create a burden, but also, in fact, are taking the local jobs from the indigenous people who need these jobs so that they can afford feeding themselves or their families. So how are “good intentions” exactly helping?

“If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell. It is incredibly unfair for you to impose yourselves on a village where you are so linguistically deaf and dumb that you don’t even understand what you are doing, or what people think of you. And it is profoundly damaging to yourselves when you define something that you want to do as “good,” a “sacrifice” and “help.” – Ivan Illich, To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968

That being said, the efforts of international “activists” are not to be disregarded considering the many things that have been achieved. The problem is with activists coming from all over the world to spend their free time to do something to “help” is only considered as such from their own –often insufficiently unaware – point of view or that of their peers. In the name of good intentions, ignoring or probably not as aware as one should be, crossing thousands of miles to come to Palestine is, in this case, a waste of money, time, and effort. A good share of the blame has to go to the NGOs, businesses, and governments who exploit them for money and labour.

“I wanted to make this statement in order to explain why I feel sick about it all and in order to make you aware that good intentions have not much to do with what we are discussing here. To hell with good intentions. This is a theological statement. You will not help anybody by your good intentions. There is an Irish saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this sums up the same theological insight.” – Ivan Illich, To Hell with Good Intentions, 1968

A burden the locals have to carry

When people come from other countries to volunteer or work in Palestine, they almost always take up jobs or impose themselves on the local, indigenous community by doing things the latter can do on its own. In the eye of the indigenous, the internationals are not only occupying their jobs, but are also imposing a burden and a responsibility. Though not often shown, the people of these communities are usually unable to take care of these “activists” and ensure their safety, adding more responsibilities for them to bear until these internationals leave, which is often exhausting given the nature of daily life.

You are welcome but…

When the voluntary work an international is doing takes the job away from a Palestinian, exactly whom are they helping? In reality, there are very few roles for internationals that don’t break that rule; offering something the locals can’t do in a variety of fields such as medicine and engineering for example.

The only time international voluntarism can be fathomed is when a skill of profession can be offered and does not compete with those of the locals. One the locals can certainly make use of such skills or knowledge; a rare skill that few in the region have. But even with most unusual skills, people would do better to raise money for Palestinians to get that education, abroad if necessary, given they return to help their people and probably mentor potential individuals to reach a certain level of proficiency, which is always helpful.

How can you help?

There is a wide range of alternatives to crossing thousands of miles and spending big amounts of money on travel and living expenses. The least one can do is to support and endorse BDS. For years, BDS has and continues to prove that it’s one effective way to help Palestinians.

Another way to support Palestinians is to buy Palestinian fair trade products (e.g. olive oil) that are made in Palestine. This way, Palestinian farmers are supported directly. However, the problem with community-based organisations (CBOs) is that they have no ways for international donations, but “where there is will, there’s a way,”

Supporting local organisations that help Palestinians in a range of fields (agriculture, construction, etc.). Money can be donated, or fundraised, which will go to local organisations that work in Palestine, or contribute towards education programmes or projects that aim to teach Palestinians necessary skills.

Below is a compiled list of organisations that help:

Dalia Association
Ad-Dameer for Prisoners Rights
Islamic Relief-Gaza
Natuf Organization for Environment & Community Development
Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children
El Wedad Soc. for Community Rehabilitation

Instead of being a burden, taking the jobs of Palestinians, and going on “benevolent excursions” motivated by good intentions to “help” those in need in a country that’s hours away by plane, the money spent on flight tickets is better invested in doing any of the few aforementioned alternatives.

Good intentions never saved anyone. Actions, however, always do!

UPDATE:

Reading the comments/discussions over my article above, I have come to find that there was some missing nuance in some parts. This update serves as additional clarification to make things clearer.

It’s important to distinguish between voluntary work that results in taking a job from the indigenous, and not adding or contributing to the community and/or their case at all (as mentioned above). On the other hand, some voluntary work is of a good outcome such as the work done, for example, by ISM and EAPPI, which are both activist organisations. ISM is direct action based (like Rachel Corrie placing herself in front of a bulldozer) and EAPPI is a witness organisation (acts as a deterrent for army/settlers attacks) so they are different in nature to the volunteer organisation I mentioned in the article. Their work of deterrence to violations can actually contribute to the struggle if it’s done in ethical/principled way.

A proportion of the people who came across this article found it “offensive” while others brought a lot of valuable voluntary work (e.g. the work of Arrigoni and Mavi Marmara) to the table -without fully understanding the point behind the article above- concluding that I also mean this kind of voluntary work as well). Though mentioned, there is no harm in repeating things again with more explanation.

While some kinds of voluntary work helps the cause, it’s undeniable that some people come to make a career out of Palestine. There are several real life examples and it only requires a bit of research.

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View from Palestine: Nakba Day and the Catastrophe of Israeli Conquest

A masked Palestinian boy takes part in a protest marking the 66th anniversary of Nakba, near the border of east Gaza City with Israel.Reuters

A masked Palestinian boy takes part in a protest marking the 66th anniversary of Nakba, near the border of east Gaza City with Israel.Reuters

Nakba, or Catastrophe, refers to when the Jewish militias ethnically cleansed Palestine, forcing approximately 750,000 Palestinians into exile because they were not Jewish and that their presence and predominant ownership of the land ‘presented obstacles to the creation of Israel.’

On 15 May every year, Palestinians around the world commemorate the Nakba to serve as a reminder of the historical tragedy that took place 66 years ago.

Marked by sombre ceremonies, cultural rites, and demonstrations, it is a day for learning and reflecting, and is an opportunity to recharge the souls, refocus the efforts, and underline our responsibility to future generations towards achieving the sole objective: a free Palestine.

Nakba did not only occur once. In fact, it has occurred on a daily basis since the initial incident in 1948.

The continuous ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the settlement project, and the Judaisation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the ever-advancing Israeli bulldozers demolishing one Palestinian house after the other, the separation of families with the apartheid wall, the frequent invasion of Palestinian villages in the West Bank, the atrocious offensives on the Gaza Strip bombarding, killing and injuring hundreds of Palestinians, the administrative detention of Palestinians in the Israeli prisons, and the discriminatory policies that forbid the expansion of Palestinian houses are but a few examples of day-to-day Nakba the Palestinians endure.

The Palestinian leadership, represented by the Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank, and Hamas governing Gaza Strip, continuously fails the Palestinians, leaving them disappointed because of their clear collaboration with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority forces often function as the “other” face of Israel when detaining Palestinian freed prisoners and closing down offices and organisations, whereas Hamas forces attack protestors and journalists whenever they demonstrate by the buffer zone, the closest point between Palestinians in Gaza Strip and the occupied territories, the most recent incident when six journalists were attacked yesterday.

Palestinians in the diaspora, particularly those hosted by neighbouring countries, are often treated as second-class citizens deprived of some of their basic rights for decent living and suffer no less than the Palestinians who are currently living in Palestine.

Not so far away from the villages they were forcibly uprooted from, second and third generation Palestinians who live in refugee camps are living in conditions as bad as – if not worse than – their grandparents went through 66 years ago.

Many are systematically kidnapped, detained, and tortured to death, besieged and deliberately starved, leaving behind hundreds of dead. This left many others no choice but to seek refuge in other countries, making them two-time refugees surrounded by ghosts of death, in the shape of barrel bombs falling from the sky above their heads.

Zionists might have thought that ethnically cleansing and demolishing entire villages and cities, and building new ones on top of their ruins, would succeed in shearing them of their authentic human element and deeply-rooted culture, and wipe the memories of the widespread use of terror, and atrocity by Jewish militia against Palestinians.

While most of those who experienced such relentless attacks by the Jewish militia during the initial catastrophe have died, the annual commemoration of Nakba represents a reminder that we have not forgotten.

The old might have died, but the young will never forget.

The article was originally published on the International Business Times UK:http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/view-palestine-nakba-day-catastrophe-israeli-conquest-blog-1448922

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