the Disillusioned kid: Protests in Palestine
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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Protests in Palestine

There are reports of serious unrest within the occupied territories with calls for reform of the PA becoming increasingly militant.
Friday saw apparently coordinated abductions of several PA figures including Ghazi Jabali, commander of the Palestinian police in the Palestinian Authority and Khaled Abu al-Ula, commander of the Palestinian liaison in the southern Gaza Strip. The kidnappers demanded that Jabali be removed from his post and tried for corruption and called for reforms of the security organisations of the PA.
This led to a presidential decree yesterday (Saturday) from Yasser Arafat which removed Jabali from his post, established yet another security organisation in the form of the General Intelligence Apparatus and installed Arafat's nephew, Musa Arafat, as the head of Palestinian Military Intelligence which controls most personnel belonging to National Security and Force 17. The appointment of Musa Arafat in particular attracted considerable criticism and brought thousands out onto the streets of Gaza City in protest. Gunmen also stormed an office of the Palestinian intelligence, destroying furniture and burning the building down. Meanwhile Arafat loyalists took control of the TV and radio buildings and the main police HQ in the city.
While all this was happening, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei handed his resignation to Yasser Arafat, describing the state of chaos and kidnappings as "a true disaster, unprecedented, can't be tolerated". Arafat refused to accept the resignation.
Most analysts seem to believe that the protesters and kidnappers are associated with former PA security minister Mohammed Dahlan who has been pushing for reform for sometime. It does not appear likely however that he gave orders for the kidnappings and he did not participate in yesterday's protests. It is unclear how popular Dahlan is among the Palestinian population, although those close to Arafat accuse him (in the words of Israeli commentator Danny Rubenstein) of "being a pet of the Israelis and the Americans."
It is difficult to know what to make of all this. That the Palestinian population are angry at corruption within the PA, particularly among the 'old-guard' associated with Arafat, is hardly news, but it has not been expressed so violently before. The PA's inability to satisfactorily provide basic amenities has created a vacuum which the likes of Hamas are only to happy to fill, a key factor in the group's increasing popularity in the occupied territories.
It is possible that Israel has been involved in some way (possibly using Dahlan as a proxy), it is clear how this might serve their short-term interests, weakening Arafat. In the long-term however such a strategy might not be so conducive to Israeli aims. Whatever moderating influence Arafat wields could be lost and Hamas, already in a powerful position, might well be able to capitalise on any major political developments.
Where these developments will lead, particularly if and when Israel begins to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, is unclear. It is to be hoped that we will see the emergence of a rejuvenate Palestinian leadership who can lead their people to freedom. A less optimistic assessment would see an ongoing conflict, possibly exploited by Israel to consolidate the occupation.

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