CAIRO/RAMALLAH: The fragmentation of Palestinian politics following near civil war in Gaza last week is not only unrepresentative of the work of Palestinian civil society but undermines popular unity against the Israeli occupation, the coordinator of the broad grassroots Palestinian coalition Stop the Wall told The Daily Star Egypt.
“If you go to the people in the street and ask them what they think of what is going on, there is real anger towards both sides, said Jamal Juma’, who coordinates the “Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, or Stop the Wall, a coalition of some 14 Palestinian civil society organizations. “They see both Fatah and Hamas as hurting the Palestinian national cause.
In a telephone interview with The Daily Star Egypt, Juma’ described both Hamas and Fatah as having “hijacked popular, peaceful Palestinian efforts against Israeli occupation with “the fragmentation of the Palestinian people.
“They do not support Fatah nor Hamas here, on the ground, he said, citing peaceful daily protests in Ramallah from a cross section of society in the West Bank since the violence in Gaza erupted.
“Every day there have been demonstrations, organized by different bodies – activists, trade unions, people throughout civil society – saying no to the situation. And it is still going on. Every day you have conferences giving calls from different bodies to discuss the situation and how we can respond, because the people here are worried, very worried, Juma’ said.
“No one knows what the situation is going to be, only the worry that we are really going to be separated.
Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent consolidation of power by Fatah in the West Bank, under the quick support of Israel, the United States and the European Union, should not suggest instant factionalism among Palestinians. But instead the popular discontent among the majority of Palestinians with both developments, according to Juma’.
He believes that the violent splitting of Palestinians along disparate Islamist and nationalist lines is the culmination of Israeli and international, mainly American, led efforts to weaken the democratically elected Hamas by financially and militarily supporting Fatah.
“This is the result of over one year of tensions among the Palestinian people, directed by Israel and the international community with Fatah against Hamas. But the only result was locking [Palestinians] in their ghettoes, trapping them in the West Bank and Gaza, he said.
“When the Palestinian people elected Hamas, they punished Fatah for their corruption and the misuse of their authority.
Stop the Wall is advocating what Juma’ described as the “National Forum for Protecting the Palestinian Cause, a newly-formed grassroots coalition aimed at “contacting and mobilizing the people, either politicians or Palestinians from civil society, to come together under one slogan, to rescue Palestine and the Palestinian cause at the moment.
“We’ve found that people would be totally encouraged by any other voice – not just what we hear from Fatah or Hamas.
Juma’s voice rose in palpable desperation at the implications of a Gaza of Hamas and a West Bank of Fatah: “What is happening now, from instant international, mostly US-led support for the Abbas government, is totally unacceptable. This is going to affect Gaza and its citizens, as they will be targeted now that Hamas is dominant there.
“We are completely scared at the end of having one Palestinian state in Gaza and one in the West Bank. We cannot accept in anyway interference from the outside to draw lines for us.
Juma’ cited anger among Palestinians he has spoken to throughout the occupied territories now that the ones who are pushing for [separating Gaza from the West Bank] are the Palestinian Authority of [Mahmoud] Abbas, while closing off and starving the people in Gaza. They want to fragment Palestinian society, [which is] totally unacceptable.
Stop the Wall is a leading Palestinian organization behind an international boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel, mimicking the international boycotts of apartheid South Africa.
Juma’ said Stop the Wall has received a flood of emails and phone calls from supporters of what he called the “international BDS community since last week’s watershed.
“I don’t think this is going to affect their solidarity with the Palestinian people, he said.
Expressing cynicism over international opposition to a democratically elected party, Hamas, that has framed much of the reaction to recent events in the Palestinian territories, Juma’ maintained his and Stop the Wall’s separation from either streams of Palestinian politics.
He focused instead on hopes for autonomy and the work of a burgeoning, if besieged, civil society movement among Palestinians.
“Our work is doing what civil society can do on the ground in ghettos that have been set up by cement walls in the Palestinian areas, he said.