The gap between resistance and governance
Published Thursday 05/01/2012 (updated) 19/01/2012 21:43
Fighters from the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees are seen during
a training session in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
(MaanImages/Hatem Omar, File)
Once again, the media have begun to focus their attention on Palestinian reconciliation talks, which seem at last to be headed in a positive direction.
These talks will include the particularly difficult process of social reconciliation for the period between 2004 and 2007 when inter-communal violence led to the terrorizing, wounding, and killing of scores of people as well as the widespread destruction of property.
The process of social reconciliation is expected to secure reparation and redress, but should also allow the courts to establish criminal responsibility for the acts under investigation.
Both Gaza and the West Bank have experienced a slight easing in political tensions and this has helped reestablish the confidence necessary for the restoration of freedoms lost at the height of the conflict.
Victims of the unrest will have their interests legally represented and should expect fair compensation for any losses incurred.
One segment of Palestinian society victimized by the political violence, negligence, or legal violations that occurred during this time will nevertheless find themselves excluded from the process of recompense: these are the victims of the separate Palestinian governments or resistance groups under their supervision.
Palestinian resistance -- regardless of the methods used -- was born out of the resistance of the Palestinian Nakba. Resistance would never have seen sumud (steadfastness) displayed, and its many large and small victories, had the Palestinian people not shouldered its burden.
Over the decades, Palestinians refined and protected their methods of resistance and, above all, their inalienable right to resist occupation and injustice.
At the same time, resistance groups repeatedly declared that protecting the people and national aspirations, but also protecting Palestinian citizens, were their top priorities.
In 1994, Palestinian government, or what was supposed to be Palestinian government, was established for the first time, and provided at least a limited sense of personal security and welfare.
Self-government -- only to a certain extent, of course -- has achieved many things and Palestinians were expected to act responsibly and support and protect their government. This was the idealistic picture: people nurturing resistance to occupation and all its ills while in turn, the government respected and protected the people. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case.
Facts on the ground indicate clear examples where Palestinian citizens in Gaza and the West Bank find themselves clashing with the government and/or resistance. These cases are many; beyond what most of us think.
One can only wonder in such cases: who will protect citizens from the mighty resistance and the powerful government when one, or both, of them harm them?
Sadly, example after example has shown that the very notion of citizen protection simply disappears in such cases, and people fall into a situation of helplessness and misery. Resistance protects, but only from outsiders, "the enemy."
Government can protect us from private persons and gangs. Sadly, however, both the resistance and our government fail to protect us from our own-selves; from one another.
It is safe to assume that neither the government nor the resistance is willing to step in to protect people who dare to criticize them.
Every day we see detention and summoning of citizens by the dozens; not for unlawful acts they committed, but mostly for who they are and what they think, or for their mere political affiliation.
We witnessed, with much agony, the outrageous attack upon free expression and peaceful assembly since March 2011. There are reports of hundreds of cases of torture and abuse. Several people died in detention and under torture in Gaza and the West Bank.
No one was punished for these acts, and we know too little about whether their families were compensated according to a process of law.
On the contrary, we only see overwhelming efforts exerted to protect the violators of people's rights; be those torturers, teachers who abuse children, or doctors who act with utmost negligence.
The government stands by them firmly and no one can get the reports, evidence, or public records that prove their innocence or wrongdoing. Nor do we hear of serious investigations seeking the truth.
Many citizens also fell victim of the continuous negligence of the resistance groups who show little or no care for people's life and well being, or, worse, fail to take responsibility for shocking acts by their members.
Numerous people were injured from live fire coming from resistance groups training sites; including children and at least one man who lost his eye.
Those are victims of the irresponsible behavior that seems to continue despite the frequent injuries. There is a training site in the town of Beit Lahiya that threatens people every day, including a girl who was injured inside her school when an explosion occurred in this site on Sep. 20 2011.
Explosions also occur frequently in densely-populated areas around Gaza and have their victims; many of whom are children. Shootings occur by mistake inside homes from weapons owned by the resistance. Military training sites function and are located in places very close to neighborhoods and/or schools, from where acts of resistance; including firing rockets, also occur.
The population of these locations are inevitably vulnerable to Israeli attacks. Hundreds of people have been injured and killed and dozens of homes have been damaged from Israeli missile attacks. But little has been done to ease the pain of the loss of life or residence suffered by these people.
On Dec. 9 2011, an Israeli attack on a training site killed a man and his 11-year-old son in al-Nasser neighborhood in Gaza city. His wife and four children were injured; one of the children is at an Israeli hospital suffering critical wounds.
This man, whose house is near the training site, had complained to the resistance members many times. He explained the family’s fear for their life and house. But he was told the family could move out of the area, even if they had no resources to move. He died the way he feared most: tragically.
The state of carelessness from the part of resistance is also causing continued victims of the misfiring of home-made rockets that fall on houses inside Gaza. Many of the victims are children and all of them are civilians who happen to be in their homes.
There are more victims of shootings from, or explosions in, training sites. Many children are killed or maimed when explosive devices left in the streets or farms explode in their hands. And there is the young man who was shot in the legs for daring to publicly criticize a local resistance leader.
Worse than all this is the victimization of people in the tunnels area in Rafah, where the mechanisms of trade, interests and profit work in cynically sad ways.
Hundreds of people have been detained in inhumane conditions, and outside any legal process. Thousands found their interests or rights removed by the 'Tunnels Committee' which arbitrates in disputes among tunnel-owners, traders and workers in the tunnels area in Rafah.
The committee comprises tunnel-owners and traders, and is a personification of an unholy alliance between the owners, traders and the law enforcement establishment.
Well, one can say mistakes happen: it's the nature of life. And I cannot agree more. Nevertheless, the real test does not lie in whether the resistance or the government makes mistakes. It in fact lies in what they do when mistakes occur.
Do they conduct reviews and learn lessons to prevent similar mistakes? Do they punish those who commit mistakes due to negligence? And do they help the victims of these mistakes? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is simply a big ‘no’, which explains the occurrence of more incidents and leaves training sites in neighborhoods.
This conclusion represents the core of the dilemma: who will protect the people from the wrongful acts of the resistance and the government?
It is clear the government is not willing to take the smallest act. It does not open investigations or even hold talks with the resistance groups to ensure that steps are taken to protect the vulnerable people. It is equally clear that the resistance continues to show the same carelessness towards violations committed by the government against the people.
Welcome to the naked truth: the relationship between the government, the resistance, and the people is moving in one way: the people support, nourish and protect their resistance and government. But the resistance and the government are not in the least bit interested to do the same for the people. This is an untenable situation and a dangerous reality.
It is not the intention of the author to dismiss entirely either Palestinian resistance groups or the governments; or to attempt in any way to undermine their best qualities. Neither is an example of pure evil.
People act and commit mistakes which can be forgiven; however, in order to forgive the mistakes of any kind of power or authority, there must be some indication that the power or authority wishes to make amends, to take responsibility for its past failings.
Power and authority with a poor moral foundation are doomed to fail. They will destroy themselves and lead their people to corruption and injustice.
The people of any nation have a responsibility to criticize those who lead them. We must look in the mirror before we can see ourselves clearly.
This is a call for both the Palestinian resistance groups and the government to make sincere efforts to repair their relationship with the people they claim to represent and hope to help.
Relationships go two ways. If the people do not enjoy respect and rule of law from the resistance groups and the government -- two political bodies that claim to stand for their rights -- they will all go down together. We will go down.
Mahmoud Abu Rahma is a human rights worker and has been a human and civil rights activist in Gaza for 15 years.