1) When Innocents are the Enemy
Here is where we end up, with murder on a mass scale of people whose sole sin was, apparently, that they were Americans. Immediate suspicion focused on anti-Israeli (and therefore anti-American) terrorist groups. Yasser Arafat, who has championed the legitimacy of anti-Israeli terror his entire career, nonetheless was quick to express himself “completely shocked,” at an attack he said he condemned, and he offered the American people condolences on behalf “of the Palestinian people.”
I don’t doubt Arafat’s shock. And I don’t think he had anything directly to do with the monstrous evil of Sept. 11. Indeed, it is possible that what happened yesterday had nothing to do with the Middle East. But this evil rose, with hideous logic, directly from the philosophy that the leaders and supporters of the Palestinian cause have long embraced and still embrace — a philosophy that accepts the murder of innocents as a legitimate expression of a legitimate struggle.
If it is morally acceptable to murder, in the name of a necessary blow for freedom, a woman on a Tel Aviv street, or to blow up a disco full of teenagers, or to bomb a family restaurant — then it must be morally acceptable to drive two jetliners into a place where 50,000 people work. In moral logic, what is the difference? If the murder of innocent people is for whatever reason excusable, it is excusable; if it is legitimate, it is legitimate. If acceptable on a small scale, so too on a grand.
2) Palestinian protests
Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe write in Why hasn’t there been another Intifada?
How billions in aid have been spent is something else. Spending on the bloated public sector and the binge of construction and infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank account are obvious for only some of the money. Still, Western donors, interested as ever in buying quiet, have not been too curious about Palestinian corruption that has diverted unknown amounts. Israel, too, has been more interested in the status quo.
Without this aid the Palestinian economy could not have made the impressive gains it has registered under prime minister Salam Fayyad. The quiet that has been purchased benefits all parties including Israel, but is probably unsustainable in an era of European economic collapse and American austerity. Fayyad warns all visitors that peace and quiet requires continued funding. Enough unpaid salaries could itself spark an intifada, against the Palestinian Authority.
This article also claims that Abbas initially stirred up protests against Salam Fayyad. However according to the Washington Post, over the weekend Mahmoud Abbas responded to the protests.
Seeking to defuse public anger, Abbas said that he would not dispatch the police to break up demonstrations and that people had the right to protest peacefully against their leadership.
“We are not sacred,” he said. “But Salam Fayyad is an integral part of the Palestinian Authority. . . . I’m the first person who should be held responsible.”
He also pointed an accusing finger at Israel, saying its policies in the West Bank, including restrictions on movement and access to resources, had hampered the Palestinian Authority’s ability to manage the economy.
Isabel Kershner of the New York Times reported further on Spreading Palestinian protests focus on Leaders:
Imbued with the spirit of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the region and toppled long-entrenched leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, protesters in this volatile city adapted the popular slogans of those revolts, calling for the downfall of Mr. Abbas and denouncing corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
In Ramallah, the site of the administrative headquarters of the authority in the West Bank, demonstrators burned tires on the main roads leading into the city and gathered in the central square. There were more protests in Bethlehem, and television images from Nablus, in the northern West Bank, showed damage to Palestinian government buildings.
But unlike the protests in other countries in the region, the evolving Palestinian demonstrations have so far been hampered by confusion over whom, or what, to protest against — the Palestinian leadership that wields limited authority in the West Bank, or the Israelis who occupy the territory.
Kershner made a point of blaming Israel for the lack of Palestinian economic progress. But that’s too easy. The dynamic described by Romirowsky and Joffe is one of a government that derives its power from the international funds it receives and then disburses not from electoral legitimacy. A society that depends on the largesse of others rather than its own initiative is not sustainable. Salam Fayyad couldn’t create a functioning economy on his own.
Jonathan Schanzer writes about another dynamic Gaza Prepares to Declare Independence (From Palestine):
It’s no secret that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction that controls Gaza, has long considered exchanging its underground smuggling tunnels to Egypt for a policy of above-board trade. What has only recently begun to register is that Hamas may be contemplating a bolder political gambit still: Cutting its financial ties to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, in preparations for declaring full independence on behalf of Gaza.
Al-Hayat first reported the story on July 22. The London-based Arabic daily noted that Hamas was poised to sever its limited economic ties with Israel, open a free trade zone with Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, and declare itself liberated. Before the story could gain traction, however, senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud al-Zahhar and Salah al-Bardawil quickly disavowed the reports.
But senior Gazans quietly acknowledged to me in recent meetings that Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood splinter group, and President Mohamed Morsi’s new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, are actively discussing this controversial idea. Hamas has approached the question patiently since conquering the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Now, after a half decade of economic hardship resulting from the Gaza embargo, the Hamas government appears to believe that 1.7 million Gazans would welcome the free flow of goods above nearly all else.
From an Israeli standpoint this is frightening prospect. Still as Schanzer writes later not all Egyptians are convinced this a good idea. This would certainly be another blow to Abbas’s hold on power.