21 June 2007 Edition

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International : Divided Palestine only suits Israel and its backers

Divide & Conquer


June is not the month for Palestine. In June 1967 - exactly 40 years ago – the Six Day War heaped disaster upon the catastrophe of 1948 and shaped the decades to come: occupation, partition, despair.
Today, the unfinished and yet to be fashioned entity that constitutes Palestine appears to have succumbed to the subtext of the occupation and now appears divided against itself. Further progress down the path towards full-scale civil war would be disastrous and benefit only the occupying power and its allies. Somewhere, neocons and Zionists are celebrating what they hope will be the destruction of a nation and the further degradation of a people.
The ‘international community’ – that fabled entity which generally stands should to shoulder with US wishes for the region – must bear a heavy burden of responsibility for what is currently happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Two years ago, under international enormous pressure to do so, the Palestinian Authority called a general election. And the people duly did what people generally do and voted for the party and candidates that they favoured. Unfortunately, the people had evidently failed to take account of the wishes of the ‘international community’ and actually voted for the party they were not supposed to vote for – Hamas.
So, like the good democrats that they are, the ‘international community’ promptly condemned the result of these free and fair elections and cut off all aid. Now the Palestinian people had a freely-elected government, but they were entirely devoid of crucial financial and international support.
If the international community’s intent was to marginalise and punish Hamas and force them to bend the political knee, then they went about it in a spectacularly stupid fashion. The chief victim of their maneuverings and petty conspiracies was in fact the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement, whose inability to have aid and support restored made them look weak, powerless and wholly without clout. Not much point in having a government missing all those key characteristics.
And today there are two de facto Palestines, where one is politically vital and necessary. Of course, while you can never discount stupidity and arrogance in international dealings with the Palestinians, it must also be borne in mind that a weakened and divided Palestine suits many, particularly the Israeli government.
They now have Hamas politically (and militarily) ghettoised in the prison camp that is Gaza. Revenge for their defeat in Lebanon must be high on the agendas of many, at the moment. Meanwhile, in the West Bank sits a considerably weakened movement that is virtually powerless to act. And the spectre of the international aid tap suddenly being turned on again, will not help one bit.
And how much damage has now been done to the Palestinian cause by the disturbing images of internecine strife beamed around the world?
Strange things happen to supposedly immutable democratic principles, when they are applied to those whom the West designates as ‘friend’...in Pakistan, a dictator with a nuclear arsenal rules, while in Afghanistan we see President Hamid Karzai, whose rule barely extends beyond whichever particular room he happens to be in, at any given time. Afghanistan is, as it has ever been, ruled by warlords and drug traffickers who supply 90 percent of the heroin on our streets. 
In Egypt, another friend Hosni Mubarak continues to run charade elections, while killing and torturing opposition leaders and any prisoner sent by the US. And then, of course, there are the paragons of democratic virtue that flourish in ‘liberated’ Kuwait and Saudi Arbabia.
There are now strong suspicions that Israel will use the pretext of Hamas control of the Gaza Strip to launch an invasion, although a continuation of the slow strangulation of the people in what is known as the world’s biggest open prison is also an option, given its success to date. 


 News in Brief


President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right party has won a majority in parliamentary elections in France, but his UMP party fell far short of the landslide majority the pollsters and others predicted it would win in the second-round vote, while the opposition Socialists fared better than expected, the early results said. Voter turnout was low, at about 60%. The UMP and allied parties would win around 340 seats, according to polling institutions, down from 359 in the previous parliament. Socialists and their allies were braced for up to 233 seats in the 577 – member National Assembly, up from 149.


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has agreed unconditionally to a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur. South Africa’s ambassador at the UN, Dumisani Kumalo, said Bashir backed the move after a meeting with Security Council envoys in Khartoum. Sudan agreed to allow the 19,000-strong force earlier in the week but ultimate control had been a sticking-point. Violence in Darfur – linked to attacks by the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias- has killed more than 200,000 people and made 2.5m refugees.


Two Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers have gone on trial for the killing of journalist Serge Maheshe who ran the UN-backed Radio Okapi in the eastern town of Bukavu. On Wednesday 13 June, Maheshe was stopped, asked his name and then shot several times and none of his possessions were taken, witnesses say. A Congolese journalists’ organisation has condemned the killing - and the speedy military trial, which it says will not deliver justice. Eastern DR Congo remains unstable despite elections and the official end of a five-year civil war.


Police in northern China say they have now arrested more than 160 people accused of involvement in slave labour in illegal mines and brick factories. Among them is foreman Heng Tinghan, responsible for holding captive adults and children as young as eight and forcing them to work long hours for nothing. Almost 570 people that had been trafficked as slaves – 50 of them children – have been freed in Shanxi and neighbouring Henan. 

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