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Palestinians sceptical of meaningful change

Posted by Alessandro Accorsi su 21 gennaio, 2009

Matt Bradley, Foreign Correspondent

The National-UAE

GAZA CITY // As the eyes of the world turned away from the devastation in the Gaza Strip to watch the United States’ first African-American inaugurated as president, the eyes of Gazans turned as well.

But despite Israel’s timing of its withdrawal of ground troops from Gaza to precede the inauguration so as not to test the new president’s tolerance, ordinary Gazans say they remain unimpressed with the man who promised to change the way the United States manages its power.

“We have no hope for Barack Obama. I am the mother of a martyr and an injured child. Our house is already demolished. What will Obama do for us?” said Rita Suleman, 50, who lives in Jabalya, a Palestinian refugee camp north of Gaza City – an area that took the brunt of Israel’s three-week aerial bombardment and land invasion.

“America always stands beside Israel and helps Israel against the Palestinians. We are occupied. The Americans should stand beside us. What are we doing to anger the Americans?” she said. “Only God will change America and American policies.”

When asked whether they were impressed that it was Mr Obama’s entrance into office that was prompting Israel’s withdrawal, many Palestinians seemed flummoxed by the question, describing the events as meaningless. Others were equally unfazed by the suggestion that Mr Obama’s identity as a minority within the US might indicate a genuine US desire for change or sympathy with disenfranchised groups.

“It didn’t surprise us. Just because Barack Obama is black does not mean that we are surprised that the American people voted for him,” said Abu Hatem, 53, who lives in Jabalya. “America is calling for democracy. But it’s that culture of democracy that gave Israel the right to bomb us.”

What stood out most in this enclave of 1.5 million people was a belief that US policy is controlled by vested interests that will not be altered with the ascension of a new president.

“Barack Obama will not be able to clean up the Bush policies. Only resistance will change those policies,” said Wassam Najah, 22. “The problems between Israel and Gaza are that America defends Israel’s right to defend itself. Why not defend Gaza’s right to defend themselves?

“I hope that Barack Obama will visit Gaza and see the damage here for himself.”
The conviction that armed resistance trumps politics as a means for Gazan emancipation is also the message of Hamas, the Islamist party that has controlled Gaza since 2007 and which does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

Despite the fact that Palestinians voted them into power in elections in 2006, Israel has maintained a strict blockade of Gaza, from where Hamas draws most of its political power.

Israel’s government says they attacked the Gaza Strip in late December to destroy Hamas, which has launched missiles from Gaza into southern Israel.

Hamas held an enormous rally yesterday in Jabalya to celebrate its perceived victory over the Israeli military. After the noon prayer, thousands of men paraded through the streets, singing Hamas songs and shouting slogans, to the home of Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas military leader who many Gazans have revered as a hero since an Israeli bomb destroyed his home on Jan 1, killing him and several members of his family.

Standing on the rubble of Rayan’s former home, which Israel attacked with a one-tonne bomb that left many of the surrounding buildings uninhabitable, Fathi Hamad, a Hamas parliamentarian, delivered an impassioned speech to a crowd of mostly young men.

The speech had pointed words not only for Israel, but also for Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the moderate Fatah party that Hamas security forces ousted from the Gaza Strip in 2007, and Egypt, whose compliance with Israel in blocking its border crossing with Gaza elicited condemnation from leaders throughout the Muslim world.

“We in Hamas are telling [Mahmoud Abbas] that you are not representing the Palestinian people,” Mr Hamad said. “And Hamas, with the Palestinian people, will punish you because you are a partner in this war and damage of Gaza.”

In an interview after his speech, Mr Hamad said the new administration in Washington should separate itself from the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups.

“We think that America is not governed by the president only. It is governed by the Zionists,” Mr Hamad said. “We think that Barack Obama will have some power, and we are asking him to be on the right side, because we are the right side.”

Hamas’s agenda, he added, goes far beyond liberating the occupied territories. Their longer gambit, he said, will include the United States and the rest of the world.

“Hamas is the winner. If Hamas dies, we are martyrs. If we remain, we will continue struggling and resisting,” Mr Hamad said. “After 15 years, Hamas will be the first state in the world, instead of America, and we will be called United Islamic States. Even America will be Muslim.”

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, toured some of the most battered areas of the Gaza Strip yesterday, in what was the highest-level visit to Gaza since Hamas first gained power.

The Israeli bombings of Gaza hit five UN buildings, including the UN Relief and Works Agency building and a UN-run school that was inhabited by displaced Palestinians – an attack that killed more than 40 people. During his visit, Mr Ban said he was “appalled” by the attacks on UN facilities and called for a full investigation.

The UN chief has said he will also visit communities in southern Israel that were bombed by Hamas rockets during and before the Israeli assault, which killed more than 1,300 Gazans and injured thousands more.

If some Gazans took Mr Ban’s visit as evidence that Gaza was now open to representatives of the international community, others wondered aloud whether Mr Obama would visit the Gaza Strip.

“Barack Obama visited Sderot,” said Osama Harb Najar, 25, referring to the new president’s tour of the Middle East last summer during his campaign for president. “Why didn’t he visit Gaza?”

Mr Najah, who was standing on the pavement with Mr Najar yesterday, said he hopes Mr Obama makes time to visit Gaza – a sight that he said would be likely to impress the newly minted world leader.

“We’ve only seen destruction like this in Hollywood films,” he said. “Now we see it with our own eyes.”

mbradley@thenational.ae

http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090121/FOREIGN/152463863/1011

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3 Risposte to “Palestinians sceptical of meaningful change”

  1. Alessandro Accorsi said

    Nel giorno in cui Obama si insedia alla Casa Bianca può essere utile notare le speranze o la disillusione che questo evento genera tra i Palestinesi di Gaza.
    Ma sono rimasto colpito non tanto dalla parte di articolo che riguarda Obama.
    Piuttosto dai toni e dal messaggio del Parlamentare di Hamas Hamad:

    Standing on the rubble of Rayan’s former home, which Israel attacked with a one-tonne bomb that left many of the surrounding buildings uninhabitable, Fathi Hamad, a Hamas parliamentarian, delivered an impassioned speech to a crowd of mostly young men.

    The speech had pointed words not only for Israel, but also for Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the moderate Fatah party that Hamas security forces ousted from the Gaza Strip in 2007, and Egypt, whose compliance with Israel in blocking its border crossing with Gaza elicited condemnation from leaders throughout the Muslim world.

    “We in Hamas are telling [Mahmoud Abbas] that you are not representing the Palestinian people,” Mr Hamad said. “And Hamas, with the Palestinian people, will punish you because you are a partner in this war and damage of Gaza.”

    In an interview after his speech, Mr Hamad said the new administration in Washington should separate itself from the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups.

    “We think that America is not governed by the president only. It is governed by the Zionists,” Mr Hamad said. “We think that Barack Obama will have some power, and we are asking him to be on the right side, because we are the right side.”

    Hamas’s agenda, he added, goes far beyond liberating the occupied territories. Their longer gambit, he said, will include the United States and the rest of the world.

    “Hamas is the winner. If Hamas dies, we are martyrs. If we remain, we will continue struggling and resisting,” Mr Hamad said. “After 15 years, Hamas will be the first state in the world, instead of America, and we will be called United Islamic States. Even America will be Muslim.”

    A mio giudizio è molto preoccupante!!
    Non tanto per le “irrealistiche” pretese propagandistiche, ma perchè Hamas è un movimento islamista si, ma ben altra cosa dai movimenti islamisti globali.
    Hamas ha sempre asserito di essere solamente interessato alla Palestina. “Per il grande Califfato si vedrà” avrebbe risposto, quasi schernendolo, lo sceicco Yassin a Bin Laden.
    Invece, può forse essere solo un’esagerazione, ma qui si vede a mio giudizio uno dei primi effetti del conflitto:
    Cioè la radicalizzazione del Movimento, che ruota ormai attorno ai suoi esponenti più militaristi e estremisti.
    I veri “terroristi” sconfitti da Israele sono proprio quelli più moderati, che avevano a fasi alterne cercato il dialogo con Tel Aviv e con Fatah e che sostenevano una via più politica.
    Tutto ciò si riflette negativamente sull’identità stessa dei Palestinesi e della loro causa nazionale.
    Se già come sostiene Koshrokhavar la figura del martire “svuota” di identità la causa palestinese, perchè è un uomo che si fa saltare in aria e non un guerrigliero (il fedayin) che combatte in nome di un popolo e perchè associa la figura della lotta palestinese a cause “altre” e globali (Al Qaeda in primis), così la leadership di Hamas rende le differenze pericolosamente meno evidenti ad un osservatore internazionale.
    Cioè, in sintesi. Dire che gli USA saranno distrutti e convertiti, significa dire che non si è più solo un movimento palestinese e significa che Israele e gli Usa stessi hanno fatto bene a non appoggiare un gruppo che non è altro che una marionetta di Bin Laden.
    Di certo la vittima di tutto ciò è nuovamente il popolo e la causa palestinese.

  2. coffee said

    i can honestly say i’m looking forward to the next eight years…

  3. valentinabalzati said

    O. Roy già nel 2004 aveva paventato una simile evoluzione in senso “internazionalista” di Hamas… cito da un articolo del Le Monde Diplomatique del settembre 2004:

    “Tutti i movimenti di liberazione nazionale, qualunque sia il loro legame con l’islam (Hamas palestinese, ceceni di Chamil Bassaiev) conducono la loro lotta all’interno del territorio proprio o della potenza che percepiscono come occupante. Nessun membro di al Qaeda ha mai agito sul territorio israelo- palestinese, e nessun palestinese abitante a Gaza o nei territori occupati ha mai partecipato ad azioni di al Qaeda. Ma è sempre possibile che a fronte della repressione e dell’isolamento internazionale, taluni gruppi decidano di estendere il conflitto alleandosi con il settore «internazionalista».”

    Repressione, isolamento internazionale, disperazione, scarse opzioni politiche alternative. E un marchio che continua ad avere un certo appeal, che funziona.

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