Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Onslaught Threatens the Very Existence of Fatah - Bernard Sabella

The Irish Times, January 13, 2009 - The Israeli onslaught on Gaza threatens the very existence of both the secular Fatah movement and the Palestinian National Authority recognised by the international community, a Jerusalem representative of Fatah in the Palestinian legislature and a leading representative of the Palestinian Christian community.

“It puts the authority in a deep, deep corner,” said Bernard Sabella.

He blamed the Israelis for the weakness of the Palestinian Authority. If there had been real progress in negotiations for a Palestinian state and improvements in living conditions, President Mahmoud Abbas, “would have been stronger”. Israel’s policies have also weakened “all secular groups in Palestinian society,” said Dr Sabella, making people turn to Hamas and Islamic jihad.

He castigated the EU for “rewarding Israel” by pledging to upgrade relations “and then hoping that the Israelis will be magnanimous by offering things to the Palestinians. Israel has taught us that if we are strong, they will listen to us. If they cannot listen to us, they’ll fight us to the bitter end. And if we are too peace-leaning like Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas], then we are nobody. Unfortunately, this is the message our people are getting. So when they talk about Abu Mazen being a weak person and the authority being weak, [the Israelis] are to blame.”

He said Israel had told Abu Mazen that it was ready to negotiate peace but then kept arresting his people and not allowing them to move freely by setting up 600 checkpoints in the West Bank and besieging and attacking Gaza.

“What the people have been seeing for the last 16 days has made them so angry that some of them will be prepared to do anything against Israel.

“The call for Hamas to be more practical, realistic, and to take on the Israeli agenda is nonsense. Why don’t they [westerners] ask the Israeli right to do likewise?

“Why is that when some Israelis say not enough people have been killed in Gaza, the international community does not make an outcry?”

Dr Sabella, who is also director of service for Palestinian Refugees for the Near East Council of Churches, said that its clinic for pregnant women and children had been bombed and destroyed on Saturday night.

The clinic, established in 1968, was in a poor district. The 2,500 Christians in Gaza are being subjected to the same treatment the rest of the inhabitants of the Strip, he said. “They cannot leave their homes and, in spite of calls from our foreign partners, we cannot distribute aid because it is too dangerous.”

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