The recent visit of the Qatari emir sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to the Palestinian Gaza Strip reflects the important political, economic and psychological strategies.
First, it was the first trip by a head of an Arab state to Gaza since the Israeli government imposed its embargo in 2007. Since then, that strip of land (which is nearly 25 miles long and around 8 miles wide), where nearly 1.6 million Palestinians reside, has been treated by the Israeli government as sub-human. Recently, the Israeli press exposed the Israeli government’s brutalities to even limit the amount of food that is permitted to enter the Gaza Strip, which hardly meets the minimal requirements for survival. This embargo has been criticized worldwide and was even condemned by international human rights organizations, including Israeli ones. Furthermore, the Israeli embargo has been labeled as a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice.
Many international peace movements have tried to break the Israeli embargo by sailing to the shores of Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea, and were intercepted by the Israeli Navy and stopped.
Therefore, the Prince of Qatar visit not only broke the embargo, but also raised the hopes of Palestinians politically and economically. Prince Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani pledged to give $400 million to help the people of Gaza and build new homes for the Palestinians who lost their dwellings as a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2007, as well as numerous air bombardments that took place frequently. Also, the money given to Hamas is to help its economy, which has been crippled by the Israeli embargo, which led to very high unemployment and poverty impacting more than half of its population.
It is unfortunate that the Qatari prince’s visit to Gaza was not supported by Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian authority in the occupied West Bank. That negative reaction did not surprise me, since the majority of the members of the Fatah are politically corrupt. The history of that organization, which was started by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was an authoritarian and corrupts organization that lacked the basic principles of democracy, accountability and transparency.
At the beginning, the Palestinian people, as well as millions of people in the Arab world, were hoping that the Arafat authority would create a democratic political model of government that might influence other authoritarian political leaders in the Arab world to imitate. Unfortunately, that hope never materialized from day one. Political and economic corruption continued and still is part of Mahmoud Abbas’ authoritarian rule.
Some political individuals w ho were part of the regime were accused of corruption but not a single one was investigated to be prosecuted. Some even left the West Bank before any investigation. Until the death of Arafat, he was the only person receiving money contributed to help the Palestinians to run their own affairs. Nevertheless, Arafat did not have any policy to show how the funds were spent.
An example was given by the previous Prime Minister Qurai about the money given to Suha, the wife of Arafat. Arafat sent her $30,000 per month to support her while she lived in Paris. That such an amount of money was sent while thousands of malnourished Palestinian children lived in refugee camps is nothing but an act of corruption.
In the recent municipalities elections, which were held in the West Bank (October 2012), the majority of voters did not participate, which was described by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as a slap on the face for Abbas.
It seems to me that the history of Palestinian politicians over the past (at least) eight decades reflects nothing but a struggle for power. During the last eight years, many attempts by some heads of Arab states to bring the Palestinian leadership (Fatah and Hamas) together have failed. In the mean time the Zionist regime continues to expand in the West Bank, in addition to practicing a policy of ethnic cleansing. It is about time for the Palestinian people to start their Spring Revolution and remove their corrupt leadership.