‘Negative Neutrality’ – Palestinian Authority ‘Weak and Irrelevant’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Iqbal Jassat

Abbas, whose four-year term expired in 2009, has stubbornly refused to accept demands for fresh elections. In effect, the general view is that he has shut the door on reform of the undemocratic PA. 

South Africa’s solidarity movements in support of Palestine’s freedom struggle against Zionism’s illegal settler colonial regime and resistance to the genocide in Gaza, have constantly raised justified concerns about the dubious role of the Palestinian Authority (PA). 

Led by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA is a construct of the discredited 1993 Oslo Accords. Due to it having limited power in terms of self-rule in the Occupied West Bank, many have compared it to South Africa’s apartheid-era ‘Bantustan’ formations. 

More than three decades since the PA was created, ostensibly to govern an “independent” Palestinian state, the Oslo “peace pact” has proven to be a mirage.

Many commentators have concluded that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prematurely and perhaps hastily gave up armed resistance against Israel in return for the “promises” of an independent Palestinian state.

Now that the racist rightwing regime led by war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu has for the last eight months since October 7, plundered the besieged Gaza Strip reducing it to rubble with American-supplied weapons of mass destruction, targeting millions of civilians resulting in massacres of thousands upon thousands, the question of the PA’s absence has yet again come to the fore. 

As Netanyahu’s savagery enters the ninth month, Awni Almashni, a member of the consulting council for the Fatah movement and a columnist for Ma’an, insists that the PA has done nothing to stop Israel’s relentless war. 

Media reports confirm the following dire consequences of the ongoing genocide in Gaza:

* Conditions have deteriorated into a complete catastrophe, say humanitarian aid workers as tens of thousands of Palestinians seek nonexistent refuge;

* Human rights groups have described living conditions for Palestinians as “unspeakable”;

* Over 75% of the population has been displaced according to the UN’s Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA);

* In blatant defiance of global outrage and a ruling by the world’s highest court, the ICJ, Netanyahu, and his criminal gang of warlords have pulverized neighborhoods, destroyed the entire health infrastructure, and depleted food, water and fuel supplies. 

Against this background, Almashni laments that indeed PA has been absent. 

“The Palestine Liberation Organization, which is supposed to comprise an inclusive national framework and leadership for resistance, has been reduced under President Mahmoud Abbas to less than a subsidiary of the PA”. 

He contends that on the spectrum between leading the armed resistance and standing passively by, as the PA has done, there was a wide range of actions it could have taken.

However, Almashni suggests that the PA may have assumed that Israel’s murderous spree would result in the decisive elimination of Hamas as a military force or a governing power in Gaza. And that if this occurs “it could take control of Gaza with abundant financial aid for reconstruction”. 

“Negative neutrality” is how Almashni describes PA’s stance.

Failure by the PA to intervene in defense of the lives of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as the West Bank, who continue to be slaughtered in the most horrific ways by the Netanyahu cabal of criminals, has defined Abbas’s weakness and impotency. 

“True, the PA could not have stopped the war – but its calls to end the war, largely anodyne and self-promotional, have not given rise to any policy actions”, asserts Almashni. 

So where does the PA stand? 

Almashni concludes that the PA has found itself aligned with the Jordanian-Egyptian-Saudi-Emirati axis, which sees the war as a necessary evil, especially if it ends Hamas’s rule in Gaza. 

“This bias, at such a historic moment, has degraded the PA’s global standing, especially in light of Washington’s blatant hostility towards the aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

Interestingly, Nurit Yohanan, in a recent article in an Israeli paper, recounted a discussion she had with a Palestinian man in a northern West Bank village on clashes with settlers and the Israeli army. 

He mentioned to her something that was said by “the head of state”. Not sure who he was referring to, she asked him “your head of state?” 

“Yours, the Israeli prime minister,” he answered laughing. “Our head of state is sleeping.” 

Abbas, whose four-year term expired in 2009, has stubbornly refused to accept demands for fresh elections. In effect, the general view is that he has shut the door on reform of the undemocratic PA. 

“We can’t move forward with Abu Mazen calling the shots,” the Guardian quoted Nour Oudeh, a Palestinian political analyst, using Abbas’s well-known kunya. 

“There needs to be buy-in across the Palestinian public and political spectrum. The (PA) is weak and has made itself irrelevant. We can’t just put some makeup on it and make it look pretty … We are too far gone in Gaza for that now.”

– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com

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