TIP OF THE ICEBERG
"What the [Palestinian] television program Open Talk revealed was no more than the tip of the iceberg," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.Something very worrisome is afoot, threatening to cause total collapse. For in addition to the absence of a collective national institution, or a political program based on shared denominators, or a single leadership – all resulting from the PLO's paralysis – we have begun to witness a rapid reversal in the steps taken to achieve [Fateh/Hamas] national unity, unless this is contained before it is too late.Mutual accusations and incitement have returned. The Gaza homes of leading Fateh figures and the podium set up to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Abu 'Ammar's [Yasser Arafat’s] assassination were bombed [last month]. Statements have been issued, supposedly under ISIS's name, against writers and intellectuals in Gaza. In addition, there have been widespread arrests in the West Bank, while the Gaza Strip has been left standing almost alone in facing the ugliest siege, after its steadfastness and victory against Israel’s aggression and in the shadow of overall deterioration at all levels, threatening an explosion.Despite the Jerusalemites' intifada, Jerusalem has also been left alone to confront the most ferocious Israeli attacks and 'to remove its own thorns by its own hands,' without the Palestinian leadership and the various forces doing everything possible to confront the ugliest racist settlement onslaught. This onslaught reached new peaks with the attacks on the Aqsa Mosque, and the start of the process of ratifying the 'Jewish nationality' law, which amounts to a new all-out war on the Palestinians.There is talk of a coup by Hamas to topple the president and his PA. There is also talk of another coup by [former Fateh security head] Mohammad Dahlan, [former PM] Salam Fayyad, [PLO executive committee member] Yasser 'Abed-Rabbo, and members of Fateh's Central Committee. Meanwhile, the Public Employment Union has been declared illegal, and its president and deputy-president arrested eight years after it was established and even though all previous Palestinian governments and the presidency have dealt with it throughout these years.In addition, orders were issued to arrest the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC] Secretary-General Ibrahim Khreisheh, for no reason other than the fact that he called for a protest against this decision on behalf of the various parliamentary blocs and lists. Later, he refused to comply with an illegal order to remove him from his post, since he was appointed by the PLC, which alone has the right to force him out of office, while neither the executive power nor the president has that right. Meanwhile, the police have surrounded the PLC's headquarters to prevent him from entering his office despite the solidarity with him expressed by various parliamentary blocs and list, including the Fateh bloc and its president 'Azzam al-Ahmad.At the same time, the Director-General of News in [official PA] Filastin TV Ahmad Zaki was removed from his post simply because he refused to host Tawfiq 'Akkasheh, a decision by which the former was giving expression to the will of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who were insulted to see praise for 'Akkasheh, followed by hosting him on Filastin TV's screens.We then had the episode of the Open Talk program in which [presenter] Maher Chalabi set himself up as the president's spokesman. He began his program by declaring that 'the Palestinian people find nothing to their liking; they criticize corruption, but they do not like the fight against corruption; they criticize the negotiations, but when the president ended negotiations and headed to the UN, they did not like that either.' Then Chalabi went on to attack certain former and present leaders who, in cooperation with a certain Arab state, have conspired against the president and met with the U.S. secretary of state.The program included mutual recriminations and denials between PM Rami al-Hamdallah and 'Azzam al-Ahmad as to who proposed the appointment of the Minister of Education – who happens to be al-Ahmad's brother-in-law. This argument revealed how ministers, who occupy political and not academic positions, are appointed. Al-Hamdallah confirmed that the cabinet lineup was delivered to him readymade, and that he was asked to accept it as it is because it is a government of national accord, which he did.This is a very serious matter. It is a violation of all conventions and laws that state that consultations and the formation of the cabinet are part of the prime minister's authority in coordination with the president, who can either accept or reject his proposals. The president has no right to appoint the government himself. The fact that the government is one of national accord is no excuse for the prime minister's failure to form it after consulting with Fateh, Hamas, and other factions, forces, and figures to ensure that it is a harmonious government that can work collectively.It turns out, however, that the cabinet is the president's cabinet rather than a national accord government. Moreover, Hamas allowed it to pass because it is in the midst of a suffocating crisis. It believed that by showing flexibility during the formation of the cabinet, it would be rewarded by having its [Gaza] employees' salaries paid. This is why the government has not succeeded in any of its activities, neither in the West Bank and especially Jerusalem, nor in fulfilling its responsibilities towards the Gaza Strip.Talk of conspiracies and coups should not be passed over in silence, especially when those accused are certain Arab and foreign states, as well as factions and current or former leading figures. Why have the conspirators and alleged putschists not been exposed and held accountable – unless the issue is fabricated and a reflection of the deep domestic crisis stemming from the failure of the [PA’s] chosen options and their repercussions at all levels, but without the courage to adopt new options?Instead, an attempt is underway to intimidate and suppress opponents, critics, and rivals on the eve of the Fateh Conference, and with beginning of the struggle over who is to succeed Abu Mazin. And as for anyone who criticizes the president and the government's policy and performance, and who disagrees with the policies adopted on issues of reconciliation with Hamas, the aggression on Gaza, the negotiations with Israel, the political and diplomatic activity, and the manner in which the Fateh Conference is being prepared – well, the charge against them is ready; ‘conspiracy’.Nor should the violation of liberties and human rights – by requiring an employee or member of Fateh to blindly obey orders or by depriving them from the right to express their opinion – be passed over in silence. No obedience is owed to any official no matter how senior they may be if they violate basic rights, liberties, and laws; the duty to implement orders does not cancel out the right to disagree with them.The union leader, the PLC member, and the employee are all accountable to their conscience and respective institutions before being accountable to their factions and superior officials. Every citizen has the right to express his or her opinion and to criticize whoever he or she wants, provided they do not resort to libel or incitement.What also needs to be considered is the excessive politicization of union activity. This is not intended to intensify the struggle against the occupation as was the case in the past, on many occasions, union action and the unions in general are now being used for merely political purposes – more accurately, to serve particular persons or political organizations. The most prominent example of this is the General Employment Union that the Interior Ministry refused to register, but that was registered after Hamas won the legislative elections in 2006. After that, it was used intensively against the Hamas government and Salam Fayyad's government, until it was declared –not via a proper judicial procedure – to be an illegal body based on the recommendations made two years ago by a presidential committee, and that were recently revived.The question here is this: Why is the presidency intervening in all these matters? And what is the role of the government, the judicial system, and Fatah’s Central Committee? Or is this one of the malignant fruits of the inter-Palestinian split, the absenting of the PLC, and the absence of PLO institutions, the PA, and the factions? For now, we seem to have a regime in which one individual rules, one in which the president has widespread powers without being questioned, without supervision, without accountability, without elections, without national accord and partnership, and without anything else."We are akin to the people of Byzantium who were busy discussing the gender of angels and debating whether an elephant can pass through a needle's eye instead of preparing to fight their enemies who were laying siege to their city and preparing to attack and occupy it!" concludes Masri.