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The Goldstone Report II

October 17, 2009

The Palestinian Authority has done an about face on their request to delay a vote on the Goldstone report in the UN Human Rights Council.  The report, which concludes that both Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas fighters committed war crimes in Israel’s assault on Gaza earlier this year but is far more critical of Israeli actions, was widely seen as a historic first step in bringing Israel to account for the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.  This is until the PA under current president Mahmoud Abbas requested that a vote on the report be delayed for close to six months.  The backlash that this decision caused in Palestinian society and indeed around the world has forced Abbas to backtrack on earlier decision.  A special request by the PA to reopen the discussion for a vote on a resolution on the report in the UNHRC has been accepted and it resulted in a resolution adopting the report and condemning Israeli activities in regard to the continuing occupation of the West Bank and the siege state of Gaza.  The resolution passed 25 – 6, with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote.  The report calls on Israel and Hamas to conduct independent and credible investigations into the allegations.  If the two sides should fail to do so within six months, it calls on the UN Security Council to defer the participants to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for a possible war crimes tribunal.

The vote has to be seen as a major moral and political victory for the Palestinian people.  Not only does it represent perhaps the best chance of holding Israeli officials to task for the atrocities committed in the most recent Gaza conflict and over the years, but also more importantly it demonstrated that the Palestinian people do have a very important role to play in shaping the policy and trajectory of its leadership.  Mass protest at the lowest levels forced the PA leadership to adopt a position completely opposite from the one they had just tried to take.  As Ramzy Baroud so rightly points out, years of corrupt leadership following the Oslo accords has morphed the Palestinian resistance society into a degenerated form of corrupt plutocracy.  This about face on their behalf is a sign of the strength of the people working together and united in a common cause.  And what cause could be more uniting than holding the occupying power accountable for countless repressions against society as a whole?   Well, almost the whole of society.  It is becoming ever more evident that the PA is nothing more than an extension of the US and IDF than a real representative of the needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The backdrop to this reversal on the part of the PA is of course the on-going dispute between Hamas and Fatah and their Egyptian mediated talks aimed at national reconciliation.  Hamas has continually been on the side of representing the overall interests of the Palestinians and has continually clashed with Fatah on a wide range of issues.  This was borne out again on the Goldstone report issue.  Hamas was strongly in favor of the report (even though it accused Hamas of war crimes), whole-heartedly in favor of getting a vote on the resolution at the UNHRC, and has said it will conduct an independent investigation and cooperate to the highest degree.  (Counterpoise this with Israel’s decision to reject the report and all of its findings outright as biased and not worthy of paying the least bit of attention to.)  Hamas was very critical of Abbas, going so far as to accuse him of criminality against the Palestinian people.  This sudden about face on Abbas’ part must only seem a confirmation of the validity of Hamas’ criticism and the extent to which Hamas is echoing the thoughts of the people.  The role this will all play on the anticipated unity agreement being signed has yet to be fully determined, but Hamas has signaled that it will have a hard time joining in unity with an organization that was/is so willing to blatantly sell out the Palestinian people that it claims to represent.

The division of the Palestinians against themselves is certainly only playing into the hands of those who wish to see continued impotence on their behalf.  Obviously unity in the abstract is desirable for the Palestinians in order to work in solidarity with themselves and others who share their cause in pursuit of justice.  But unity cannot take place in the abstract.  The reality of the situation is that there are two very different factions are competing for dominance in the Occupied Territories and they may not be compatible.  Unity at all costs might end up costing too much.  How unfortunate, for the Palestinian people cannot afford much more as it is.

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