A Complete Deterioration

Steven Erlanger has a depressing dispatch in today NYTimes about the increasingly desperate struggle to feed one’s family in Gaza. This dynamic is chiefly responsible for the announcement earlier this week that a Palestinian national unity government will be formed. It was a clear sign that the Hamas government – which thought for a time that it could govern in the face of the world’s (and much Palestinian) rejection – has failed. The extent and significance of this failure will gradually become clear. For now, we are hearing more and more candor from even high-ranking Palestinian officials that every hardship (and there are many) cannot be blamed on Israeli malevolence. There is, however halting and insignificant, a sense that Palestinians are beginning to look in the mirror.

That being said, a healthy heaping of skepticism must be brought into this analysis (it is the Middle East, after all!). The Palestinians have repeatedly proven themselves incapable of organizing as a cohesive polity under decent and effective leadership. This is in large part due to the fact that there is no agreement across society as to what the hell they are “resisting” against. Yes, of course, the occupation. But that word obfuscates more than it clarifies. The ideological disparities that have always cleaved at Palestinian society persist, thinly papered under the thin veneer of national unity. I fear that this exercise will not survive its first crisis, which can’t be far off (it is the Middle East, after all!).

And so, here at small-d, we can muster little enthusiasm for the national unity news out of Gaza. If we were truly witnessing a substantive shift in Palestinian politics we would have seen more outrage at the provocative capture of the Israeli soldier Shalit, and widespread demands, on the street, for his release. Not because they give a damn about Shalit, but because of a recognition that this was not good for Palestinian interests. Of course, that depends on how you define Palestinian interests. If you are a repellent fanatic of Islamist rejectionism, then it makes perfect strategic sense to lure Israel further into the mire of occupation – to hell with the human toll.

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