Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are desperate. Not only because they are burying their dead while marking the anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 that saw their grandparents flee or expelled from homes in what is now Israel, but also because their lives under blockade are intolerable, as is the sense that they have been abandoned to their fate by an indifferent world.
Israel was their main enemy before and after the 1967 war. It unilaterally dismantled settlements and withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 but still controls its borders, airspace and waters.
Meanwhile Egypt’s crossing point at Rafah is often closed and Cairo uses access to put pressure on Hamas and the 2 million people in the territory it rules. Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based Palestinian president, condemned Monday’s killings from Ramallah, but he is hostile too, withholding the salaries of Gazan Palestinian Authority employees because of a row over taxes and legitimacy dating back to Hamas’s takeover in 2007.
Efforts at reconciliation between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas have got nowhere since a flurry of excitement last year. Abbas’s demand for disarmament was unacceptable to Hamas. In the 2014 war, when 2,300 Gazans including hundreds of civilians and Hamas fighters were killed, Abbas was accused of nodding and winking at Israel to continue attacking and thus weaken his rivals.
Abbas’s popularity has hit rock bottom in the last few months, and not only because of his authoritarian style. The overwhelming reason is that the Palestinian national liberation movement he has led since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, with a strategy of non-violence, negotiations and, crucially, security coordination with Israel, has failed to liberate anything. [Continue reading…]