Palestinian Politics Jenin Style (COMMENTARY MAGAZINE) Jonathan S. Tobin 05/10/12)
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In today’s New York Times, new Israel correspondent Jodi Rudoren
writes of how the recently deceased Palestinian governor of the city
of Jenin is being viewed as a “martyr” in the fight against gangs and
the symbol of the failing struggle to transform the Palestinian
Authority into a viable state. Qadoura Moussa, who died of a heart
attack following an assassination attempt that is interpreted as part
of the battle in which control of the streets is at stake, helped
create the idea that there was a “Jenin model” in which good
government would replace the mafia-style corruption and violence that
had heretofore characterized Palestinian life.
Moussa’s death is rightly seen as yet another blow to Fayyadism, the
term that Times columnist Thomas Friedman attached to the efforts of
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to transform Palestinian society so as
to allow for the rise of a rational modern state. But, as the
insightful journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote just a day earlier on
the website of the Gatestone Institute, the truth about the reality
of life in Jenin has been apparent for years. The problem is, the
foreign and Palestinian press was far too intimidated to report that
the illusion of law and order in Jenin was always a lie.
The notion that Jenin, which was the hub of Palestinian terror during
the second intifada and the site of a pitched battle between gunmen
and the Israeli Defense Force in 2002, had become a PA success story
was an attractive theme for journalists eager to paint a more
attractive picture of the Palestinians. But as Toameh, who knows more
about the politics of the territories than anyone else writing in
English, points out, the “Jenin model” was always a myth. The anarchy
and lawlessness in the region was not happening in spite of the
efforts of the Western-trained PA security forces but in no small
measure because of them.
The problem goes deeper than just a few cases of corruption or the
fact that many of those recruited into the Palestinian security
services are former criminals and killers who quickly revert to their
old habits for profit. Rather, it is that Palestinian political
culture still treats violence as legitimate. The line between the
terrorist groups that double as political parties such as Fatah and
Hamas and the armed gangs and clans that the PA fights in the streets
of towns like Jenin is razor thin. That’s why any expectation that
Fatah or even Hamas can foster law and order other than by their own
reign of terror at their rivals’ expense is farcical.
Genuine moderates who desire real change like Salam Fayyad are the
outliers, not the criminals. Men like Fayyad also lack a political
constituency. That means they are not just outnumbered but outgunned.
Yet this is a tale that has generally been ignored by the Western
press that has, as Abu Toameh notes, feared to tell the truth about
the Palestinians. The result is that Western governments continue to
pour in vast amounts of cash and aid that has done little to help.
Fayyadism is a nice idea, but the problem is that it is more popular
in American newsrooms than in the streets of Palestinian towns.
Though Rudoren’s article in today’s Times gives some belated
attention to this problem, it still fails to go to the heart of the
cancer eating away at the PA. The rationale for Palestinian statehood
as well as for more Israeli territorial withdrawals to further
empower these gangsters and terrorists seems more farfetched than
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