Daniel Pipes- Contributor
Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum, a member of the
presidentially-appointed board of the U.S.
Institute of Peace,
and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun and The
Jerusalem Post. His most recent book, Miniatures:
Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics (Transaction
Publishers) appeared in late 2003. His website, DanielPipes.org,
the single most accessed source of information specifically
the Middle East and Islam, offers an archive and a chance
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Descent into Chaos
[Daniel Pipes] 7/27/04
"There is a crisis. There is a state of chaos." That's what
Qureia said after announcing his resignation from what
some call the Palestinian Authority's prime ministry. "We
have an absolute state of chaos," echoes
the mayor of Jenin,
a West Bank town. That chaos, growing since Yasir Arafat initiated
the Oslo War in September 2000, has prompted the PA to declare
a state of emergency; it could signal the end of the PA itself.
According to an April
poll of the Gaza-based General Institute for Information, 94
percent of Palestinians believe that a state
of lawlessness and chaos prevails in Palestinian Authority territories.
As Palestinian security forces have fragmented and dissolved,
armed groups of unknown identity have taken their place, using
strong-arm tactics against a hapless population. The Jerusalem-based
Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group finds that "weapons
possession has become socially legitimized in Palestinian society."
Nablus, for example, some deaths have resulted from spiraling
criminal activity and reckless accusations of "collaboration" with
Israel. But, Reuters explains, most casualties involve mistaken
identity or plain bad luck. In two typical stories dating from
February 2004, "Amneh Abu Hijleh, 37, entered a pharmacy
to buy cough syrup for her infant daughter only to be shot dead
in a botched abduction. Firas Aghbar, 13, was killed when he
walked into a gang battle on his way to the barber for a birthday
As explained by the
Washington Post, "the Palestinian Authority
is broke, politically fractured, riddled with corruption, unable
to provide security for its own people and seemingly unwilling
to crack down on terrorist attacks against Israel." One
unnamed Fatah member estimates that 90 percent of gang activity
is carried out by Palestinian Authority employees.
In February, for example, one Palestinian police officer died
and eleven were wounded when rival police factions fought each
other within the confines of Gaza's police headquarters. Things
climaxed on July
16, as Al-Fatah terrorists ambushed and seized
Gaza's police chief for several hours; and then some recently-sacked
Palestinian policemen abducted the director of military co-ordination
in the southern part of Gaza.
Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, has offered choice comments
spreading anarchy, telling the Security Council
that "Clashes and showdowns between branches of Palestinian
security forces are now common in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian
Authority legal authority is receding fast in the face of the
mounting power of arms, money and intimidation." He also
reached the startling conclusion that "Jericho is actually
becoming the only Palestinian city with a functioning police."
This descent into chaos prompts four observations.
- The PA
has joined other parts of the Greater Middle East (Somalia,
Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan) in the general trend
- Mr. Arafat
predicted in 1994 that "Either we build a
Singapore in our country or fall into the trap of the tragic
Somali model." He thus acknowledges that the PA's slide
to Somali-like anarchy symbolizes his own failure.
- The Islamic
proverb, "Better a thousand days of tyranny
than one day of anarchy," has an element of truth, for life
in the PA territories has truly become hellish.
Mr. Arafat launched the Oslo war nearly four years ago with
the intent to destroy Israel, he is, ironically, destroying
not Israel but his own proto-government.
The question now facing
Palestinians is whether they have learned the right lessons
from their bitter experience. That for once
they are not blaming Israel for their problems gives some reason
for optimism. Cox
News Service notes that, "as the disorder
spreads, Palestinian intellectuals and politicians are increasingly
looking past Israel as the usual scapegoat and admitting they
share a part of the blame." National Public Radio quotes a Palestinian saying that the PA is in trouble "because
many people are being killed or kidnapped or robbed. … We
are all accusing the government of not doing anything." A
poll by the Gaza-based General Institute for Information finds
that just 29 percent of Palestinians hold Israelis responsible
for the PA's failure to enforce law and order.
This is a good start. But to emerge from their political predicament
requires Palestinians coming to terms with the existence of the
Jewish state of Israel. So long as they resist this change of
heart, the Somali model remains their fate. CRO
first appeared in the New York Sun
2004 Daniel Pipes