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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Gazans reap what Arafat sowed

There's a pretty decent background piece in today's Los Angeles Times that tries to explain what the feuds among the different warring factions in Gaza are about.
When rival Palestinian forces face off in the Gaza Strip, as they have been doing in an escalating conflict that has left nearly a dozen fighters dead and scores injured this month, they are acting in accordance with a script of sorts — one written by none other than the late Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinian security apparatus, created a dozen years ago and now more than 70,000 fighters strong, was specifically designed as an array of competing militias, ensuring that no single commander would grow powerful enough to challenge Arafat. The Islamist group Hamas, though not part of the official Palestinian forces at that time, figured into the longtime leader's power equation as well.

Now, after Arafat's death and Hamas' rise to political power, chieftains aligned with the defeated Fatah faction, which Arafat once led, are scrambling to retain influence and control of their own bands of armed followers, even while taking on the fighters of Hamas.

"More and more, Gaza is ruled by warlords," said Eyad Sarraj, who heads a human rights group in the seaside territory where gunmen, in or out of uniform, can be seen on almost every street corner. "We are turning into a kind of Somalia. And this is Arafat's legacy."


The Palestinian security forces, which at one point had nearly a dozen different branches, were a product of the Oslo interim peace accords of the early 1990s, envisioned as a way to provide jobs and perhaps impose a degree of discipline on tens of thousands of armed Fatah followers.

When the intifada broke out in the autumn of 2000, however, the line between Palestinian security forces and militant groups became blurry. Many gunmen collected a government salary even while they actively took part in attacks on Israel. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia asserting loyalty to Fatah, has hundreds of former or current members of the security forces in its ranks, according to Israeli intelligence.


Even if there is reconciliation among Palestinian factions at an official level, on-the-ground feuds could still perpetuate themselves. Gunmen in Gaza generally affiliate with commanders and foot soldiers from their own clans. Thus, avenging a killing or abduction becomes a matter of family honor, which is of paramount importance in a highly traditional society such as Gaza's.
I wish all of the families much luck, so long as they stay out of Israel.

Read it all.


At 4:27 PM, Blogger Karridine said...

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The Jordyptian internicine war just hit the charts, in the Number 8 position, I think, but YOU might be in a GREAT position to send me YOUR take on the most common/popular memes and tropes in the world today...

Give it a listen, at


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