Last night wasn’t the first time Palestinians were in the crosshairs of their own ‘security services,’ but the sight of Israeli jeeps within spitting distance of the melee has set off long-latent resentment toward the Palestinian Authority.
It started with a mission, Israel would have us believe, to find three missing Yeshiva students. But one week on, that “mission” seems little more than a rouse to rout any semblance of normalcy for more than four million people — Palestinians who remain bound by Israel’s military rule in the West Bank and Gaza. Stateless and defenseless, Palestinian civilians have endured a military onslaught unlike any since the Second Intifada. And without a shred of evidence that the missing Israeli students are being held by Palestinians — or, for that matter, that they were kidnapped at all — Israel has nevertheless vowed no let-up in what its prime minister has called his “determination to dismantle” the Palestinian government.
What can stop him? Here’s a thought, courtesy of one especially astute social media observer: Maybe the Palestinians should kidnap Mahmoud Abbas. Surely the Israelis would accede to anything to get him back.
The idea isn’t so far-fetched — not after photos surfaced of Israeli soldiers standing guard at Ramallah’s Palestinian Authority police station this morning. Why were they there? By all accounts, the Israelis had come to fend off protests against Abbas and his attempts to quell Palestinian anger in the wake of Israel’s now week-long rampage in the West Bank.
Really, is anyone surprised? With the Palestinian death toll now at five, and hundreds added to Israel’s roster of more than 5,000 political prisoners, Abbas’s response so far has included violently dispersing a demonstration by the mothers and wives of hunger-striking Palestinian detainees — a shameful episode that included an attack on a CNN crew covering the event. Beyond that, he squeamishly called on Netanyahu to apologize for this week’s Palestinian deaths, a request the Israeli prime minister promptly dismissed, chalking it up to “a certain degree of friction with the civilian population of Judea and Samaria….”
Yes, friction. And with friction, it seems, a spark has been lit beneath the match-stick edifice of the Palestinian Authority. Today, there were reports of ongoing protests by Palestinian youth, and doctored images surfaced online of Israeli soldiers with Abbas’s face super-imposed. Unlike past expressions of dissent by Abbas’s opponents, these seem to have elicited no counter-protests from Fatah loyalists and no claims that Hamas — or any other Palestinian party — was fomenting the unrest. No, this was rage rising right from the Palestinian street, its message damningly clear: the friend of our enemy is our enemy, too.
If these protests are any indication, Abbas would seem beyond redemption. Last night wasn’t the first time Palestinians were in the crosshairs of their own “security services,” but something about the sight of Israeli jeeps within spitting distance of the melee has set off long-latent resentment toward the Palestinian Authority and the impotence it maintains in the face of Israel’s ongoing occupation.
Where all of this will lead is anyone’s guess at the moment. But it’s past time to begin imagining a future without Mahmoud Abbas and, quite possibly, without the Palestinian Authority. That prospect surely frightens Netanyahu more than it does the Palestinian people. Although they are a quarter-century — and a generation — removed from the First Intifada, its most important lesson remains relevant: it happened without the Palestinian Authority.