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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La Misère et l’humiliation

by Editorial by Claude Cabanes

Poverty and Humiliation

Translated by Ann Drummond

Translated Wednesday 1 February 2006, by Ann Drummond

Down Jerusalem way, the pages of history certainly turn at a rapid rate. With things in a constant state of flux, people in the public eye disappear off the scene to be replaced by those hitherto unknown, the racket of weapons blends in with the fever of election results, and still the outlook is grim, skies laden with persistently threatening clouds.

Only a few days ago, there was still optimism that the first Palestinian parliamentary elections would bring some hope. Today, after the verdict at the ballot box, one has to ask reluctantly whether this land’s suffering might not continue and to pose the only question worth asking - is peace today any nearer, or is it further away? It is far from certain that the answer will be a positive one.

In turning out in huge numbers at the polling stations in the face of a multitude of different problems, and in showing great calm and restraint, the Palestinian people signed up to a remarkable act of faith in the principle of democratic elections. A not insignificant feat, you have to admit, and one which deserves to be met with respect, given the situation (one is tempted to say rut) in which the whole debate is taking place, amidst indescribable suffering.

Not one single voice was raised yesterday to claim any irregularities in the ballot, and in any case, it took place in front of 900 foreign observers. So no-one denies the genuine victory of the Islamic organization Hamas, irrespective of what it might mean for its rivals, the Fatah party, whose history is inextricably linked to the very struggle of the Palestinians itself and to the name of Yasser Arafat.

The defeat of the traditional political organization which fought ceaselessly for the right to a homeland, a flag and a State for the Palestinian people, could only have been brought about by a very deep and long term hardening process which can be summed up in one word - despair. Those in charge of the Palestinian Authority made mistakes and were guilty of mismanagement, of that there can be no doubt, and the voters did not forgive them for that. But the real reason lies elsewhere. The strong sense of breakdown in the Occupied Territories, with its concomitant physical and spiritual misery, has become unbearable to those who do not believe that independence, and therefore peace, can be achieved within their lifetime. Yesterday’s leaders have consequently lost a great deal of credibility, which has been mopped up in equal measure, in a gesture of despair, by the rallying cries of Hamas, with its programme calling for the destruction of the state of Israel, and the methods it employs. Appalling poverty combined with a feeling of national humiliation is always a formidable combination. This applies to peoples across the globe, and no less to the Palestinian people, who have been crucified for decades.

Since yesterday’s events, leaders in Israel and most of the Western world have been grumbling about the dangers represented by this new Palestinian political landscape. Why did they not think of it sooner? What did they do in Washington, London, Brussels or Paris to unblock the peace process when it was clear to see that its collapse was throwing large numbers of Palestinians into the arms of Hamas? Do the top government officials in Israel have any idea of their degree of responsibility for this situation, having done nothing to stop the chaos taking place in the "territories"? At the beginning of January, for example, an Israeli defence official, Shaoul Mofaz, did not rule out negotiations with Hamas, which until then had actually been referred to as a terrorist organization they would have nothing to do with. This could not have been more effective in weakening Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. The result of the election has sent everyone into a cold sweat.

That is unless, for some circles in Israeli politics, there can be no lasting peaceful solution with the Palestinians, so they may as well deal with the devil. Whatever it all means, the worst thing that could now happen would be to isolate the Palestinian people and abandon them to their despair.

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