Of arms and hands: militias in The Palestinian Territories

January 8, 2007 at 2:28 am (Middle East, Military, Palestinian Territories)

Inspired by Elder of Ziyon‘s “Abbas’ support for terror”.

One of the difficult aspects of politics of The. Palestinian Territories are the essential character and characteristics of its main players. The main players today, Fatah and Hamas, are basically militias with political involvement rather than political parties or social organizations that happen to have armed wings. That is, the primary element of the two groups is their armed natur rather than their political involvement. As they have shown, armed tactics is part of their modi operandi regardless of whether they are in power or not. Hence the civil war that has been raging in The Palestinian Territories.

(Sidenote: As “government” is often defined as that entity that has a monopoly on the use of force, and as entities such as Fatah and Hamas (and Iraq’s sectarian militias) demonstrate, for some people at least, why only state authorities ought to have the ability to project armed force, it seems incredible and extraordinary that in The United States the average citizen not only has the ability and permission to bear arms independent of the government’s forces but even has the right to do so. Quite remarkable indeed.)

So if we hear of any disarming or dissolving of militias in The Palestinian Territories, we must keep in mind that there is more to the civil war than just a few militias. Without an effective, legitimate, and able law enforcement body, how can one expect any Palestinian “government” to operate properly (that is, not engaging in a civil war with its political opponents)? It will, accordingly, take more to solving this war than the unilateral disarmament of one side: the normal characteristics of an effective government would have to come into being, which would include, most importantly and unavoidably, the disbanding of every militia or armed outfit in favor for an impartial and professional law enforcement force. Such a force would exercise its duties uniformly regardless of what party or faction may dominate whatever bodies of government.

But it is difficult to see this happening in The Palestinian Territories, and this because of what seems to be an endemic or systematic element of militia-mongering, with its associated instability, popular promotion for and propaganda for militias and violence, and the delegitimization of other factions, that can be said to characterize the Palestinian political milieu. Of course, various internal and external forces not only favor this situation but also perpetuate it: after all, without Hamas, whom would the Iranis sell weapons to in the Palestinian political theatre? (And a theatre it is: the play is a tear-gushing tragedy.)

The situation in The Palestinian Territories is quite sad indeed; but we should not ignore to what extent the Palestinians’ tragedies are cause by Palestinians, Arabs, and other players other than Israel: indeed, one may say that viewing who has a hand in the Palestinians’ troubles, Israel should be the least of the Palestinians’ concerns.

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