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Arafat and Sharon 2 Sides of the Same Coin

by UK Independant Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004 at 7:41 PM

Palestinian journalists in Gaza and the West Bank have also come under attack by armed men - some associated with Fatah's military wing - who did not like what they wrote or broadcast.

Mass revolt by Arafat activists over Fatah's 'political bankruptcy'

By Eric Silver and Sa'id Ghazali in Jerusalem

09 February 2004

Hundreds of activists resigned from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement yesterday, accusing it of "political bankruptcy", in the biggest revolt since the Palestinian president returned from exile a decade ago.

In an open letter to Mr Arafat, 370 rank-and-file members said: "Al Fatah is leading us to disaster, factionalism, tribalism and internal conflicts." It was, they complained, doing nothing to combat corruption and incompetence, or to punish those who harmed the interests of the Palestinian people.

Bemoaning what they call the corrupt and incompetent officials in their organisation, they wrote: "The murderous judge is still a judge. The prosecutor is an arms dealer. The failing military commander is still in command. Some of the security forces consider stolen cars a source of income. The miserable governor is still miserable. The struggler, the qualified, the honest have no place and are powerless."

The signatories are junior figures, but reflect the frustration of many of the younger generation of Palestinian nationalists, born and raised in the West Bank and Gaza, with the veterans who returned from Tunisia after the 1993 Oslo accords.

In the prevailing anarchy of the Palestinian territories, they were taking a risk in signing the resignation letter. But they insisted that they had had enough and were determined to leave.

Hatem Abdel Qader, Fatah's Jerusalem leader, said: "I am against their resignation, but I agree with their demands. Fatah needs to be reformed on all levels - its organisational structure, its administration, its finances. We cannot continue our march with all these problems."

In a series of recent articles in the international Arab press, Imad Shaqour, one of Mr Arafat's advisers, called on the leadership to assert its authority and renew the peace process with Israel. He urged Mr Arafat to hold elections within six months, to outlaw all unofficial military groups and to invite all factions to transform themselves into political parties.

"We have to take a strategic decision," Mr Shaqour wrote. "When the world does not cry for our victims and is not saddened by the uprooting of Palestinian olive trees, it does not mean the world is bad. It means our policy is wrong."

The lack of central control was underlined last Thursday when five agents of the Preventive Security Service assaulted General Ghazi Jabali, the Palestinian police chief, in his Gaza headquarters and wounded 10 of his men.

Palestinian journalists in Gaza and the West Bank have also come under attack by armed men - some associated with Fatah's military wing - who did not like what they wrote or broadcast.

Naher Abu Itaimeh, the programme director of the Al Quds educational television station, said two masked men with AK-47 assault rifles stormed their Ramallah headquarters at 4am last Monday. "They rampaged through the office destroying monitors, mixers, computers and videos." The loss is estimated at ,000 (£11,000). On the same day, armed men destroyed furniture and equipment at the Gaza offices of Al Daar, an independent Palestinian weekly newspaper.

Despite widespread disenchantment, one Palestinian initiative - the campaign against Israel's West Bank security fence - appears to be bearing fruit. Two weeks before the issue is to come before the International Court in The Hague, Israeli officials indicated yesterday that the barrier would be moved closer to the pre-1967 Green Line border.

The revisions, designed to reduce the disruption to Palestinian civilians, are expected to be presented to three envoys from the American National Security Council and the US State Department this week. But the Israeli Prime Minister's office would not confirm a report in the Ha'aretz newspaper that the new route would cut 100km from the planned 700km. It is still far from clear where the barrier will run - or whether the concession will satisfy the Palestinians or sympathisers.

• Israeli troops shot dead a fugitive from the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza yesterday. And helicopter gunships assassinated a senior Islamic Jihad gunman and killed two other militants and a 12-year-old bystander on Saturday.

Israel also said it had uncovered an Israeli Arab cell, alleged to have planned attacks in northern Israel. The cell, based in a village near Nazareth, was said to have received orders and funds from the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah.

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