Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Blood money, diplomacy and desperation are reuniting Palestine

By Nidal al-Mughrabi  /  Reuters, GAZA

A decade on, Rawda al-Zaanoun is at last willing to forgive the assailants who killed her son during the civil war that split Palestine.

It has been painful, but she said it is time.

“He was hit with a bullet in the back. He was a martyr,” the 54-year-old said at an event in Gaza City to mark the public reconciliation of families of people killed in the war. “The decision was not easy because the blood of our son is precious, but we have given amnesty.”

Her son, Ala, a married father of two and a Palestinian National Security Forces officer, was killed in June 2007 after he rushed out of his house in Gaza City, having heard that his uncle was injured in clashes between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Since that war a decade ago, Fatah, led by the secular heirs of former president of the Palestinian National Authority Yassir Arafat, has run the West Bank, headed the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority and been responsible for all negotiations with Israel.

Its rivals, the Muslim group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, drove Fatah out of Gaza City and has run the tiny coastal strip that is home to 2 million people, nearly half of the population of the Palestinian territories.

The schism is to end this week, when Hamas hands over control of Gaza City to a unity government.

Although it agreed to the arrangement three years ago, the decision to implement it now marks a striking reversal for Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the US and most of the most powerful Arab countries.

“Hamas has made big concessions, and every coming concession will be stunning and surprisingly bigger than the one that passed, so that we can conclude reconciliation and this division must end,” Hamas in Gaza City chief Yehya al-Sinwar said during a meeting last week with social media activists.

If Hamas has swallowed a bitter pill by ending the feud, perhaps bitterest of all is the role played by exiled former Gaza City security chief Mohammed Dahlan, once Hamas’ fiercest foe who is now a leading player in regional efforts to pull Gaza City back into the Palestinian mainstream.

Officials on both sides of the Palestinian divide and in other Arab countries say Dahlan, based since 2011 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is behind an influx of cash to prop up Gaza City and a detente between Hamas and Arab states, including Egypt.

Dahlan’s return to prominence could have consequences for Palestinian politics as profound as the reconciliation itself.

As hated as he once was in Gaza City for trying to uproot Hamas, he is perhaps even more reviled by the Fatah leadership in Ramallah for challenging the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ambitious and charismatic, he has long been suspected of harboring designs to succeed Abbas.

Among the initiatives Dahlan has promoted in Gaza City is the reconciliation program of families like the Zaanouns and 19 others, who each accepted a US$50,000 blood money payment from an Egyptian-Emirati charity fund in return for publicly renouncing the demand to avenge the deaths of their sons.

Old wounds will be hard to salve. Activists on both sides hold memories of their enemies shooting out kneecaps or torturing each other in partisan prisons.

Zaanoun said her family took the decision to reconcile, despite their intense grief over the loss of their son, “for the sake of preventing bloodshed, for the sake of blockaded Gaza and for the sake of Palestine.”

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