Amira Hass double feature in Monde Diplo

The great Israeli chronicler of the occupation of Palestine has this depressing reports on how the two Palestinian governments are undermining Palestinian unity:


The intimidation and repression of Hamas in the West Bank is mirrored in Gaza, where Hamas persecutes Fatah members and their families: institutions are closed down; there are illegal arrests, torture in detention and press restrictions; the PA’s television station has been closed down; demonstrations are repressed by force.Chatting on the phone to an old friend in Gaza, a devout Muslim, I mentioned a discussion we had had about suicide bombers some years back, when I’d been staying with him in a refugee camp.


“Don’t say ‘when I stayed with you’,” he said. “Say ‘when I stayed with you and your family’. Otherwise”, he added with a laugh, “anyone listening in might think we were alone!” The security services of the “respectable” PA were kitted out from the start with sophisticated surveillance equipment (it’s not for nothing that they get their training in the United Kingdom and United States). And now Hamas is following suit.


[From Palestinians: divided we fall, by Amira Hass]


And also here a specific example looking at how parliaments (doesn't) work:

Neither of the two governments is constitutionally legal: one has been dissolved, but continues to govern; the other is provisional, and should have organised elections a long time ago. But parliament is not completely paralysed: its Gaza half, made up mainly of Hamas members, regularly meets and drafts bills.


In theory the Legislative Council – which has 132 MPs, of whom 74 are from Hamas – has authority over both Gaza and the West Bank. In order to fulfil quorum requirements, it uses its power of attorney over the votes of the 40 or so Hamas MPs resident in the West Bank who were arrested by Israel over the past two years.


In Ramallah, parliament does not meet. The government of Salam Fayyad set up its own special department for legislating, and President Mahmoud Abbas issues presidential decrees, which serve as laws. According to Reuters, 406 laws and presidential decrees have been produced in this way since June 2007 (1). Palestinian legal experts and members of the Legislative Council warn of the risk of a dictatorial regime as a result of the non-separation between legislative and executive powers. Officials respond that it is not possible to govern without legislating, and say the laws can be annulled when the crisis is over.


[From A tale of two parliaments, by Amira Hass]

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.