Danny Rubinstein of Ha'aretz wrote the best biography of Yasir Arafat and tends to see further than others when it comes to the Palestinians. His article today, "Deserting a sinking ship," is original and important.
Danny Rubinstein of Ha'aretz.
It would not be a great exaggeration to state that the Palestinian national movement has almost ceased to exist in recent years. … The institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which presumed to represent the entire Palestinian nation, have in recent years become obsolete and unimportant. … for quite some time now, the PLO has ceased to be a relevant body in Palestinian politics.
Strong stuff. Rubinstein documents this claim in an interesting manner:
One of the most obvious signs that the ship of the Palestinian national project is sinking is the fact that many of its members are deserting. Nabil Sha'ath, a veteran PLO leader, who served as a minister in the Palestinian government after returning to the homeland with Arafat and settling in Gaza, has returned to his Cairo home and is spending his time running his successful businesses. Mohammed Dahlan and Hassan Asfour, who until recently served as powerful ministers and advisers in Gaza, now spend most of their time in Cairo, together with their families.
Officials in Ramallah estimate that about 50,000 West Bank residents have left in recent years. The vast majority of those leaving own houses and assets in Amman. These are senior and junior officers and officials who came to Ramallah and Nablus in order to work in the PA's institutions. Now, when the PA is barely surviving, they are leaving. There is no money, wages are delayed, the offices are paralyzed. Every day there are shooting incidents and Israel Defense Forces raids. The economy has collapsed and their family members are frequently delayed at the checkpoints. Recent visits to the homes of several ministers and senior officials living in Ramallah have shown that they live here only part of the time, alone. Their Ramallah apartment has gradually emptied out and their wives and children have taken most of their personal belongings with them as they left the West Bank and moved, or returned, east of the Jordan River.
Comment: Of course, Palestinianism is hardly the only ideology available – Pan-Syrianism and Pan-Arabism were once powerful lures and today the main alternative is Islamism. Still, the near-passing of Palestinian nationalism is a momentous event. (November 15, 2007)