Thursday 15 May 2003

This conflict will be solved by liberation

Tension between Abu Mazen and Arafat reflects a national dilemma

by Uri Avnery

The clash between Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen is not a personal matter, as it is presented by journalists. Of course, egos do play a role, as in all political fights. But the controversy goes deeper. It reflects the unique situation of the Palestinian people.

An upper-class Palestinian defined it on Israeli television as "the move from the culture of revolution to the culture of a state". Meaning: the Palestinian war of liberation has ended, and the time has come to put the affairs of state in order. Therefore Arafat, who represents the first, must go and Abu Mazen, who represents the second, must take over.

No description could be further from reality. The Palestinian war of liberation is now at its height. The Palestinians are faced with existential threats: ethnic cleansing (so-called "transfer") or imprisonment in Bantustan-style enclaves. How has this illusion - that the national struggle is over and it is time to turn to administrative matters - arisen?

The situation of the Palestinian people is unique. Following the Oslo agreements, a Palestinian mini-state came into being, consisting of several small enclaves on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These enclaves have to be administered. But the national Palestinian aim - a viable, independent state - is far from being attained. In order to achieve it, an arduous struggle lies ahead.

Thus, two different, and contradictory, structures exist side by side: a national liberation movement requiring strong and authoritative leadership, and a mini-state that needs a democratic and transparent administration.

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