Palestinian "Democracy of the Gun"

(UPI) Joshua Brilliant and Saud abu Ramadan - Arafat has no obvious heir; he nurtured none. Palestinian politicians "are smelling that Arafat may be going. There are rumors about his illness, so all are trying to improve their positions," said Israeli Col. (res.) Shalom Harari, a former Defense Ministry senior adviser on Palestinian affairs who is now a fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya. Arafat used to boast of what he called "democratiyat al-bandukiya," or democracy of the gun. "Now he has it," Harari said. The fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine all have guns. So does Fatah and its renegade groups. Palestinian analysts say they expect an internal conflict in Arafat's Fatah. After his departure, younger Fatah members, veterans, and the chiefs of the different security apparatuses - that were until now taking instructions from Arafat personally - will be fighting each other. Israeli experts point to the increased lawlessness in Palestinian society. "In every city, you find groups of masked men," Harari said. While education and health services are working and municipalities are functioning, there is no functioning legal system and no central government. "Each person must receive protection from his clan," Harari said. Merchants in the West Bank town of Nablus, for example, need a private militia or pay protection money. "The clan has become the center rather than a central government," Harari added. "There is no understanding of what is a state." He recalled an incident in which a district governor went to settle a dispute with another clan using his jeeps and guns. Several bystanders were shot. One of the most dramatic incidents occurred in front of international television cameras when Fatah men armed with kalashnikovs blocked then-prime minister Mahmoud Abbas's way to the PLC chamber in Ramallah. Abbas resigned.

2003-10-14 00:00:00

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