The Jordan Times (Editorial)
October 26, 2007 - 5:59pm

A new Amnesty International report has condemned both Fateh and Hamas for human rights abuses during their infighting this year, which peaked when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June.

Both sides were guilty of harming civilians and of extrajudicial executions and physical torture, the report found, and its authors urged both sides to act to prevent any repetition and punish abusers.

The report is, contrary to the statement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office, very welcome. Elements in both factions have long held themselves above the law and no one should escape censure for such arrogance.

Indeed, the rampant abuse of power is one of the prominent reasons why the events of June took place in the first place.

No one is likely to face justice, however, for as long as the two areas of the occupied Palestinian land remain politically divided. In order to reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, moreover, political compromises are needed on both sides. Hamas has already indicated that it is willing, under certain circumstances, to relinquish control of Gaza and has repeatedly said it is willing to hold talks with Fateh.

For as long as the Annapolis meeting is looming and the world community, especially Washington, continues to hold an unrealistic stand towards Hamas, however, Abbas cannot be expected to make any similar statements.

While hopes for Annapolis are not high, Abbas has to maximise his position before the meeting in order to see how serious the US really is about peacemaking.

At some point, however, Fateh-Hamas talks are inevitable, and when they come around, it will behove both factions to act responsibly vis-à-vis elements in their own factions that have been found guilty of human rights abuses. This can mean one or a mixture of possibilities, including the establishment of a kind of truth and reconciliation committee à la South Africa, or the high profile banishment of a number of top leaders.

It is unrealistic to expect a wholesale reckoning, but it is vital that reconciliation be sought and achieved as soon as possible.

For one thing, it will allow Palestinians to again speak in one voice, rather than sit aside, as is presently the case, while human rights abuses on an enormous scale are committed against Palestinians by Israel with nary a word of protest from the international community.

If Palestinians themselves don’t stand up for each other, why should anyone else?


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