Ali Ibrahim
Asharq Alawsat (Opinion)
February 17, 2010 - 1:00am

The decision taken by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend his chief of staff as a result of the case created by the dissident Palestinian intelligence officer who revealed violations and corruption committed by officials in the Palestinian Authority on Israeli television was most certainly the right decision. However we must take into account that a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty and it is the task of the commission of inquiry to investigate this and this commission is scheduled to submit its report within three weeks.

In reality it will be impossible for the Palestinian Authority to avoid sustaining political damage as a result of this case that was exposed on Israeli Channel 10, regardless of the findings of the commission of inquiry. However the extent of this damage could be reduced to a minimum if a transparent investigation is conducted that will convince the Palestinian public that there will be accountability, whether this is to the official whose name was mentioned in this case, or any other officials who are proved to be involved in illegal cases of abuse of power or any other offenses.

Corruption or abuse of power is a part of the human phenomenon that accompanies power or authority, and this is something that is present in nearly all societies, and this is the reason why systems of accountability were established in order to curtail this phenomenon and punish those involved with this. These systems were originally devised to protect the social contract and regulate the ruling regimes because the greatest danger of eliminating this would be the loss of public confidence. This is especially relevant in the Palestinian case as the Palestinian Authority is a very young institution, and is still trying to establish a Palestinian State while at the same time facing challenges from a rival authority that has forcibly seized power in the Gaza Strip, and is presenting itself as an alternative.

Of course, this [corruption] case will not help the Palestinian Authority which has legitimacy in Ramallah in its media war to win over the Palestinian public against the Hamas government in Gaza. It is normal for elements of Hamas to exploit this scandal in order to demonstrate that their opponents are corrupt, which is just one of the accusations leveled at the Palestinian Authority by Hamas prior to their Gaza coup.

On the other hand, the difference between Gaza and Ramallah is that the latter enjoys a greater margin of freedom which allows them to explore such issues and in public, while rule in Gaza is reminiscent of the Communist regimes during the Cold War era, where any criticism was prohibited and problems and corruption were swept under the carpet.

It is no secret that Gaza has begun to experience tight restrictions in the field of public liberty and media freedom, as well as the media coverage of current events,. Gaza has become almost a closed zone to foreign journalists, and the arrest of a British journalist yesterday who was filming a documentary is evidence of this. Many stories have been leaked about [Hamas] opponents or critics being subject to harassment [in the Gaza Strip]. This resulted in a decline in Hamas's popularity in Gaza, which was shown in the recent international survey carried out by the Pew Research Center. Hamas is far less popular in the Gaza Strip than it is in the West Bank. In other words, those who have experienced Hamas's rule are unenthusiastic about the movement, while those who have yet to experience this have a more optimistic view of Hamas because they have not experienced their rule.

To return to the original issue which was concerned with corruption, regardless of the damage that this case has caused to the Palestinian Authority, handling it with honesty and transparency is the best way to restore the confidence of the people and win over public opinion.


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