The writing is on the wall

Finally I have discovered the best title to give to the Israelis. Robin Hood. They are the thieves who steal from the rich and give to the poor? Take what happened in Ramallah on Wednesday.

Israeli troops invaded the city with enough troops to place a siege on the centre of the city. They had arrested the night before computer experts from two leading banks. With these experts under their guns, the soldiers entered two branches of the Arab Bank and a branch of the Cairo Amman Bank and emptied their vaults. Just like real thieves, the Israelis were professional. The first thing they did was to cover the security cameras hoisted in the banks. They corralled the staff into tiny rooms and began the process of unloading the cash from the vaults. They also entered the computers and downloaded data.

I decided to sarcastically call the Israelis Robin Hood because of the statement they made following this broad daylight robbery. The top soldier of the state of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, explained to The New York Times what Israel plans to do with the nearly $9 million that was stolen. “The Israeli defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, released a statement late Wednesday saying the seized money would be spent on `humanitarian goals in Palestinian society’, like health services, food and improving the infrastructure at crossing points and checkpoints.”

So there you have it. The Israeli army is stealing from two well respected Jordanian banks in order to improve the conditions at the checkpoints. How much more benevolent can the Israeli occupation be?

One Palestinian businessman commented that the banks should at least put up signs near the new, improved checkpoints saying: “Sponsored by the Arab Bank, or sponsored by the Cairo Amman Bank.”

Seriously, for a minute, this Israeli act is not a simple question of the Israelis trying to update their list of so-called terrorists nor should it be seen as part of what they call the war on terror. While the US and other allies of Israel might see this as the failure of confidence and communications between the Palestinians and Israel, many Palestinians see this as yet another clear sign of the absence of a rationale for the continuation of the Palestinian National Authority.

Ever since the Israeli army decided to cancel all its understandings with the Palestinians regarding the security areas A, B, and C, a security vacuum had existed. Israeli soldiers and security forces go in when they want. The problem is that the Israelis don’t stay and don’t turn over the security powers to the Palestinians when they leave. This security vacuum is strengthened by the ad hoc decisions of the Israelis to shoot any armed Palestinian policeman. Last week, the Israelis ordered the police inside Bethlehem (who they had publicly turned over the security powers to) to give up their arms. A statement by the Israeli army said that they would shoot at any armed Palestinian policeman.

Over the past few weeks, numerous cases of lawlessness swept Ramallah and Gaza. Journalists and media organisations were attacked by unknown assailants. The unarmed Palestinian police were unable to do anything to stop these acts of violence. When the television station where I work was attacked a few weeks ago, we asked the Palestinian police to take fingerprints. They laughed and said that their laboratory was destroyed by the Israelis.

The Israelis seem to have the best of both worlds. They can come in to arrest, demolish and steal whenever they want, without having any of the responsibilities towards the occupied people. The Palestinian Authority is left to pay the salaries of government employees and receive the anger and wrath of their own public, without having any powers.

There is no doubt that such a situation can’t continue forever. There is no sense in all of us waiting for Israel to decide whether it wants to stay in the Palestinian cities and take over the responsibilities of occupation or leave them without ever returning. What is needed is simple. The PNA must have the courage to throw in the towel and remove the pretence that it has any role in the lives of Palestinians. Let Israel decide whether it wants to continue occupying the Palestinian people and their land or whether it is willing to make the logical decision of leaving the Palestinian people to live in freedom and independence on their own land.