If there ever was a Palestinian Nation, it no longer exists. What has replaced it are warring tribes.
A little over a year ago, on a Saturday afternoon midway through the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a one-kilo mango deal went sour at a Gaza Strip fruit stand. Since that fateful day, when Shaker Abu Taha refused to give fruit seller Ashraf al-Masri the exact change, 14 Palestinians have been killed and dozens more wounded in running gun battles, drive by shootings, and gangland-style murders.And yet there is talk of reviving this or that peace plan or creating a new one. It can't possibly work for the same reason we are having trouble in Iraq. Without national unity, there is no nation.
The feud between the Masri and Abu Taha clans, who live side-by-side in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis, continues to burn 13 months later, exploding into a downtown shooting that a rights group said left five dead on November 4. In lawless Gaza, where police are powerless, Palestinians are increasingly resorting to tribal ties and a primitive, often brutal, form of street justice.
The deteriorating situation has been further enflamed by a Western aid freeze slapped on the Hamas-led government in March, which has sent Gaza’s already miserable economic fortunes spiraling and exacerbated unemployment. “It’s either the rule of law or the rule of the jungle, and right now it’s a jungle,” said Jaber Wishah, deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which keeps tabs on the tribal bloodshed in Gaza.
Often sparked by something as trivial as a misunderstanding, the feuds quickly snowball, as out-of-work youth, hopped up on the torrent of illegal guns pouring into the Gaza Strip, take the law into their own hands. “The youth have nothing to do so they start problems with each other,” said Ayub al-Kafarneh, a tribal elder in the north Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Until recently, his family was embroiled in a deadly war that began when a teenage relative crashed his car into another family’s donkey cart.
“The kids fight and it becomes a problem between families. “Because of the terrible conditions, because everyone has guns nowadays, and because of the absence of any law and order, a simple problem can get so much worse.”