THE SPINE FEBRUARY 15, 2009
My son-in-law had a pregnant insight about the Palestinian Authority and its capacity to restrain the emotions of the West Bank with regard to the Gaza bloodletting. He assumes, as I do, that there were many explosive emotions against Israel nesting inside the population. Where did these emotions go? A small demonstration here and there. Private resentment certainly. The stability in the territory was, in fact, quite remarkable.
Maybe the Israeli army beefed up their controls at the myriads of checkpoints. But mobility among cities and towns in the West Bank is not the relevant variable for civil discontent. So the question remains: why were Ramallah and Jenin, Nablus and even Hebron and the other population centers quiet? And my son-in-law has an answer. (He knows a great deal about the West Bank and made a documentary film about it a few years ago, and has followed it obsessively ever since.) The explanation is that the P.A., which is to say, Fatah, has become quite competent in repressing dissent, like Egypt is quite competent in repressing discontent.
There is, as a poll last week showed, a good deal of opposition to Hamas in the territories because of its exploitation of the civilians of Gaza and its general brutality against Fatah-minded Palestinians. So what's the difference between Fatah and Hamas? Fatah is basically less brutal in its maintenance of order, and its maintenance of order
is animated by its wish for calm. This is one of the few good signs there is in the land. And also that General Keith Dayton and his U.S. troops are training Fatah soldiers in the tactics and ethics keeping the peace. Call it "repressing discontent," if you will. In Palestine this is progressive.