The Vichy Government of Palestine

The Vichy Government of Palestine

It is not the first time Palestinians have called for the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas. When Hamas swept to victory in the Palestinian Parliamentary Elections in January 2006, angry mobs from the defeated Fatah party staged rallies in the Gaza Strip, calling for his resignation. Many gathered outside the parliament in Gaza City, setting fire to government cars and firing shots into the air.

Today, the anger is subtler, but more poignant. Palestinians from all walks of life are stunned and disappointed by Abbas, who withdrew Palestinian support for a vote in the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva to have the Goldstone report sent to the U.N. General Assembly for possible action, the first of many steps towards possibly establishing war crimes tribunals to investigate Israel’s alleged war crimes in Gaza.

Just a few days before Abbas suspended action on the Goldstone report, a poll showed the Palestinian president with a 55 percent approval rating compared to the 32 percent for Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. A new poll has not been conducted yet, but one thing is certain: today, Abbas would be lucky to receive double digits. Across the board, Palestinians have been calling for his resignation.

“He is a traitor. He sold the land [to the Israelis] … now he sold our blood,” says Abed M. from Qalandia Refugee Camp just outside of Ramallah.

Abed’s sentiments are not unique. Posters which first appeared in Gaza showing Mahmoud Abbas with a black X across his face and the words, “To the trash heap of history, you traitor, Mahmoud Abbas,” have made their way to West Bank and even to East Jerusalem.

A few days ago, Gaza professors threw shoes at his defaced image and Hamas has called Abbas’ decision “a betrayal of the blood of the martyrs.”

Meanwhile, rumors have been spreading like wild fire in the West Bank and Gaza. A news segment aired on al-Aqsa TV, a Hamas-controlled satellite station broadcasting out of Gaza, featured a guest analyst who claimed that Israel threatened to release a video tape showing Palestinian leaders urging Israel to be tougher on Hamas during the Gaza offensive unless the PA backed down over the Goldstone report. Another story circulating on the Palestinian street is about Abbas’ children and their investments with Israeli partners. The Israeli government has reportedly threatened the PA that it would refuse to license a new Palestinian mobile phone company, partially owned by one of Abbas’ sons, if the PA pushed for the adoption of the Goldstone Report in Geneva.

On Wednesday one senior Palestinian Authority figure, Yasser Abed Rabbo conceded the move was a “mistake.”

“A mistake?” fired back former Knesset member Azmi Bishara on Al Jazeera TV, “a mistake is when I press the wrong floor on the elevator.”

Just an hour after the Goldstone debacle erupted, I called a colleague of mine (who shall remain anonymous) working in Ramallah as a stringer for a foreign news agency to ask him whether this issue will have a lasting damage on the Palestinian Authority. He quickly corrected me and said, “You mean the Vichy Government of Palestine.”