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Failing leadership in the face of growing occupation

Falesteen, Ramallah, February 10

A significant event took place last week in Hebron, although very few people paid attention to it. The Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, decided to hand over a large piece of land, housing several of Muslim artifacts, to the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite only being 300 meters wide, this disputed land stands at the heart of Hebron. It was handed over to Russian authorities after the Russian Church made claims to have owned it during the Ottoman Era. Interestingly, no paperwork was found to support this claim. To make matters worse, a local Hebron resident by the name of Tamim Al-Deri claimed ownership of the land after presenting documents that prove his family had bought it. Mahmoud Abbas decided to ignore Al-Deri’s claim and discount the rule of law by proceeding with the handing over of the land to the Russians. Now, from a practical standpoint, the question must be asked: what is the difference between the actions of the Russians and those of the Israelis? The Israeli parliament recently passed a law that allows every Israeli settler to claim ownership of land on which he built a house, regardless of the existence of any documentation proving such a claim. The only thing that Israelis have to do in order to take over Palestinian lands is build a house and turn to the government with the demand to take over it. Sadly, in both the Russian and Israeli case, the reaction of the Palestinian Authority has been rather dismal. Instead of putting up a fight with the Russians, Mahmoud Abbas decided to appease his associates in Moscow by giving up pieces of Palestinian land. Similarly, he has failed to take any action against the passing of the despicable Israeli law, which puts an end to any claims of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank. In the absence of a true leadership that protects the Palestinian people against flagrant violations of their rights, the expansion of settlements and the theft of lands from their rightful owners are only expected to grow. – Lama Khatar