A Conspiracy of Guns? Report 2, June 2005.
On Sunday night, my friends and I decided to walk home from the Ramallah Club, an outdoor café where families let their children roa around freely. It was to be a rather long walk home, with a few steep climbs to negotiate. In the mood for a breezy evening stroll, we figured a nice quiet walk home would do us some good. Towards the end of our walk, at the end of the longest uphill, as we neared the circle where we would each part our separate ways, we heard some shooting. One friend claimed it was coming from the left, another from the right; perhaps it was the echo that we were hearing since we were in a valley of sorts. Making nothing of it, we continued uphill, when we were astounded by a couple of young men running down the hill screaming, followed by more intense and louder gun shots. We stopped in our tracks. The two young men turned to us as they continued running and shouted for us not to continue to the intersection. A whizz of cars suddenly came by, and I managed to wave down a taxi among them. We asked him if he'd take two of us to the hotel, and the other two of us would walk the long way home, avoiding the circle. He refused, claiming that the shooting was taking place right in front of the hotel. He had his walkie talkie on and we could hear much louder gun shots from the other end, muffled by demands of "don't come, don't come." We told our out of town friends to come home with us, they could either spend the night or wait until things calmed down.
We had to backtrack a little bit and maneouver through a few detours, until reaching the Prime Minister's building, nearby our house. The office is always guarded, flanked on all sides by men in uniform and machine guns. We weren't sure if we could pass through since there's a security gate that blocks the road. But as pedestrians we figured they would let us through. It wasn't until we were exiting the compound that any security guards even noticed us. We could have easily entered the building. They were all standing on the Eastern side, looking over the hill, their walkie talkies in hand, listenind to the shooting and vague reports over the airwaves.
We walked down to the circle where our home is. Cars were racing by again, one with a white "TV" sign taped on its windows. We waved them down to find out what is going on: There's a gun fight by the Grand Park Hotel between two security forces, the special investigative force and the national security force. I didn't think I heard correctly at first. Two Palestinian security forces were shooting at each other? Indeed. As we stood there by the circle trying to get reports from various passers-by, the Grand Park Hotel Shuttle Bus came by, not able to make its way to the hotel. We waved him down as well, to see if he had more detailed news. No news except that the shooting was targeted at the hotel itself, meaning our friends weren't going to be able to make it. They phoned their colleague, also staying at the hotel. He whispered over the phone that they were hiding in the stairwell, afraid to be in their rooms in the midst of gun fire. It was not safe not return.
As we were standing by the circle, a few gun shots fired our way, one of my friends convinced that a couple of bullets razed her head. Time to go home we decided. We invited everyone along for some shelter. The dicsussion of why and how come two security forces were shooting at each other reached a double conclusion. The first explanation was that a fight between two individuals blew out of proportion, with each man rallying up his friends. A simple enough conclusion that is common the world over where chaos and guns are present and the rule of law is still weak. The second conclusion was a bit more interesting: that it is the work of the corrupt old guard who does not want to relinquish power, who plant the seeds of distrust between security groups in order to undermine the new Palestinian Authority (PA) and the state as a whole. So long as individuals are riled up to shoot at each other, then Palestinians can continue to be labeled as not only terrorists, but as backward savages, uncivilized Muslims, unruly Arabs. So long as Palestinians show themselves to be ineffective civil servants, governors, rulers it will be difficult for the international community, and Israel of course, to respect and trust the new PA. Only with continued chaos can the old guard maintain its power over the Territories, continue to pocket the economic aid, and speak on the behalf of citizens who have seen no rights established since the PA first took power over ten years ago. The corruption is deep seated, and a whole nation's instability is justified for one's profit. It matters not that a new government has been elected, many of the old guard remains. Perhaps with vague titles and unofficial posts, but many believe that they are still the ones pulling the strings here. They are the ones who have re-established the various security forces, channeled the foreign economic aid into re-institutionalizing the police forces, into purchasing new weapons, and letting young men express their frustrations through guns, rather than other means. Until the old guard dies, until the machoism of young men subsides, my friends agree, Palestinians will continue under the conspiracy of guns.
Buildings are responding to what's going on on the streets.
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