The rule of what?

I had an interesting morning. First, it being a normal workday here in Ramallah, I went to conduct a 90-minute interview with two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council which was, you will recall, elected in a free and fair election here in January 2006.
One of these men had recently been released from an Israeli prison where he’s spent nearly the whole of the last 32 months. The only accusation against him was that he’s a member of a parliamentary bloc, ‘Change and Reform’, that, though it ran in the election quite legitimately– and indeed, with the express authorization of both Israel and the US– was suddenly deemed by Israel, five months later, to have an affiliation with “terrorists.”
Back in June-July 2006 a large number of PLC members were rounded up by the Israeli occupation forces. That was shortly after militants in Gaza captured the young, on-active-duty Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit as a POW; and just about everyone said at the time that the PLC members had been captured as additional “bargaining chips” against Shalit’s release. (That, though the taking of hostages for the any purpose, including that of using them as bargaining chips, is quite prohibited by international law.)
41 of those PLC hostages still remain in prison, including PLC speaker Aziz al-Dweik. The PLC, which has 132 members, has been unable to muster a quorum since June 2006 and thus has done no business for this entire time. (George Bush, quite shamefully, uttered not a word of protest against Israel’s cruel and expressly anti-democratic move. Will President Obama change that position? I hope so.)
Both PA president Mahmoud Abbas, whose own elected term ran out on January 9, and the man elected by parliament to be PM back in March 2006, Ismail Haniyeh, took upon themselves the right to name an “emergency government.” The Abbas-designated government, which is based here in Ramallah, has been given very generous financial support (and weapons and many forms of training) by the US-led west, which has meantime worked consistently– ever since January 2006– to support Israel’s extremely harsh, and in many cases actually lethal, siege of Gaza.
Those policies were just two prongs of a wide US-Israeli campaign to oust the duly elected Haniyeh government completely.
So in my meeting with the two parliamentarians here this morning, Mahmoud Musleh, MP, who was the one recently released from jail told me about some of the forms of mistreatment and humiliation to which he and his fellow parliamentarians were subjected while there. He, like several of the others, is a man in his late sixties. On thing he noted was that each time any of the detainees is taken to an Israeli court for a hearing, they are subjected to two days of demeaning and sometimes painful treatment on their way there and back.
More from that interview, later.
… A couple of hours later I had a chance meeting with an American woman who’s here on a two-year contract with USAID to work on “rule of law” issues with the Abbas/Fayyad government’s “Ministry of Justice.”
I was interested to find out what it is, exactly, that she does. The old rubric “capacity building” doesn’t tell you very much, does it? She talked a bit about what she had done on previous contracts, in Bosnia and Afghanistan. One of the things she mentioned specifically was the establishment of regulations for judgment enforcement. This is especially important, she explained, for foreign investors– otherwise, what are their contracts worth, at all?
She said she doesn’t really “do” human rights. But even in what she does do, she said she had run into considerable problems, because any governmental regulations that are drafted in a “rule of aw” situation need to be drafted in line with the enabling legislation— and the legislature hasn’t been able to conduct any business since June 2006…
This professional dilemma of hers is a great illustration of the “cart before the horse” or “Alice Through the Looking Glass” nature of many of the “aid” interventions that western governments have been running in occupied Palestine ever since Oslo. (And that is 16 years now… )
The basic issues of jurisdiction and sovereignty have not even come close to being resolved here yet! Israel’s occupation forces surround this city–and they send snatch-squads in to capture or sometimes kill suspects here with impunity, several times a month. Meantime, all around the extensive fence-and-wall system that surrounds Ramallah, the Israeli settlements expand, expand, expand, gobbling up yet more Palestinian land.
And yet, though the occupation continues– here, as in Gaza– western governments are building “Palestinian” court-houses and prisons and giving numerous “trainings” and other interventions to “teach” these obviously somewhat backward Palestinians (irony alert) all about the “rule of law.”
As if the Palestinians didn’t actually in an earlier era establish nearly all the state administrations for all the little emirates/statelets/former “Trucial states” down in the Gulf– including their judicial systems, penal systems, etc.
And these presumably comfortably compensated US contract workers continue to do this, while day-in-day-out strong US ally Israel gives the Palestinians the exactly opposite lesson about the ascendancy of raw might over any concept of domestic or international law.
Talk about Looking Glass Land.
The rule of law, here in the West Bank and Gaza. Now wouldn’t that be a fine thing?