24 July 2009 0 Comments

Omar Yussef for President of Palestine!

My latest post on the International Crime Authors Reality Check blog:

Unlike the Palestinians (who don’t have one), Palestinian politics is in a real state. A civil war that’s been bubbling and sometimes burning for two years plus. No government in Gaza because Hamas, which rules there, is isolated. Accusations by a top PLO official that current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had his predecessor Yasser Arafat poisoned.

But don’t worry, Palestine. I have the solution, insh’allah. I propose a plan to end the violence and bring Palestine out of its international isolation. I propose that my fictional Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef stand for election as president.

There are supposed to be elections next year. Abbas, whose term is already up, has refused to step down because he says the parliament approved an extra year due to the civil war emergency. Hamas responds that it controls the parliament, which hasn’t been able to sit because of the civil war.

The two sides, Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah, are due to meet this weekend in Cairo to discuss a truce. Don’t hold your breath. Fatah’s long-awaited Congress is set for early August in Bethlehem and no one will go out on a limb before that – young reformers want to get rid of Arafat’s corrupt old hacks, and no one wants to go into that vulnerable to criticism for being soft on Hamas.

So here’s my pitch for Omar Yussef.

Unlike Fatah, Omar is not associated with massive financial corruption. Neither is he, like Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, drawing close to Iran for financial backing, in the face of an international boycott. Omar is a decent, honorable Palestinian who stands against the corruption and violence that engulfs the Palestinians.

On book tours, people often ask me if Omar and his stance accord with the views of real Palestinians. I say, yes, that’s exactly what most Palestinians want. They don’t have a political alternative to Hamas and Fatah because both groups are armed and backed by big international donors – and prepared to squash any opponents.

But you can’t kill a fictional detective, which means Omar is able to stand up to the gunmen who bully other Palestinian politicians into silence.

It’s not certain that the elections will take place, unfortunately. Either Hamas will succeed in stopping them, or Abbas will realize that he’d lose to Haniya and cancel them at the last minute (Arafat called presidential elections more or less every time anyone annoyed him, but somehow he almost never got around to holding them.) Who better than a fictional character to run in an election that’ll never take place for the job of president of a country which doesn’t yet exist (and looks further away from statehood every day)?

If they step aside for Omar Yussef, Abbas and Haniya could get down to the real business they seem so keen to sidestep: an agenda for peace within the Palestinian factions and true negotiations with Israel for an end to the conflict.

Or is that just fiction, too?

Stay tuned for more on Omar’s candidacy.

Note for a future blog: try to find the office in Ramallah where Presidential candidacies can be registered.

Second note to self: Remember to place bets with anyone who’ll take the other side that such a place doesn’t exist or that it’d be closed when I visit.

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