Unseen Consequences: The Governmental Response to Hebron’s Crisis from Another Perspective

There is frequent news about the challenges that the competent healthcare system and Palestinian government are encountering in dealing with the spread of COVID-19 in all marginalized areas and refugee camps, especially in the Hebron Governorate. 

Written by: Eng. Yousef Sweiti

There is frequent news about the challenges that the competent healthcare system and Palestinian government are encountering in dealing with the spread of COVID-19 in all marginalized areas and refugee camps, especially in the Hebron Governorate.  Recently, Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, appealed the necessity of the cooperation and intervention of tribal committees in order to reduce gatherings and assemblies, which could cause further infections, thus increasing the difficulty of following the epidemiological map of the spread of the virus. It is clearly shown that the government cannot manage the general situation in Hebron; rather it requires the intervention of other traditional components which are more powerful and influential in the implementation of official instructions.

As COVID-19 spread, the numbers of infected people multiplied as it hit areas struck with chronic poverty, including poor quality of healthcare services, or lack thereof. Despite the large population of the Governorate, it suffers from a shortage of available hospitals, clinics, necessary medical supplies and medical staff, which made the preparation of combating such a scenario very difficult. In turn, this created a state of confusion in dealing with the crisis, as anxiety and general concern spread amongst the residents of the Governorate. This surfaced many divisions that already existed between the government and other forces/leaders in Hebron, whether they are custom-based traditional types, such as families, or conservative religious groups.

There are mutual accusations regarding the spread of COVID-19, such as the government’s weak interference and its failure to manage the COVID-19 crisis as well as the blaming of social customs of the Governorate’s residents who continue to hold gatherings and assemblies and their failure to adhere to the imposed preventive measures, such as maintaining social distance. This may indicate our failure, primarily, in creating harmony that can manage the COVID-19 outbreak in the Governorate, as a result of years of marginalisation, the recession in the Palestinian parties’ interaction, the emergence of forces that stand against the Palestinian Authority and the decline of the people’s confidence in the political system. All the beforementioned and other factors made the relationship between the Palestinian government and the governorate forces transform into one that is edgy and sensitive.

From a sociological perspective, Arab societies generally, have the tendency of tolerating high power distance, which leads to a deep belief that the public service bodies are only a power accelerator for specific power holders. This assumption decreases the level of legitimacy and trust in these public service institutions and characterizes the relation between people and power holders as an edgy relationship. This status has been motivated and fueled by the current polarised relationship between different social and political groups, imbalanced developmental interventions, based on the polarisation map and the current sickness in the democratic processes, as well as the level of access to participate.

The call of the Palestinian government in its latest appeals to the tribal committees to intervene will have a post-pandemic impact, as it expresses a real crisis in the identity of the Palestinian regime. Traditional components and memberships to smaller identity groups are often strong, powerful, and authoritarian in situations of totalitarian and dictatorial rule.

If this situation continues for another period to come, we will lose the ability to achieve any harmony among the components of the Palestinian people, as divisions of all kinds will prevail to form a model of power relations that we have not yet experienced. The continuation of the current rhythm will deepen foundations of the totalitarian aspect of the regime whose members generate a tendency that they are superfluous and unimportant, thus creating a state of nihilism and worthlessness for individuals who live in it. Accordingly, civil values, individual freedoms and differences disappear, and competition and social status will depend on how close you are to the prevailing power holders.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.

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