Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Palestinian tribalism: Fatah and Hamas
Hamas military takeover of Gaza strip,last month, and its defeat of Fatah-controlled security apparatus ushers the Palestinian politics into a new round of chaos and more crises that divert the attention from the real issues of Israeli occupation and peace negotiation into Fatah-Hamas war. It is a dangerous state of affairs that the Palestinian people as a whole have found themselves victims of power struggle between two groups over a feckless Palestinian Authority that has little or no control or power over its own supposed territories.
As the fighting erupted and Hamas militants routed their Fatah adversaries, Hamas gunmen behaved as if they were storming the Bastille or liberating Al-Aqsa mosque when TV footage showed them praying on the ground or burning government buildings, killing off their rivals by throwing them off tall buildings alive which was a thuggish display of power. Hamas called its victory of occupying government and public buildings a “second liberation”
Hamas “victory” in Gaza is however hallow and an ominous sign not just of Hamas but also for the entire Palestinian people who found themselves in a situation that might undermine the goal of establishing a Palestinian state and rid the Palestinians of the Israeli occupation.
Humanitarian crises might ensue if Gaza remained blockaded by Israel preventing food supplies and fuel and medicine from entering Gaza in enough quantities for the whole population. Gaza which is more like a big prison than a normal place to live is about 45 miles long and between 6-10 miles wide inhibited by almost 1.5 million Palestinians most of them are refugees who lost their homes and property when Israel was founded in 1948.
Hamas however is not the only one to be blamed here; Fatah Movement which is now largely a shadow of its former self, is led by Mahmoud Abbas, a weak and spineless leader and is ravaged by internal divisions and large scale corruption. Its incompetent leadership has not been able to deliver to the Palestinian people neither a state nor security from Israel ever since the Oslo accords in the early nineties. Mohammad Dahlan, one of Fatah most notorious and corrupt leaders was universally condemned by both Hamas and some Fatah leaders as the one responsible for escalating this recent conflict with Hamas through his own private armed militias.
Dahlan is a much-hated figure within the Palestinian body politics for his corruption and mafia style leadership. He nevertheless has the support of some members of the US administration and the Israeli government.
( Dahlan and Israeli PM Olmert)
Ever since it won the election a year ago, Hamas was unable to behave as government that should deliver to its consistency a state through negotiations or deliver to them the basic needs and security. This happened partly because Hamas government faced cruel and unjust sanctions against its government and also because it found itself in a schizophrenic situation. Hamas stood to decide between two difficult choices whether it should keep its armed resistance to Israeli occupation and thus remain a perpetual opposition group or enter peace negotiations with Israel under some kind of Palestinian national umbrella and behave like a political party despite constant Israeli aggressions.
Hamas chose neither.
Having reached this point of having Gaza under its control and if Hamas insist on having its way especially that its political leaders in Damascus cannot escape the shadow of Syrian dominance and interferences the Palestinians might find themselves in a precarious situation of having their long desired state restricted to Gaza only while the West Bank will remain fragmented territory in Israeli orbit.
Meanwhile Israel has successfully played off the Palestinians against each other by supporting elements of Fatah against Hamas which is an Israeli and tactic that has proven working so well since 1918 when then Zionist leaders supported some Palestinians group against others.
Almost a century later, the Palestinian leadership is still fragmented and unable to deliver a minimum victory for its people or alleviate their suffering either in Palestinian areas or elsewhere.
Israel is of course is directly responsible for making this situation as it is now when it refused to deal with the PA led by Hamas organization or dealing with Abbas and his PLO the parent organization of the Palestinian Authority that came about as a result of the Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel
While Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the PA stands helpless to face Hamas growing power and boldness, he himself is dependent on Israeli and the US support and generosity and has little to offer to the Palestinian people. Israeli policies have practically reduced Abbas into the status of a “ beggar” begging for negotiating with Israel to resume peace talks, or “ begging” for some prisoners release, or “ begging” for the release of Palestinian Tax money collected and held by Israel but only to receive either outright rebukes or lip service from Olmert and other Israeli politicians.
With the forming of a new Palestinian government by independents headed by Salam Fayyad, a respected finance minister, the United States and the European Union have lifted their sanctions and resume aid to the Palestinians. This aid however will not be reaching Gaza any time soon and will be used by Abbas new government to pressure Hamas into submission or starve Gaza. Both choices will be very difficult to achieve in light of unified and clean Palestinian leadership and in the absence of genuine Israeli desire for peace.