Search Of Justice In The Middle East
By Ali Abunimah
22 June, 2007
The US decision to back Palestinian
Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in the recent turmoil virtually guarantees
an escalation in violence. Abbas has installed an unelected "emergency"
government to replace the democratically elected Hamas-led national
Some have portrayed, Hamas' takeover of Palestinian Authority security
compounds in Gaza as a "coup." But many Palestinians do not
view it that way. In January 2006, Hamas decisively won legislative
elections, giving it the right to form an administration. The US, despite
its rhetorical support for democracy, decided to crush Hamas rule, imposing
sanctions that have harmed ordinary Palestinians in the hope that Hamas
would be forced out.
When it won the elections,
Hamas had already observed a one-year unilateral truce with Israel,
and had suspended the suicide bombings against Israeli civilians that
had made it notorious. It tried to enter mainstream politics through
the front door, to play by the rules of the game, but was undermined
at every step. The bitter conclusion for many Palestinians is that the
US is not interested in supporting real democracy, and will intervene
relentlessly to overthrow leaders it does not support, regardless of
the will of the Palestinian people.
The militias that Hamas took
on and defeated in recent weeks were particularly hated in Gaza because
they had abducted, tortured and killed many Hamas members and were widely
seen as thoroughly corrupt. It so happens that these militias received
arms and funding from the United States and had vowed to take on and
defeat Hamas in a violent showdown, overturning the result of the election.
We have seen this strategy
before. Does anyone remember the Nicaraguan Contras? Is it a coincidence
that one of Israel's most ardent supporters, US Deputy National Security
Advisor Elliott Abrams, who illegally channeled money to the Contras,
has been the architect of the US strategy to support anti-Hamas militias?
Despite the power-sharing
deal Fatah and Hamas signed in Mecca last February, key Fatah leaders
refused to place their militias under the control of an independent
interior minister. He resigned in frustration, and the US continued
to funnel in weapons.
Following its dramatic rout
of Fatah positions, Hamas leaders gave televised speeches emphasizing
that they were not at war with Fatah's rank and file (many of whom did
not even fight) and did not want to seize power or overthrow Mr. Abbas,
whose legitimacy they explicitly reaffirmed. Their problem, they said,
was only with the US-supported militia leaders, such as Muhammad Dahlan
and Rashid Abu Shbak who had made the job of the elected Hamas-led government
impossible. As a goodwill gesture, Hamas leaders issued a general amnesty
for all captured Fatah commanders and appealed for dialogue, reconciliation
and reconstructing a national unity government.
Abbas rejected these appeals
and has opted to form an unelected government and rule by decree even
though Palestinian law denies him that authority. This government will
have little real power and will be considered illegitimate by a significant
part of the Palestinian public.
After more than a year of
sanctions against the Palestinian people, Hamas is stronger and more
popular than ever. Throwing more US support behind Abbas and his unelected
cabinet will not reverse this trend.
There has been much talk
that the events in Gaza herald the birth of a "three-state solution"
-- Israel, plus a Hamas stronghold in Gaza and a Fatah-led West Bank.
In reality, the West Bank and Gaza had already long been isolated from
each other by Israeli policy. Ultimately, neither Hamas nor Fatah controls
the fate of Palestinians; they remain under crushing Israeli military
rule that is increasingly likened to apartheid.
And just like apartheid South
Africans, who cited "black on black" violence, some Israelis
assert that intra-Palestinian fighting proves that Palestinians are
incapable of democracy. They hope that all the heat will be off Israel
as it entrenches Bantustan-like separation and discrimination against
non-Jews under its rule.
The reality remains that
11 million souls -- half Palestinians and half Israelis -- inhabit a
small country. Closing off Gaza and allowing it to descend into further
misery, and propping up a Fatah-led Palestinian Authority that has lost
legitimacy, while Israel continues to build Jewish-only settlements
across the West Bank, is not the path to peace.
without outside interference, and South Africa or Northern Ireland-style
peace talks aimed at ending all forms of military occupation, inequality
and discrimination, with strong outside support, may yet save the situation.
But so far there are no signs that the Bush administration will heed
these obvious rudiments of peace.
a Palestinian-American and the author of "One Country: A Bold Proposal
to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."
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