At A Cross-Road
By Dr. Elias Akleh
22 June, 2007
Wednesday 13th of June 2007 marks
a huge division among Palestinians. On that day open armed confrontation
took place between Qassam Brigade, the military arm of Hamas, and what
is locally known as the death squad mutineers, an American/Israeli backed
militia within Fatah Presidential Security Guards under the leadership
of national security chief Mohammad Dahlan.
Many believe that what happened
in Gaza Strip was the result of a failure in the American/Israeli policy
of supporting Fatah mutineers (Dahlan’ death squads) to oppose
and to topple Hamas government. Contrary to this belief, what happened
in Gaza was exactly what Bush’s administration and Israeli government
planned for. They set an inescapable trap for Hamas, who was left without
any other alternatives but to act in order to put an end to Dahlan’s
death squads and to enforce security to protect Palestinian citizens.
US, Israel, and some Arab leaders are distorting Hamas legitimate action
in order to destroy the Hamas resistance phenomenon and to prevent it
from spreading to the neighboring Arab countries.
To understand the dynamics
of Fatah/Hamas conflict we need to go back in history to the first Gulf
War when Iraqi Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Arafat, then, made the
fatal mistake of openly supporting Saddam’s invasion. He was hoping
for more financial support from Saddam that he, then, gained control
over the largest oil resources in the region. Unfortunately for Arafat
the Iraqis were ousted from Kuwait, and the Gulf States, who used to
finance Arafat, had boycotted him for his support to Saddam. This boycott
dried up Arafat’s financial resources, that led some of his officials
gathering whatever money is left, closing PLO offices in some countries
and abandoning the movement.
During the 1993 Oslo negotiations
between the Arabs and Israelis Arafat broke away from the Arab negotiating
team, went behind his own Palestinian negotiating team, and signed the
Oslo Accord with shady conditions in order to hasten the receipt of
badly needed money from Western donor countries. To assure the flow
of such money Arafat and his Fatah officials had to follow the dictate
of these donor countries and to give Israel free political concessions
one after the other.
On their entrance (return)
to Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip Fatah officials hastened to
strengthen their positions through gaining monopolies over Palestinian
economical resources, and through business partnerships with Israel
as per donor countries’ conditions. Those “returnees”
started accumulating money, living in luxurious homes, buying people’s
loyalties, and abusing their political positions. The local Palestinian
leaderships were left with very few positions, and many of those who
acquired any position had to sell their loyalty to Fatah. The Palestinian
Authority (PA) had become a mediatory Israeli tool to execute Israeli
policies through seemingly Palestinian apparatus. Corruption prevailed
within Fatah PA.
Although Arafat gave Israel
political concessions there were certain matters (status of Jerusalem
and refugees right of return) that he could not compromise for fear
of losing his status and branded as a traitor. In the 2000 Camp David
Summit with American President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Barak,
Arafat refused to compromise on these matters (so called Israel’s
generous offer). A more lenient collaborative replacement was sought
for, and Mahmoud Abbas was appointed as Palestinian Prime Minister under
the pressure of the donor countries. On June 4th 2003 while meeting
with President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon in Aqaba,
Jordan, Abbas showed in his speech the sought-for “understanding”
of the Israeli position. Yet Arafat did not grant Abbas any political
power, so he resigned his position.
More drastic measures were
taken by Israel to discredit and to pressure Arafat. Israeli intelligence
supported the then weak Hamas faction in Gaza in order to oppose Arafat’s
Fatah. Unfortunately for Israel Hamas was joined and led by many Palestinian
patriots, who were committed to resisting Israeli occupation until independence
for all Palestine is achieved. Hamas focused its resistance against
Israel, and lately became so powerful enough to control Palestinian
Parliament and Prime Ministry.
Israel had also supported
Muhammad Dahlan, a collaborator who was enlisted while in Israeli jails,
evicted from the Occupied Territories to join Fatah, and to become the
Chief of Security Guards. Dahlan tried to discredit Arafat (the old
man as he used to call him), but his Coup failed even before the start
due to Arafat’s tight grip on all divisions of Security Guards.
So Israel sent its tanks to destroy most of Arafat’s Ramallah
headquarters and to imprison him in his office. Yet Arafat did not give
in, his popularity was strengthened, and he was visited by many European
political figures and even by Israeli sympathizers. Arafat then was
To guarantee the success
of “moderate” Abbas in 2005 Palestinian Presidential election
to replace Arafat the Bush administration financed Abbas, the Israeli
government arrested his strongest local Palestinian competitor Marwan
Barghouthi, and restricted the movement of the other candidates. With
Hamas’ boycott of election and with Fatah controlled Palestinian
TV giving Abbas 94% of electoral campaign time, Abbas was elected president.
During the next year corruption
of Fatah officials became rampant. Money from the Palestinian Economic
Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) funds had disappeared
and not accounted for, tax revenues of the border crossings were siphoned
into Dahlan’s private Israeli bank accounts, the then Prime Minister
Ahmad Qurie’s cement sale to Israeli contractors to build the
imprisoning apartheid wall, and the smuggling of millions of cash money
of Fatah’s officials outside the country had led the people to
lose trust in the PA and to demand reform. The donor countries decided
to freeze their donations until more accountable process is established.
The Palestinians expressed
their dissatisfaction with Fatah in the Parliamentary election in January
2006, when they elected Hamas leaderships (by 42%) to form the government.
With all the American/Israeli support Fatah leaderships lost election
due to their corruption and collaboration with Israel, while Hamas won
due to their resistance to occupation, their social services, and their
charity they provided to the people. The election process was strictly
scrutinized by international observers (including ex-President Jimmy
Carter), who testified that it was democratic, free and honest election.
The result of the election
caught everybody by surprise including Hamas themselves, who expected
to win few seats in the Parliament and not the majority. Immediately
Hamas invited all the Palestinian factions to form a unity government,
but Fatah and the rest of the factions turned their backs on this offer
for fear that Hamas would eventually fail due to American rejection.
The Bush administration,
the self-proclaimed defender and spreader of democracy in the New Middle
Eastern region, did not like Palestinian democracy. So it backed the
Israeli government and Fatah’s rejectionists to apply pressure
on the new Hamas government to renounce resistance “violence”,
recognize Israel’s right to exist “on usurped Palestinian
land”, and to accept previous “unreasonable and unjust”
agreements with Israel. Hamas rejected these demands.
The decision came to starve
Palestinians in order to cripple, discredit and to topple Hamas government.
Before the establishment of the new government the old Fatah Parliament
gave President Abbas more constitutional power. Abbas also hastened
to double the number of his Presidential Security Forces. The Bush administration
struck financial, economical, and political sanctions against Hamas
government, and forced EU, the Quartet, and Arab countries to join in
otherwise face financial isolation. The administration, under the supervision
of General Keith Dayton, formulated a plan to finance Abbas, train his
Security forces in Jericho, in Jordan, and in Egypt, and send in death
squads, under the leadership of Security Chief Muhammad Dahlan, to spread
terror, assassinations, and “creative chaos” to force Hamas
to react. This reaction is expected to incite civil war as Dayton has
opined in his Congress session late last May. This plan was revealed
by Public Affairs and Department Spokesman Sean McCormack on 22nd of
last December when he declared Washington’s readiness to provide
PA with large shipment of weapons to topple Hamas government. The author
of the plan was Bush’s Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot
Abrams, who on 7th of last January called for a “hard coup”
to overthrow Hamas.
Dahlan’s death squads
started terrorizing people in Gaza. They attacked Hamas government buildings,
torched Hamas charitable institutions and social services centers, attacked
mosque goers, burned educational and cultural centers, assassinated
Hamas resistance members, and fired automatic weapons randomly in the
streets to terrorize people. Many times they engaged members of Qassam
Brigade. They also had kidnapped foreigners and media reporters then
let Dahlan release them as a show of his own influence. Arab mediations
interfered many times to solve what was termed power struggle between
Hamas and Fatah. Representatives of both factions met with Arab mediators
in Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia to come up with agreements that usually
did not last except for few days, after which the death squads would
start their terror again.
The death squads started
targeting Hamas officials. PA Minister of prisoner’s affairs,
Wasfi Quebha, escaped assassination attempt when his car was strafed
with bullets. On 13th of last December Judge Bassam Al Farra was assassinated
in Gaza. On the 14th Palestinian Prime Minister, Isma’el Haniyeh,
himself was the target of a failed assassination attempt while entering
Gaza from his Gulf trip. On the 17th of the same month there was another
failed assassination attempt against Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Hamas leaders sent letters to President Abbas naming members of the
death squads, who took camp in Presidential compound in Gaza and used
it as prison and torture centers, and asking him to use his influence
to put an end to Dahlan’s death squads. Yet Abbas did not give
them any attention. In Mecca meeting Hamas offered to share power with
Fatah in a form of a Unity Government to address security issues in
Gaza. This Unity Government did not live long; Hani Qawasmi, the newly
assigned Interior Minister charged with security reforms, turned in
his resignation due to the many hurdles he met from Presidential Guards.
The beginning of month of
June ushers what seems to be a preparation for a coup against Hamas
government into Gaza. On the 2nd of June Hamas Interior Ministry in
a press conference expressed its concern about armored military vehicles
secretly crossing the borders and stationing in Presidential compound
in Gaza. It was revealed that on Friday 6/1 ten large arms shipments
were transported from Jericho to Gaza under the protection of the Israeli
army. On Thursday 6/7 eye witnesses reported that several hundreds of
members of Fatah’s Badr Brigade had crossed Rafah crossing into
Gaza to join the 450 others, who preceded them in May 16th.
A wave of assassinations
of Hamas cadre followed, Muslim Imams and their mosques were targeted,
some Hamas ministers were also targeted, families of Hamas martyrs were
attacked, 12 of their houses were burned and demolished Israeli style
and their businesses were looted and torched, and finally the house
of Prime Minister Isma’el Haniyeh was targeted with missiles.
The death squads, emboldened with enforcements, attacked civilian homes
and businesses openly and uncovered without their usual masks. They
were led by Samih al-Madhoun, Dahlan’s thug, who was executed
later for his many crimes against civilians.
The latest terror wave was
the straw that broke the camel’s back. Hamas’ patience ran
out and they could not take it any more. To protect themselves and Gaza
citizens Hamas was forced to take the last resort of acting pre-emptively
to get rid of Dahlan’s death squads and Fatah’s mutineers
to avert a possible overthrow of the elected government. To avoid any
misconceptions Hamas declared that since President Abbas has not taken
any steps to improve security in Gaza it had taken these security measures
against the death squads to secure the safety of the people who elected
them to do so, and that their action was not directed against Fatah
per se. Hamas officials demanded to take Dahlan to court for his crimes
citing documented evidence for his treason found in the Presidential
Abbas rejected these claims.
Circumventing the Palestinian constitution and bypassing the Palestinian
Parliamentary Council Abbas dissolved Hamas government, declared emergency
state, and appointed emergency government headed by Salam Fayyad. Abbas
claimed that Hamas wants to establish an Islamic Taliban-like “Hamas-stan”
in Gaza. He accused Hamas of revolting against the Palestinian legitimacy
forgetting that this legitimacy was given to Hamas through election.
He refused to negotiate with Hamas to solve the conflict while begging
for negotiations with Ehud Olmert the real enemy of Palestinians. Olmert
rewarded Abbas by accepting the emergency government as a real partner
for peace negotiation, and by releasing Palestinian tax money to “improve”
the lives of West Bank Palestinians.
Jordan and Egypt recognized
the legitimacy of Fayyad’s government. Jordan offered to send
Badr Brigade to Ramallah to help Dahlan secure the West Bank. Dahlan
had already regrouped his Security Forces in Ramallah and sent them
to attack and seize all Hamas institutions throughout the West Bank.
They raided homes kidnapping and imprisoning Hamas leaders and supporters.
They torched 180 Hamas social services, cultural, religious, and educational
The Bush administration supported
Abbas unconstitutional decrees, accepted his emergency government as
legitimate, decided to back him financially, and to provide his Security
Guards with more weapons to fight Hamas. The administration also had
sent Jacob Walles (Jake) to the West Bank as a High Commissioner to
support Fayyad’s government.
The EU had followed the Bush
administration in recognizing Fayyad’s government. It promised
to end its financial sanctions, and to pour more financial donations
to the newly yet unconstitutional government.
Once more it seems that the
American administration has successfully toppled another democratically
elected government. Palestinians in Gaza seem to face another Nekba
(catastrophe). This time it is not only the international community
that conspired against them, but also their own leaders and brothers.
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