The Palestinian resistance movement is under attack once again, but this time the Israelis have been joined by a new ally – the Palestinian Fatah organisaition.
For over a week the streets of Gaza have been awash with blood as Palestinian fights Palestinian. This battle is being presented as a faction fight – but it is nothing of the sort. Factions tend, at least, to be on the same side.
What is happening in Gaza is an attempt by the Fatah organisation to topple the elected Hamas government and silence resistance.
As Israeli warplanes wiped out the family of the popular Hamas MP Khalil al-Hayya last weekend, gunmen loyal to Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas were feeling the full weight of popular anger.
Last week 500 Egyptian-trained and Israeli-armed members of the Palestinian presidential guard slipped across Egypt’s border into the Gaza Strip to reinforce the assault on Hamas.
According to the Jerusalem Post, these “forces were trained in the use of automatic rifles, curbing riots and on tactics of street battle control”.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak dispatched the additional troops saying, “Hamas will never sign a peace agreement with Israel if it stays in power. With Hamas no way.”
At the head of this attempted coup is Mohammed Dahlan, the so called head of Palestinian security and leading member of Fatah.
Dahlan rose to prominence as a young leader of the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising. But after a spell in an Israeli jail, he emerged as the chief ally of the US and Israel. Dahlan represents the worst of the Palestinian collaborators that emerged out of the 1993 Oslo agreement.
These people rapidly monopolised the Palestinian economy and grew fat on Western aid earmarked for development projects.
When the US wanted to pressurise the Palestinian Authority, we were treated to endless stories about the scale of this corruption. These criticisms have now been quietly dropped.
Promises and lies
The Oslo agreement promised that in return for recognition of Israel, the Palestinians would be granted self-rule, secure borders and a resolution to the refugee problem.
These promises turned out to be lies.
Hamas, by contrast, emerged out of the forces that rejected the Oslo process. This is not because Hamas is bent on war – the organisation has repeatedly offered a ten-year ceasefire, or hudna, with Israel – but because it understood that any deal that does not deliver real justice is no basis for lasting peace.
Hamas became a beacon to those Palestinians sickened by the government corruption and compromises that delivered nothing. In January last year it won overwhelming backing in elections that were widely described as free and fair.
Israel reacted by imprisoning Hamas MPs, while the West cut off financial aid. As Palestinian projects ground to a halt and wages went unpaid, tens of thousands were driven deeper into poverty and despair. Hamas was told it had to abandon all resistance to Israel. It was blackmail, but it failed.
Hamas sought a way out of the crisis by offering to form a government of national unity with Fatah, and for a while this seemed enough. But the Israelis and the US refuse to accept any Palestinian government that represents the resistance.
Enter Mubarak. The normally sealed border with Egypt suddenly opened, not to food, but to Palestinian policemen trained to do what Israel has failed to do – smash the resistance.
That Fatah is being used in this way is hard to stomach. But the Fatah of today is a far cry from the organisation that grew out the misery of the Palestinian refugee camps in the 1960s.
The graveyards in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan are full of Fatah fighters who fell in the struggle to liberate their land. Their Fatah is dead and gone, replaced by a clique around Mahmoud Abbas that accepts the only future for Palestinians is living under the boot of the Israelis.
The battle now taking place for control of Gaza is one that pits the resistance against both Israel, and Fatah, it’s new ally.