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Gaza: What is happening and why it is important


The Middle East policy of the United States is suffering an unmitigated catastrophe as I write these words. The U.S. is suffering a policy disaster that may be worse in the long run than the Iraq debacle, but apparently nobody in the state department understands this. The Palestinian national cause is likewise suffering a second Nakba, a disaster as bad or worse than that of 1948. We Israelis too, have a new threat on our southern border. The astounding thing is that nobody at all seems to care very much, and everyone goes about business as usual, as if nothing happened.

In Gaza, a relatively small force of Hamas Islamist extremists are liquidating the possibility of a two state solution and a secular Palestinian democracy. The tragedy is exemplified by two items.

These are the last broadcast words of a Fatah activist, in the process of being murdered by the Haams:

Hamas has stormed the home of Jamal Abu Jideyan, general secretary of Fatah in Northern Gaza and an Al Aqsa Brigades commander, and assassinated him. About 20 minutes ago we were listening to Sawt Al Hurriya, a Palestinian radio station, as Jideyan’s brother called into the station frantic. Hamas militants had surrounded the family’s home in the Jabbaliya refugee camp and had fired 16 RPG rounds at the home, with 35 family members inside, he said. “They’re firing at us, firing RPGs, firing mortars. We’re not Jews,” he screamed into the telephone live on air, gun fire bursting in the background.:

"We are not Jews," said the Fatah fighter, therefore, we should not die. Palestinians, including the Fatah themselves, were so transfixed by the notion of "resistance," that they failed to understand that the Hamas guns were aimed at them, and at liquidation of the Palestinian national project. The Palestinians never internalized the idea of sovereignty and what it means, and the need to abandon genocidal projects and racism in favor of national construction.

A Hamas spokesperson put it succinctly:

"We are telling our people that the past era has ended and will not return," Islam Shahawan, a spokesman for Hamas' militia, told Hamas radio. "The era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived."

Indeed, the era of Islamic rule has apparently arrived, and that was goal of the Hamas.

The two items sum up what happened: The Hamas sold Islamism to Palestinian population in general, and even to the secular Fatah, under the guise of "resistance" and "killing Jews." In the popular mind, building a state and a peaceful future took second place to killing Jews and "resistance." Fatah activists were branded by Hamas as traitors and Quislings who got the support of the United States and Israel.

As for justice, those who have supported "justice" for Palestine by eliminating Israel can see from the Gaza violence that Hamas "justice" entails invading hospitals, killing doctors and throwing people off the top of buildings. That is the sort of justice one may expect under Hamas rule. Here is another example of Islamic justice:

"They are executing them one by one," Fatah officials said seven of their fighters were shot dead in the street outside Preventive Security building. A witness, Jihad Abu Ayad, said the men were being killed before their wives and children.

"They are executing them one by one," Abu Ayad said. They are carrying one of them on their shoulders, putting him on a sand dune, turning him around and shooting.":

The attacks were initiated at an opportune time, when Fatah forces leader Mahmoud Dahlan was outside of Gaza undergoing medical treatment. The supposed trigger for the Hamas attack was an RPG fired at the house of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanniyeh. But the attack, which came while Dahlan was away, makes no sense. The RPG was probably not going to kill Hanniyeh and the Fatah were unprepared to defend themselves or to take over the government. Was it really launched by a Fatah loyalist, or was it a manufactured provocation?

The real motivation for what is happening in Gaza has nothing much to do with Palestinians or occupation. The orders come from Syria and Iran, who were never interested in a Palestinian state, and certainly not in a state that is controlled by the secular Fatah and its allies, and absolutely not a state that would be a protege of the US and the West, and that would take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict off the table. Had the US administration and the quartet roadmap plan succeeded in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran and Syria would have been isolated in the Arab and Muslim arena. The Saudi sponsored Arab Peace plan would perhaps become a reality, and the place for Islamist extremism and Syrian intrigues would have vanished from Middle East diplomacy.

The need to maintain the Palestinian Authority in power was always recognized as a priority by the Bush administration. That is why the Israel government was not allowed to move in on the Muqata and Yasser Arafat. That is why Israel have been forced, during all the years of the Intifada, and even after the Israeli withdrawal, to supply electricity, fuel and water to the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza. The water that is drunk by the suicide bombers and the Qassam launchers and the holy dervishes of the Hamas comes from Israel. The radio stations that broadcast the blood curdling messages of murder for Jews and Fatah "traitors" are powered by Israeli generators, and the gasoline in the trucks that transport the rocket launching teams is refined in Israel. The charge that Israel is "choking" Gaza has to be viewed in the light of those facts.

Israeli acquiescence in the events in Gaza was at the insistence of the United States, which also transferred quantities of arms to the Fatah in the hope that that would enable them to resist the inevitable showdown with Hamas. It cannot be imagined that different Israeli governments were enthusiastic about this policy. Ariel Sharon was not a great lover of the Palestinian people or a believer in the cause of Palestinian Arab independence. He vowed that the Gaza settlements would remain under Israeli sovereignty forever. But under pressure of the White House bulldozer, he left Mr. Arafat to survive in the Muqata and to be succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas, and then he withdrew from Gaza, evacuating his beloved settlements, the folly of Israeli nationalism. In doing so however, Sharon threw out the baby with the bathwater, because the IDF too withdrew from Gaza, ending any possibility of keeping order there and allowing a reasonable transition to responsible Palestinian government. The Hamas filled the vacuum left by the IDF.

No Israeli government could agree to Mr. Abbas's terms of peace, which include return of Palestinian refugees and surrender of all of East Jerusalem, including Israeli national institutions there such as the Hebrew University on Mt Scopus, the historic Jewish quarter of the Old city and the Western (Wailing Wall). The absurd charge that Abbas and Fatah are tools of Israel, leveled by the Hamas, could only be cooked up in the feverish brains of Islamist Mullahs.

But Israel had maneuvered itself into a position where it is almost totally dependent on the United States for military aid and diplomatic support. Therefore, there was no choice but to undertake disengagement, to allow the existence of the Palestinian authority even after the Hamas had taken it over, and even, for the unlucky PM Olmert, to acquiesce in daily Qassam rocket terror in Sderot, inside Green Line Israel, emanating from the previously occupied Gaza strip. It doesn't matter if U.S. policy makers are totally ignorant of Middle East reality. They have the money and the power, so their word is law. But now that their pet puppy, the one that they so wanted their parents to buy, is sick, the adolescents in Washington are not interested in taking care of it. As usual, having imposed an inappropriate solution, the DC adolescents walk away from the consequences.

It is true that Israel did not oblige those who wanted it to grant more concessions in order to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas. It should have been done. It is unlikely that any such concessions would have really helped Palestinian moderates however. Every concession that Israel made was always seen as a victory for "armed resistance" and not for moderation. At the same time, every concession and every offer were always denigrated as too little, any number of prisoners offered as a confidence building gesture was considered to be a Zionist trick.

The debacle in Gaza has ominous portents for others as well. The method of Hamas, was to gain legitimacy for its rule through a unity government with Fatah, and then to destroy Fatah from within so to speak. The same "unity government" proposal is now on the table in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah are seeking to take over the government, and the ultimate result may be the same in Lebanon as in Gaza: an Islamist take over.

The crumbling of the Fatah looks like historical inevitability in action. Mahmoud Abbas inexplicably failed to give any orders in time. He was being true to his often repeated pledge to Palestinians that the arms supplied with American help would not be used against Palestinians. Fatah would only kill Jews. But the Hamas was obviously not making such fine distinctions. An enemy of Islam is an enemy of Islam for them. The guns supplied by the Americans were surrendered to Hamas or captured by them:

Fatah officials here confirmed that Hamas had seized large amounts of weapons and military equipment belonging to Abbas's security forces in the Gaza Strip. Some of the weapons were supplied to the PA in recent weeks by Egypt and Jordan as part of a US security plan to boost Fatah-controlled forces.

Hamas said it had seized thousands of M-16 and Kalashnikov rifles and pistols, communication equipment, armored vehicles, trucks, binoculars, military outfits, tents, sleeping bags, hand grenades, mortars and documents.

Hamas militiamen were seen driving some of the confiscated vehicles that have been decorated with Hamas flags and signs.

Pictures of the weapons were posted on a number of Hamas-linked Web sites. "Most of the weapons came from Egypt and Jordan over the past few years," a senior Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post. "They did not come directly from the US, although the Americans had initiated the supply of weapons and ammunition."

Despite overwhelming numerical superiority, Fatah forces didn't fight, because Abbas didn't give the order until it was too late, after Fatah officials threatened a revolt. He proved to be at least a worthless leader, and perhaps something worse.

Essentially, the project for a Palestinian state is in ruins. Except for the Hamas, all of the participants and all of the bystanders really do not comprehend what has happened in Gaza, or what has happened to them, or what they should be doing. Israeli and American peace groups are silent, or dwell on issues like the two state solution and the Israeli separation fence, that are not top priority or are irrelevant. Israel and the United States are dithering about, trying to decide what they should do.

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev had this to say about the events:

If we were to negotiate with Abu Mazen, at least for the foreseeable future, his ability to deliver in Gaza will be severely limited."

. As Charles Levinson noted, it is the understatement of the week.

Ronny Shaked writes that the victory of the Hamas presages a terrible nightmare - a two-state Palestinian solution, with Hamas controlling Gaza. He is wrong. For Israel, that is actually the small nightmare. The big nightmare, far more realistic, is the one-state Palestinian solution, with Hamas controlling both Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the PLO. Syria is on its way to realizing its long term goal of liquidating the Fatah, or returning the Fatah to being a subservient offspring of Syrian intelligence, as it was before the Six Day War.

Not only the Fatah, but the U.S. government, the peace groups, Christian groups, the secular Palestinian movements, the US groups that have been insisting on greater U.S. involvement in the peace process, the EU and the Israeli government - in short, just about everyone, should be mobilizing to stop the Hamas, but nobody is doing anything at all. All of the bright hopes for the future of the Palestinians are being blown out by the Hamas as a child blows out a birthday candle. The world ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000596.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 7 comments

The Arabs are a bunch of brainwashed incompetent fools.
Now Islam has been defined as an extremist religion that has no compassion for anyone with a different point of view, there will be no more converts to Islam and Muslims will give up Islam in the millions. This is happenning while bands of Islamic terror groups are also increasing with funds provided by Islamic Dictators who do not want True Islam and Democracy.

Posted by ismail @ 06/15/2007 10:33 AM CST

The unfolding hell in Gaza is a bloody coda of the saga of the marxist based liberation movements. West throw them in the hands of Soviet Union and then fought them to death just to discover that they were substitued by something far more dangerous and destructive.
The case of Fatah is sligthly different since they were already born as puppets of the puppets of CCCP and they fought to have a separate personality. They managed to do so and then they evolve and at some point they were very close to be accepted and have a happy end. But the dark think was already growing and Netaniahu choose to put Fatah and the dark thing in the same bag. Then Sharon did what he did. I remember at the time of Gaza pullout that nobody dare to say what many were thinking : that pullout was a trap to cause a civil war (even if the root of the pullout were in Washington misunderstanding of Middle East).
Now Dahlan was in a hospital because he is not so young. Abbas is not so young. All of them are like wales wrecked in the low tide. The world of the arab students in Paris dreaming with a country and believing in modernity is over.
Many people in Israel can clearly be blamed and will be in history books. The early founding of the organization that became Hamas, the episode of the exile in the Lebanon frontier, Har Homa, the destruction of PNA, the sorrounding of Arafat in the Muqatta, the no-partner epoch and the infamous pullout from Gaza, are milestones in a road that leads to today. It is said that is important to choose your friends but even more important to choose your enemies. Israel milenarist right wing has carefully chosen Hamas as his ideal enemy and now the plan is culminating. Fatah leaders are guilty and Hamas members much more but Israel right wing must be seen as the main cause since always have had the biggest power of decision in the different succesive turning points
I do not thing is the end of the world but is certainly the end of many things. I am geting old so I tend to hate this new world of Yesha vs. Hamas, of blind destruction and sheer brutality. But these cosmovisions are disfunctional because only can destroy. Palestine has witnessed more bloodsheds than nobody can remember and always, when the blood is dry and the deads are buried, normal people carry on with their lifes and the mad warriors are replaced by constructive functional leaders. Our personal problem is that History does not have fast forward button as VTRs or DVDs, so we are condemned to be contemporaries of this dark age and our only comfort is to think that our sons or our grandsons or the grandsons of our grandons will see a better world. It is said that the houses build in Germany in 1946 were built to last 100 years because people who has seen so much destruction had a desperate desire for building. This the other side of the human nature, the side that will succeed in the long run. But as I said before, some times the wait is grim and aparently hopeless. Let's be witnesses of all these horrors with serenity preserving for future generations the account of were leads the irrational exasperated will of land and power and how dangerous is to unfold the beast.

Posted by Aleph @ 06/15/2007 01:22 PM CST

What are the suggestions in the street of Isreal Ami? What should the US do? Is it better to allow Hamas to consolidate their control throughout Gaza and the West bank so that their is a clear target, or is it better to strike them now when the streets are filled with confusion? We here at home are in a situation where we are sick to death of war, though if there was a real threat to us and we had leadership in the United States that were not known to be blatent liars we may be more supportive of the mess that is happening there now.

I personally think now would be the best time to get control of the situation, while Fatah still exists. It appears though that the moderate Palestinians are without any leadership what so ever. We have the same thing happening in Iraq. Weak leadership, not due so much to the weakness of the officials themselves but due to the non-willingness of the people to follow them. In a state of chaos and anarchy such as what is being seen in Gaza and the West Bank, how does a military campagin subdue the enemy and restore order to a non-existant leadership?

Posted by OMFG @ 06/18/2007 11:32 PM CST

Call me simple-minded, but I'm having difficulty sorting out the good guys from the bad guys in this situation. In World War II the Soviets and Nazis hated each other, but both were responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people. In much the same way, Fatah and Hamas have much in common, but are fighting each other. None of these are good guys -- friends of freedom and democracy. When the US chooses to aid one bad guy over another bad guy, it comes back to bite us eventually. While Israel has made some blunders (handing over Gaza for one) life seemed better under Israel's sane, democratic rule. On the other hand, Ishmael's descendants still act like wild donkeys whenever they get the chance. When they're not fighting common enemies (anyone who's not Arab/Muslim) they're tearing each other apart. It seems the sane thing for peace-loving Middle Easterners to do is embrace Israel as their only safe haven. They're sure not getting it from their fellow Muslims!

Posted by A concerned American Christian @ 06/21/2007 04:32 PM CST

Call me simple-minded, but I'm having difficulty sorting out the good guys from the bad guys in this situation. Fatah and Hamas have much in common, but are fighting each other. None of these are good guys -- friends of freedom and democracy. When the US chooses to aid one bad guy over another bad guy, it comes back to bite us eventually. In Gaza, life was better under Israel's sane, democratic rule. It seems the best thing for peace-loving Middle Easterners to do is embrace Israel as their only safe haven. They're sure not getting it from their fellow Muslims!

Posted by A concerned American Christian @ 06/21/2007 04:38 PM CST

As a matter of fact, Israel occupies and colonizes Palestinian territory. The natives defend their home - violently. Even if you think that they should not use violence to defend their homeland, it is comprehensible, and the blame is on Israel's side. The fact that they build settlements in East Jerusalem and the Westbank territory of Palestine shows us that they do not really intend to retreat to the borders of 1967. So there cannot be peace with the Palestinians, and the offers of negotiation to the Palestinians are fake. Israel wants the Palestinians to surrender, therefore they destroyed Fatah - to get Hamas, and now they try to destroy Hamas - to get what? Al Qaida?

There are destructive elements in Hamas, but also constructive ones. Why not allow the constructive ones to prevail? And negotiate a complete withdrawal of Israel to the borders of 1967? And some compensation for the landgrab and ethnical cleansing of 1948?

Posted by Loewe @ 06/24/2007 04:01 PM CST

There are destructive elements in Hamas, but also constructive ones. Why not allow the constructive ones to prevail? And negotiate a complete withdrawal of Israel to the borders of 1967? And some compensation for the landgrab and ethnical cleansing of 1948?

Posted by Loewe @ 06/24/2007 04:03 PM CST

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