[Translation by Alan Levine]
HAMAS VS. FATAH: THE STRUGGLE FOR PALESTINE
By Jonathan Schanzer
(Washington and London), Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp.256
When militants in Ireland and socialists in Madrid take to the streets on the same day with the same slogans in defense of the Palestinian people, to whom are they referring? Which Palestinians do they want to defend? The Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, who have made their own state, Hamastan? Or the followers of the Palestinian Authority represented by Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, who watched the Israeli intervention in Gaza from their West Bank sanctuary?
The military operation against Hamas in Gaza is represented in Western and Arab media as Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. But if this were the case, how does one explain that it has occurred only in Gaza, but not in the West Bank, the seat of the Palestinian Authority? Why not an assault against both territories? If Israel intended what its enemies allege – the genocide of the Palestinians – it would have attacked both territories.
Recently, the Jerusalem Post published a report by Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh who exposed the death, or more accurately, the assassination of 35 Palestinians in Gaza City. If those responsible for the massacre were IDF soldiers, this news would have been on the front page of all the mainstream papers. However, since the assassins were Hamas militants, and the dead were Fatah, not one of our outlets (except GEES) reported this. For progressives, Israel is always the ogre to berate, and the Palestinians are something they ceased to be long ago: a united people. Between Hamas’ Gaza and Fatah’ West Bank, there are more differences than similarities, though it is difficult for the Palestinians to admit.
To understand that these two drastically different Palestinian territories have little prospect of uniting in the future, there is no better book than that of Jonathan Schanzer, a recognized specialist on Islamic terrorism and Hamas. His previous title, Al-Qaeda’s Armies, was a good description of groups affiliated with the organization of Bin Laden in the Middle East, and an attempt to describe a potentially new generation of terror in the region. This new work, however, is dedicated to the crisis provoked by the rise of the Islamist forces of Hamas among the Palestinian people.
Few possible things could change the possibility for peace between Israel and the Palestinians more than the transformation of the so-called Palestinian cause. Originally, it was a nationalist movement with the essential objective of creating a Palestinian state. With Hamas, Palestinian nationalism is now dominated by and subject to the ideology of radical Islam.
Hamas does not aspire to what Fatah aspires – an agreement with Israel in order to establish a two state solution with Israel and Palestine coexisting in peace, side by side. Rather, Hamas considers nationalism as something that goes against Qu’ranic law. It only recognizes the legitimacy of the Umma, the community of the believers, and the need for a new Caliphate. Hamas does not want to negotiate with Israel; it wants is destroy it. Hamas wants one Islamist Palestinian state .
For that reason, after winning the Palestinian parliamentary elections of 2006, it sought to oust Fatah, which it considers traitorous to the cause because Fatah negotiates with Israel. Thus, as soon as it could, Hamas orchestrated a bloody coup in 2007, causing more than 4,000 casualties in its first days, almost all sympathizers of Fatah. Since then, as is well documented in this book, assassinations, torture, and kidnappings are routinely employed by the Hamas militias.
It is therefore not surprising that the Palestinian Authority, which lobbies our foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, now waits in the Muqata presidential compound in Ramallah for Israel to inflict the most possible harm on its mortal enemy in Gaza. Nor is it strange that victims of Hamas brutality and terror now seek revenge by actively collaborating with the Israeli military to help locate and terminate their executioners. But our media does not speak of this, either.
This excellent book explains the changes of the Palestinian movement and Hamas in the last fifteen years, and may be an indispensable intellectual tool to comprehend the current events in Gaza. It provides a guide to understanding the important consequences of the history of Palestinian Islamism. Notably, one must now speak of two very different Palestinian worlds, and therefore a solution with a minimum of three states. Another important consequence is that a Palestinian state already exists in Gaza, since Israel voluntarily and unilaterally withdrew at the end of 2005. Unfortunately, in 2006, the people of Gaza, instead of opting for the path to recovery, peace and prosperity, gave their support to those who only know rockets and explosives.
Their decision has had dramatic consequences. The primary one is that instead of living in the Hong-Kong of the Middle East, they must suffer under leaders who made their territory an uncultivated land and who will only bring more destruction. Meanwhile, the Israelis, instead of finding peace after their withdrawal, have had to suffer the constant rain of rocket fire, contrary to what Moratinos says, against innocent civilians.
If Fatah, thanks to the armed Israeli intervention, could retake control of Gaza, it would open a new door to hope. However, if Israel would cease its operations without reaching at least the minimal objective of destroying the military capabilities and essential elements of Hamas’ political leadership, the IDF would leave Gaza only to return when Hamas regains its ability to attack Israeli soil, either in months or years.
Those who demand a ceasefire by shouting or by diplomatic pressure to stop Israel, above all, should read this book. Those who scream and agitate—when they are not stoning the Israeli embassy—are not defending the Palestinian people. They are defending the Palestinians’ most backwards, totalitarian, theocratic, and violent faction; a faction that, in order to install its social model based on Shari’a, has no misgivings about launching a civil war.
Supporting Hamas does not mean supporting peace. It means blood, attacks, assassinations, and horror. Hamas is a terrorist organization for a reason.