[News] There is still another way for Palestine

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 20 11:44:43 EST 2006

There is still another way for Palestine
Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 20 December 2006

After months of anticipation, Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman 
Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction finally launched their attempted 
coup against the democratically-elected cabinet headed by the Hamas 
party and prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Days of interfactional violence, following Abbas' speech in which he 
threatened to call new elections (something most legal experts agree 
he does not have the authority to do), claimed at least seven lives. 
A shaky truce continued to be violated, and the events of the past 
week have provided a terrifying glimpse of what may yet await 
Palestinians if Abbas decides to continue on his disastrous path.

Since Hamas won the PA legislative election last January, the Fatah 
leadership has colluded with the Western-backed Israeli siege. They 
intended to force Hamas from office or to force its capitulation to 
Israeli demands that Palestinians relinquish the right to resist in 
any form against Israeli colonialism and occupation, and to recognize 
an Israel that is a racist sectarian state, that has no fixed borders 
and that has refused to say whether such recognition will change anything.

Abbas claims that a crisis exists necessitating elections because 
Palestinians voted for two programs (his, by electing him chairman of 
the PA in January 2005), and that of Hamas (which won the legislative 
election a year later). But this is disingenuous. Abbas was elected 
following the death of Arafat, after a massive campaign by the 
"international community" claiming that Arafat had been the "obstacle 
to peace," and Abbas would be the Palestinians' salvation. Although 
fewer than half of eligible voters turned out for the 2005 election, 
most of those who did dutifully voted for Abbas, hoping that 
international promises would be kept. For a full year, Abbas was 
powerless as Israel continued its violence against Palestinians, 
including the massive confiscation of land, and accelerated 
construction of the apartheid wall, while the world stood by and watched.

At the first opportunity, in January 2006, Palestinians under 
occupation (this time over 80 percent turned out) gave Hamas an 
overwhelming majority. They delivered the same message of rejection 
to Abbas and his "program" that Americans sent to Bush in the recent 
congressional election.

If Fatah leaders are trying to dress a blatant power grab in the 
legitimacy of new elections, Hamas has perhaps exercised its best 
option by declaring it will boycott them if they even take place. 
After all, why should the movement participate in elections since the 
results will only be respected if Palestinians submit to blackmail 
and make the "right" choice? In such a situation, the only way to win 
is not to play the game.

It remains unclear whether Abbas' ploy will succeed. All other 
Palestinian factions immediately rejected new elections. Last July, 
Abbas announced a referendum, also an attempt to override Hamas' 
victory, but he did not have the strength to bring it about against 
the will of other Palestinians.

By contrast, Israel, the US and the UK rushed to endorse it. And only 
a day before Abbas' speech US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 
said she would ask Congress for tens of millions of dollars to 
provide additional arms and training to Abbas' militias. These facts 
underscore for many Palestinians that Abbas' only significant bases 
of support are foreign powers widely regarded as implacably hostile 
to Palestinian rights, and which have tried, as in Palestine, to 
impose governments that serve their agendas in Iraq and Lebanon 
(precipitating civil war in the former, and threatening it in the latter).

Although Abbas' move was no surprise, the less than decisive results 
indicate that he may have felt forced to act before he was ready. Two 
factors might have contributed to this haste. First despite months of 
Fatah-organized strikes and protests over wages unpaid due to the 
siege, Hamas' efforts to break the siege without political 
capitulation were beginning to bear fruit. Ismail Haniyeh had secured 
pledges from several countries to pay the wages of tens of thousands 
of public servants.

Second, in late November, Israel, for the first time ever, publicly 
accepted a Hamas truce offer to halt the massive Israeli bombardment 
of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire by Palestinian 
resistance groups into Israel. This truce clearly suited both 
parties, but it may have worried the Abbas camp that one day Israel 
might no longer need them to play their traditional role as brokers 
between Israel and the resistance groups.

There are a number of parallels to the confrontations between Hamas 
and Fatah in earlier anti-colonial struggles. There are strong echoes 
of the <http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5794.shtml>Irish 
civil war in the 1920s. A more recent analogy can perhaps be seen in 
the latter days of the South African apartheid regime, when 
supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) on the one hand, 
and the Inkatha Freedom Party on the other engaged in bloody battles. 
This violence was marketed by the apartheid regime as "black on black 
violence" supposedly demonstrating how unfit blacks were to govern. 
ANC supporters saw Inkatha as colluding with the apartheid regime, 
and indeed foreign backers of apartheid hoped to foster an 
alternative black leadership that could accomodate itself to white rule.

Palestinians seem to have reached a bleak pass, but they are not 
condemned to repeat history. Abbas and his faction should not be 
permitted to drag Palestinians into civil war. The worst 
miscalculation Hamas could make is to confuse the Abbas camp's zeal 
for the prize with evidence of its value. It is clear that the 
Palestinian Authority cannot be a vehicle for Palestinian liberation. 
It is better to withdraw all recognition from it, let it collapse, or 
let those who want it inherit its empty shell, than spill a single 
drop of blood trying to preserve it. In the eyes of its supporters, 
Hamas' legitimacy, which has grown despite the international boycott, 
does not stem from its formal position within the PA, but from its 
steadfastness in the face of the occupation.

Hamas and all other factions committed to resisting occupation should 
focus on intensified civil struggle and solidarity. This is the best 
way to isolate those who would push for civil war in order to retain 
their privileges and power. Recent acts of civil resistance in which 
thousands of unarmed Palestinians intervened to prevent Israeli 
assassinations and air raids in Gaza demonstrated the immense 
potential for creative nonviolence that could make Israel's apartheid 
system powerless.

Hasan Abu Nimah is a regular contributor to and Ali Abunimah is a 
co-founder of EI. Ali Abunimah is author of "One Country: A Proposal 
to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse" (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

The Freedom Archives
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