[News] A setback for the Bush doctrine in Gaza
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 15 11:58:35 EDT 2007
June 15, 2007
A Sordid Game
Bush Doctrine Routed in Gaza
By ALI ABUMINAH
The dramatic rout of the US and Israeli-backed Palestinian militias
in Gaza by forces loyal to Hamas represents a major setback to the
Bush doctrine in Palestine.
Ever since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in the
occupied territories in January 2006, elements of the leadership of
the long-dominant Fatah movement, including Palestinian Authority
chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors have conspired with Israel,
the United States and the intelligence services of several Arab
states to overthrow and weaken Hamas. This support has included
funneling weapons and tens of millions of dollars to unaccountable
militias, particularly the "Preventive Security Force" headed by Gaza
warlord Mohammad Dahlan, a close ally of Israel and the United States
and the Abbas-affiliated "Presidential Guard." US Deputy National
Security Advisor Elliott Abrams -- who helped divert money to the
Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s and who was convicted of lying to
Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal -- has spearheaded the effort to
set up these Palestinian Contras. Abrams is also notorious for
helping to cover up massacres and atrocities committed against
civilians in El Salvador by US-backed militias and death squads.
Two recent revelations underscore the extent of the conspiracy: on 7
June, Ha'aretz reported that "senior Fatah officials in the Gaza
Strip have asked Israel to allow them to receive large shipments of
arms and ammunition from Arab countries, including Egypt." According
to the Israeli newspaper, Fatah asked Israel for "armored cars,
hundreds of armor-piercing RPG rockets, thousands of hand grenades
and millions of rounds of ammunition for small caliber weapons," all
to be used against Hamas.
From the moment of its election victory, Hamas acted pragmatically
and with the intent to integrate itself into the existing political
structure. It had observed for over a year a unilateral ceasefire
with Israel and had halted the suicide attacks on Israeli civilians
that had made it notorious. In a leaked confidential memo written in
May and published by The Guardian this week senior UN envoy Alvaro de
Soto confirmed that it was under pressure from the United States that
Abbas refused Hamas' initial invitation to form a "national unity
government." De Soto details that Abbas advisers actively aided and
abetted the Israeli-US-European Union aid cutoff and siege of the
Palestinians under occupation, which led to massively increased
poverty for millions of people. These advisors engaged with the
United States in a "plot" to "bring about the untimely demise of the
[Palestinian Authority] government led by Hamas," de Soto wrote.
Despite a bloody attempted coup against Hamas by the Dahlan-led
forces in December and January, Hamas still agreed to join a
"National Unity Government" with Fatah brokered by Saudi Arabia at
the Mecca summit. Dahlan and Abbas' advisers were determined to
sabotage this, continuing to amass weapons, and refusing to place
their militias under the control of a neutral interior minister who
eventually resigned in frustration.
A setback for United States and Israel
The core of US strategy in the Southwest and Central Asia,
particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon is to
establish puppet regimes that will fight America's enemies on its
behalf. This strategy seems to be failing everywhere. The Taliban are
resurgent in Afghanistan. Despite its "surge" the US is no closer to
putting down the resistance in Iraq and cannot even trust the Iraqi
army it helped set up. The Lebanese army, which the US hopes to
bolster as a counterweight to Hizballah, has performed poorly against
a few hundred foreign fighters holed up in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp
(although it has caused death and devastation to many innocent
Now in Gaza, the latest blow.
Israel's policy is a local version of the US strategy -- and it has
also been tried and failed. For over two decades Israel relied on a
proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army, to help it enforce the
occupation of southern Lebanon. In 2000, as Israeli forces hastily
withdrew, this militia collapsed just as quickly as Dahlan's forces
and many of its members fled to Israel. Hamas is now referring to the
rout of Dahlan's forces as a "second liberation of Gaza."
A consistent element of Israeli strategy has been to attempt to
circumvent Palestinian resistance by trying to create quisling
leaderships. Into the 1970s, Israel still saw the PLO as representing
true resistance. So it set up the collaborationist "village leagues"
in the West Bank as an alternative. In 1976, it allowed municipal
elections in the West Bank in an effort to give this alternative
leadership some legitimacy. When PLO-affiliated candidates swept the
board, Israel began to assassinate the PLO mayors with car bombs or
force them into exile. Once some exiled PLO leaders, most notably
Yasser Arafat, became willing subcontractors of the occupation (an
arrangement formalized by the Oslo Accords), a new resistance force
emerged in the form of Hamas. Israeli efforts to back Dahlan and
Abbas, Arafat's successor, as quisling alternatives have now
In the wake of the Fatah collapse in Gaza, Ha'aretz reported that
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert will advise President Bush that
Gaza must be isolated from the West Bank. This can be seen as an
attempt to shore up Abbas whose survival Israel sees as essential to
maintaining the fiction that it does not directly rule millions of
disenfranchised Palestinians. A total collapse of the Palestinian
Authority would expose Israel's legal obligation, as the occupying
power, to provide for the welfare of the Palestinians it rules.
What now for the Palestinian under occupation?
Abbas has declared a "state of emergency" and dismissed Ismail
Haniyeh the Hamas prime minister as well as the "national unity
government." The "state of emergency" is merely rhetorical. Whatever
control he had in Gaza is gone and Israel is in complete control of
the West Bank anyway.
Haniyeh in a speech this evening carried live on Al-Jazeera rejected
Abbas' "hasty" moves and alleged that they were the result of
pressure from abroad. He issued 16 points, among them that the "unity
government" represented the will of 96 percent of Palestinians under
occupation freely expressed at the ballot box. He reaffirmed his
movement's commitment to democracy and the existing political system
and that Hamas would not impose changes on people's way of life.
Haniyeh said the government would continue to function, would restore
law and order and reaffirm Hamas' commitment to national unity and
the Mecca agreement. He called on all Hamas members to observe a
general amnesty assuring any captured fighters of their safety (this
followed media reports of a handful of summary executions of Fatah
fighters). He also emphasized that Hamas' fight was not with Fatah as
a whole, but only with those elements who had been actively
collaborating -- a clear allusion to Dahlan and other Abbas advisors.
He portrayed Hamas' takeover as a last resort in the wake of
escalating lawlessness and coup attempts by collaborators, listing
many alleged crimes that had finally caused Hamas' patience to snap.
Haniyeh emphasized the unity of Gaza and the West Bank as
"inseparable parts of the Palestinian nation," and he repeated a call
for the captors of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston to free him immediately.
The contrast between Abbas' action and the Hamas response is
striking. Abbas, perhaps pushed by the same coterie of advisors,
seems to be escalating the confrontation and doing so when there is
no reason to believe he can prevail. Hamas, while standing firm and
from a position of strength, spoke in a language of conciliation,
emphasizing time and again that Hamas has a problem with only a small
group within Fatah, not its rank and file. Abbas, Dahlan and their
backers must be surveying a sobering scene -- they may be tempted to
try to take on Hamas in the West Bank, but the scale of their defeat
in Gaza would have to give them pause.
Both leaderships are hemmed in. Abbas appears to be entirely
dependent on foreign and Israeli support and unable to take decisions
independent of a corrupt, self-serving clique. Hamas, whatever
intentions it has is likely to find itself under an even tighter
siege in Gaza.
Abbas, backed by Israel and the US, has called for a multinational
force in Gaza. Hamas has rejected this, saying it would be viewed as
an "occupying force." Indeed, they have reason to be suspicious: for
decades Israel and the US blocked calls for an international
protection force for Palestinians. The multinational force, Hamas
fears, would not be there to protect Palestinians from their Israeli
occupiers, but to perform the proxy role of protecting Israel's
interests that Dahlan's forces are longer able to carry out and to
counter the resistance -- just as the multinational force was
supposed to do in Lebanon after the July 2006 war.
Wise leaders in Israel and the United States would recognize that
Hamas is not a passing phenomenon, and that they can never create
puppet leaders who will be able to compete against a popular
resistance movement. But there are no signs of wisdom: the US has now
asked Israel to "loosen its grip" in the West Bank to try to give
Abbas a boost. Although the Bush doctrine has suffered a blow, the
Palestinian people have not won any great victory. The sordid game at
their expense continues.
Ali Abunimah is cofounder of the online publication The Electronic
Intifada, where this article originally appeared. He is the author of
One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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