[News] A setback for the Bush doctrine in Gaza

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 15 11:58:35 EDT 2007


June 15, 2007

A Sordid Game

Bush Doctrine Routed in Gaza


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 
Palestinian refugees).

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 
backfired spectacularly.

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.

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