Friday, October 07, 2005



Khalid Amayreh and Graham Usher both have articles in al-Ahram about the ascendancy of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the implications of this in the upcoming elections (including the U.S. and Israeli rhetoric and actions to shape the outcome of these elections). Usher notes that:
Israel renewed its policy of assassinating militants, bombing civilian infrastructure and arresting Palestinians in mass sweeps, all methods tried and tested throughout the Intifada. For the first time since the 1967 War, it used artillery to clear entire regions in Gaza and flew F-16s to trigger sonic booms at a rate of one every two hours.

The aim of the onslaught was two-fold. In Gaza it was intended to sow fear among the civilian population, creating a popular groundswell for the PA to "act" against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the West Bank the purpose was to wreck Hamas as an electoral force. Of the 415 Palestinians Israel arrested last week, 250 were Hamas members, most of them civilian cadre, including 14 local government candidates and 15 campaign managers. The sweep also netted political leaders Hassan Youssef, Mohamed Ghazzal and Ahmed Haj Ali, all three driving forces behind the turn to elections in the movement.

The rain brought its harvest. By 24 September, Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, announced an end to all military operations from the Strip. And on 27 September instructions were issued to Gaza's Palestinian police to "arrest any person" not in uniform [sic]. Both decisions were taken unilaterally, without consultation and in response to the Israeli attacks. And both lay the seeds for confrontation.
Confrontation erupted, with the flashpoint being a skirmish between Muhammad al-Rantisi (son of `Abd al-`Aziz al-Rantisi, the assassinated Hamas leader) and PA police forces. Amayreh writes:
The clashes continued until midnight, when Egyptian mediators reportedly pressed the two sides to stand down.

Hamas and the PA had been exchanging accusations and recriminations since the Jabalya refugee camp incident of 23 September. "There is a faction of the PA trying to eradicate Hamas, and that plans widespread conflict in the West Bank," said Hamas representative in Lebanon Muhammed Nazzal in interview with the Associated Press on Sunday. "The hands of this faction -- backed by Washington and London -- are stained with Palestinian blood, and Hamas will confront it, even at the price of civil war," Nazzal said. Talk of civil war was received with disbelief in the occupied territories. Even Hamas leaders sought to distance themselves from it.

This notwithstanding, the relationship between the PA and Fatah on the one side and Hamas on the other is rapidly deteriorating.
Furthermore, if the PA decides to postpone the elections, or if it decides to acquiesce in the U.S. and Israeli desire to disarm Hamas before allowing it to participate, the divide between the two groups will widen. And Fatah/the PA will continue to lose ground, I think, to Hamas, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. In the meantime, Sharon and the Israeli right (as well as the anti-Palestinian right in the U.S.) can point to the Gaza Strip and say "You see, we give them a chance and this is what they do with it -- do you really think we can afford to do the same thing with the West Bank? With East Jerusalem? No no no, my friends, the Palestinians once again blew their chance."

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Semper Fi!

Bill Adams
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