Palestine: A new conundrum?

Dramatic developments in the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank have catapulted the Palestinian freedom struggle onto a track which, despite the accompanying tragedy, may in fact be the only route for the elected government of Hamas to propel.

What clearly bore the hallmarks of an interminable duel between Fatah and Hamas after the popular Islamic Movement emerged as the undisputed victors at the polls eighteen months ago, could not be allowed to degenerate into a major disaster for a people now into their 60th year following the Naqba.

Since the January ’06 elections, the quartet, led by the Bush Administration has refused to recognize Hamas as the legitimate voice of the Palestinians. In addition to shunning the victors, it also adopted a more belligerent approach by punishing the people for electing Hamas. This aggression took the form of sanctions, isolation and a perpetual siege, placing a million people in an open-air prison without any recourse to end their miserable occupation except through resistance.

But the Israeli/American axis had more than mere starvation in mind. They realized that Hamas cannot be manipulated the way Fatah’s unfortunate flirting with the Occupying Power had resulted in straitjacketing its revolutionary ideals. The ultimate prize sought by them is regime change! And, since new elections are years away, Hamas’ ability to govern had to be undermined at all cost.

Enter Mohamed Dahlan and his CIA trained thugs. As Fatah’s millstone, Dahlan with full US backing in terms of weaponry and funds began spearheading an armed insurrection against Hamas. What media commentators and other analysts have described as a “civil war” –” suggesting widespread intolerance within Palestinian civil society –” has been entirely misleading. This so-called internecine war has in actual fact been no less than a mutiny!

Hamas’ graciousness in respect of forging a unity government notwithstanding, the Dahlan factor had to be dealt with decisively. To ignore or allow foreign-backed agents to drag Gaza into a bottomless pit would be tantamount to giving up the freedom struggle against a foreign military occupation. Knowing full well that the existence and operations of Dahlan’s militias, masquerading as the official security apparatus posed enormous challenges to Hamas’ ability to retain authority, Ismail Haniyeh’s men had to wrest total control.

The result is what TV broadcasts unfairly refer to as a “Hamas mutiny”. The truth is that an American operation to impose Dahlan as the emperor of Gaza has been defeated!

The reverberations of this historic turn of events are being felt throughout the region, as indeed the rest of the world. However, the most shocking result has been Mahmoud Abbas’ shortsighted and hasty decision to dissolve the unity government, sack PM Haniyeh and declare a state of emergency.

One wonders whether Abbas really believes in the illusion of power his office holds within the confines of Ramallah and – to add insult to injury – being at the mercy of a hostile occupying power.

By playing his hand in this manner, Abbas certainly cannot hope to restore Fatah’s revolutionary credentials of the ’70s. As an architect of the Oslo Accords, which everyone agrees are “dead”, he ought to know the limitations of his Presidency. Apart from small pockets of faithful cadres and a US trained Presidential Guard, Abbas, without co-operation from Hamas will remain entirely ineffective.

Many will argue that Abbas’ failure to take dramatic anti-occupation steps –” albeit symbolic –” following the mass detentions of Hamas members of his parliament by Israel, is an indication of him not being in control of his script. This view will be reinforced yet again by the endorsement he received from Condoleeza Rice minutes after dissolving the government. The Bush Administration has shamelessly supported Abbas through a series of blatant attempts to keep the Palestinians hostage to Israeli dictates.

Gaza today is much freer now that Dahlan’s mercenary thugs have been routed. But the larger freedom struggle continues. Hamas’ challenges in this regard are no less daunting as vengeful Fatah factions in the West Bank seeks to humiliate their brothers-in-arms.