Archive for the ‘Fatah’ Category

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

March 12, 2008

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

 

By S Milne

 

Global Research, March 5, 2008

Guardian

 

Washington’s covert attempts to overturn an election result lie behind the crisis in Gaza, as leaked papers show

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week’s carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence – or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides – has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel’s deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a “holocaust” if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

So what was the response of the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, to this horrific killing spree? It was to blame the “numerous civilian casualties” on the week’s “significant rise” in Palestinian rocket attacks “and the Israeli response”, condemn the firing of rockets as “terrorist acts” and defend Israel’s right to self-defence “in accordance with international law”. But of course it has been nothing of the kind – any more than has been Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of settlements or its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees.

Nor is the past week’s one-sided burden of casualties and misery anything new, but the gap is certainly getting wider. After the election of Hamas two years ago, Israel – backed by the US and the European Union – imposed a punitive economic blockade, which has hardened over the past months into a full-scale siege of the Gaza Strip, including fuel, electricity and essential supplies. Since January’s mass breakout across the Egyptian border signalled that collective punishment wouldn’t work, Israel has opted for military escalation. What that means on the ground can be seen from the fact that at the height of the intifada, from 2000 to 2005, four Palestinians were killed for every Israeli; in 2006 it was 30; last year the ratio was 40 to one. In the three months since the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, 323 Palestinians have been killed compared with seven Israelis, two of whom were civilians.

But the US and Europe’s response is to blame the principal victims for a crisis it has underwritten at every stage. In interviews with Palestinian leaders over the past few days, BBC presenters have insisted that Palestinian rockets have been the “starting point” of the violence, as if the occupation itself did not exist. In the West Bank, from which no rockets are currently fired and where the US-backed administration of Mahmoud Abbas maintains a ceasefire, there have been 480 Israeli military attacks over the past three months and 26 Palestinians killed. By contrast, the rockets from Gaza which are supposed to be the justification for the latest Israeli onslaught have killed a total of 14 people over seven years.

Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation – or to self-defence – whether they choose to exercise it or not. In spite of Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world’s largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure, their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The truth is that Hamas’s control of Gaza is the direct result of the US refusal to accept the Palestinians’ democratic choice in 2006 and its covert attempt to overthrow the elected administration by force through its Fatah placeman Muhammad Dahlan. As confirmed by secret documents leaked to the US magazine Vanity Fair – and also passed to the Guardian – George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Elliott Abrams, the US deputy national security adviser (of Iran-Contra fame), funnelled cash, weapons and instructions to Dahlan, partly through Arab intermediaries such as Jordan and Egypt, in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war. As evidence of the military buildup emerged, Hamas moved to forestall the US plan with its own takeover of Gaza last June. David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser the following month, argues: “What happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”

Yesterday, Rice attempted to defend the failed US attempt to reverse the results of the Palestinian elections by pointing to Iran’s support for Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on Gaza are expected to resume once she has left the region, even if no one believes they will stop the rockets. Some in the Israeli government hope that they can nevertheless weaken Hamas as a prelude to pushing Gaza into Egypt’s unwilling arms; others hope to bring Abbas and his entourage back to Gaza after they have crushed Hamas, perhaps with a transitional international force to save the Palestinian president’s face.

Neither looks a serious option, not least because Hamas cannot be crushed by force, even with the bloodbath that some envisage. The third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up Hamas’s offer – repeated by its leader Khalid Mish’al at the weekend – and negotiate a truce. It’s a move that now attracts not only left-leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon’s former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.

The US, however, is resolutely opposed to negotiating with what it has long branded a terrorist organisation – or allowing anyone else to do so, including other Palestinians. As the leaked American papers confirm, Rice effectively instructed Abbas to “collapse” the joint Hamas-Fatah national unity government agreed in Mecca early last year, a decision carried out after Hamas’s pre-emptive takeover. But for the Palestinians, national unity is an absolute necessity if they are to have any chance of escaping a world of walled cantons, checkpoints, ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago – who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it – but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it’s accepted in Washington.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

A footnote in history

November 26, 2007
 
By Clayton Swisher

 
 
 
 

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, will participate in the conference [AFP]

Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s US policy analyst and author of The Truth About Camp David, explores the forthcomimg US-hosted meeting that aims to initiate Palestinian-Israeli dialogue.The decision by all Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia and Syria – to partake in the Annapolis meeting is a significant advance, and likely to form a footnote in history.  Unfortunately, I believe that is as far as it will go. 

There are three primary reasons why I do not believe the Annapolis meeting will succeed in establishing a Palestinian state by the end of the US president’s term in office.

The first is that this is not George Bush’s clearly stated objective. Whatever Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, may intend, it is the president who is in charge.

Little understanding

Bush’s beliefs are steadfast, and they reflect little understanding of Palestinian realities: On the one hand, Bush seeks mileage out of the false claim that he is the first US president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and he emphasises his plans to “lay the foundation” for the said state.

On the other hand, he acts as if that state had already been created when he demands the fulfilment of near-impossible conditions from a people living under a brutal, 40-year occupation.

The world has heard how the Palestinian Authority must internally reform; more vigorously “fight terror” (ie crush Hamas, give up resistance to occupation and do Israel’s security bidding); “elect new leaders” (ie ones palatable to the United States); pursue democracy (ie broadly defined as empowering the losing party’s armed forces so they can confront legitimately elected opponents); and provide basic services to the local population.

Then, perhaps, if the “behaviour” of the Palestinians reaches Olympian standards, Bush might “spend capital” he has built with Israel and force it to abandon Palestinian land.    

Weak claims

The next reason is that the Bush administration has an extraordinarily poor ability – or is it willingness? – to bring about the outcome it claims to seek. 

Set aside, momentarily, the seemingly endless quagmire in Iraq, the growing Taliban strength in Afghanistan, the constitutional crisis in Lebanon and the dangerous confrontation with Iran, and consider Palestine alone. 

Is it reasonable to expect that this administration will compel Israel to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines, or even anywhere close to them, when to this day it has not even been able to get Israel to withdraw to the positions it held on September 28, 2000 – the eve of the second intifada? Then there is Bush’s “road map” in 2003 which called for a Palestinian state by 2005.

Enough said, though it is important to note that the road map was devised to blunt international criticism of the US for abetting Israel’s horrendously disproportionate attacks against the Palestinian population at the time. 

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“The talks will prove that you cannot talk peace without the participation of the elected representatives of the Palestinian people”

Niloufar, Tehran, Iran

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The US was in “fight terror” mode following the 9-11 attacks, and its war machine was zeroing in on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The road map thus had more to do with lessening scepticism among “moderate” Arab governments to join the “coalition of the willing” against Iraq as they could show their domestic critics that America cared about Palestine.   

If more language emphasising Palestinian statehood does emerge from the US, Israel, and Arab governments from Annapolis, one can only wonder at the degree to which history is repeating itself with Iran.

Even if Bush could be replaced by hard-charging Rice – and he cannot – her own credit rating when it comes to deliverables is shot. To evade the road map, the detailed proposal for a two-state solution known as the Geneva Initiative, and the refusal by reserve Israeli pilots and commandos to partake in the wanton killings of Palestinians, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former prime minister, countered with his Gaza disengagement plan.

By offloading 8,000 or so Jewish settlers there who had hijacked the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians, Israel was able to win the admiration of Washington. When the international community replied, as well as Israeli courts, that effective control of Gaza had not been relinquished by Israel – that the Gaza occupation still legally remained, secretary Rice appeared in November 2005 to broker the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA).

She failed miserably in her first test of pressing Israel on performance: In violation of that agreement, not a single busload of Palestinians ever made it from Gaza to the West Bank, while Palestinian harvests never made it to the market.

A Pollyannaish few believed that after disengagement, Gaza would become a vibrant economic powerhouse, like Dubai. Indifference to the AMA, plus America’s decision to punish the entire population of Gaza for democratically electing Hamas, is why Gaza today more resembles Mogadishu. 

Hamas exclusion

The final reason the Annapolis meeting will come to nothing is that it excludes Hamas. 

Though it is difficult to prove this through poll results, there is no reason to believe that support for Hamas and the Islamic parties throughout the region has fallen. In fact, I sense the opposite is true. And the secular nationalist parties that have received US support may also have seen a drastic drop in domestic popularity. 

Market forces here in the Middle East are moving with a moderate version of political Islam, not against it.

As always, Washington will be late in recognising this fact. In the span of a year, Washington and its international partners hope to inject Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, with political steroids.

How? By standing up the West Bank economically with direct aid, agricultural initiatives and micro-loans (recall the Gaza-Dubai pipedreams).

The thinking is that Hamas, or at least those suffering under its rule, will realise the failure of its politics and convert to Fatah.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that a weakened Abbas will be able to extract from Israel the terms of a final-status agreement that a much stronger Yassir Arafat was not able to obtain, and sell it not only to his own supporters but also to the Palestinian refugee community in the Diaspora.

I wish secretary Rice and her team the best at Annapolis. But, unlike them, I know that wishing is not enough. 

    Source: Al Jazeera

Hamas rounds up Fatah members

November 16, 2007

More than 100 people, including Hamas and Fatah members, were injured at the rally shooting [AFP]
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“They are the ones who planned and organised the rally yesterday and are suspected of being responsible for the chaos that took place,” Shahwan said.

 

Hazem Abu Shanab, a Fatah official, said Hamas security forces took 400 Fatah members into custody in a series of raids.

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Dozens more were ordered to report to police stations for questioning, he said.

 

Meanwhile, three days of mourning began across the Palestinian territories for the seven people killed in the violence on Monday.

 

More than 100 others, including Hamas and Fatah members, were reportedly wounded after gunfire erupted at the rally where hundreds of thousands of people were commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian president.

 

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“The anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s passing has basically brought all Fatah members together to show that they are here”

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza

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Fatah and Hamas blamed each other for the deaths.

 

The office of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said on Tuesday the period of mourning was to “pay homage to the martyrs killed by the bullets of the putschists”, referring to Hamas forces whom Fatah accuse of carrying out a coup in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

 

Flags are to be flown at half-mast on buildings of the Palestinian Authority, the government run by the Fatah party founded by Arafat.

 

The Palestinian Authority which Arafat set up in 1994 now controls only scattered, autonomous areas of the occupied West Bank.

 

Hamas, which opposed Arafat’s policies during his lifetime, rules the Gaza Strip after routing its Fatah rivals in June.

 

Witnesses said the shooting broke out as crowds of Fatah supporters threw rocks at Hamas security forces and chanted “Shia, Shia”, accusing them of serving the interests of Iran.

 

Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza City, said gun battles between Fatah and Hamas fighters intensified as people fled.

The event drew as many as half a million people, according to Ahmed Hellis, a senior Fatah official.

 

‘Horrible crimes’

 

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in Abbas’s government, said in a statement from his office: “Senior officials in Hamas ordered these crimes which were carried out by the Hamas militia in order to terrify the people …  Now their punishment is a national duty.”

 

Abbas, on official television denounced “these horrible crimes committed by a band of rebels … before the eyes of the entire world”.

 

Fatah officials accused Hamas forces of opening fire from the nearby Islamic University, but Hamas said its men had come under attack from Fatah fighters and fired back.

 

The rally, seen as a demonstration of Fatah support, came as Abbas prepares for new peace talks with Israel, starting with a US-hosted Mideast conference in Maryland later this month.

 

Abbas is also struggling to fend off claims by Hamas that he does not have a mandate to negotiate.

 

In a gesture of support for the Fatah leader, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, plans to release more than 400 Palestinian prisoners before the conference, according to Israeli legislators.

 

Around 9,000 Palestinians are held by Israel, and Abbas’s government has asked for 2,000 to be freed before the meeting at the planned Annapolis peace conference in Maryland, US.

 

‘Harsh response’

 

Israel’s Shin Bet security service has said it would grant amnesty to additional Fatah gunmen in the West Bank, after declaring its first amnesties of about 100 Fatah members a success.

 

Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah’s former security chief in Gaza, said Hamas’s harsh response was a sign its grip on Gaza is weakening.

 

“What is happening in Gaza today is the beginning of the end of Hamas on the popular, religious and moral level,” he told Palestine TV.

 

Hamas said Monday’s events were an attempt to exploit Arafat’s memory in order to “cause chaos and confront Hamas”.

 

Ihab al-Ghosein, the spokesman for the Hamas-controlled interior ministry, said: “Fatah is responsible for continued incitement against the Palestinian police, and there was a clear attempt to bring back chaos.”

 

More clashes erupted later on Monday during the funeral for one of the victims, 19-year-old Ayoub Abu Samra, who witnesses said had been shot dead after getting into a scuffle with a Hamas policeman.

 

During the funeral, mourners fired in the air, and said Hamas police fired at the procession. Hamas police denied opening fire, saying the marchers threw stones at them.

 

Three people were hurt, rescue workers said.

 

Thousands of Palestinians turned out for the Fatah-organised rally – the largest
to date to commemorate the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat [AFP]