FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On Hamas, Fatah and the Squandered Years

by RAMZY BAROUD

When Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Gaza on June 04, there was little media fanfare. In fact, neither party expected much attention to their ‘unity talks’ aside from the occasional references to ‘national reconciliation’, ‘building bridges’ and the ‘obstacles’ along the way.

And since then, there was yet more proof that the Gaza talks were another futile exercise to breathe unity between political factions that were never united to begin with, nor possess the minimal requirement of a shared political platform, let alone vision.

Ample analysis has been offered by way of anchoring the Hamas-Fatah split to a specific point in time. Some of these references point to the January 2006 parliamentary elections in which Hamas won the majority vote, to Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to dissolve the last unity government on June 14, 2007, or to the bloody ousting of Fatah from Gaza after a brief, but bloody fight the following month.

None of this, however, can fairly explain the underpinning of that split. Palestinians in Gaza, in particular, remember a different narrative, one that goes back years before the failed talks, the civil war and even the Oslo accord itself.

It is important to note that Hamas was formed in 1987 to challenge what they perceived as the secular nature of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Its founders, in part, wanted to offer themselves as an alternative to Fatah’s unchallenged reign over the Palestinian political culture. The Hamas alternative received a huge boast following Fatah’s eventual failure, not merely to achieve Palestinian rights, but to unabashedly exchange them for imagined political perks, international aid – translated to personal wealth – and much more.

The underlying problem is that Hamas’ own inception was predicated on the constant contrasts with Fatah and its ideology – perceived as ‘ilmaniya, meaning secularism. Its successes were almost always coupled with Fatah’s shortcomings. It impressed ordinary Palestinians with its armed resistance at a time when the Fatah leadership disowned armed struggle which at one point had been the cornerstone of its manifesto. In other words, whenever the Fatah stock dropped, the Hamas stocks grew. And whenever Fatah leaders made an unconditional ‘compromise’ to Israel under American pressure, the Hamas stock skyrocketed.

For over 25 years this political saga manifested itself in numerous other ways. It is embedded in the very culture to which supporters of both factions subscribe: in the language they use, historical references they make, the songs they sing, the symbols they adhere to, even the mosques in which they pray and the type of attire they wear. A whole volume is needed to even scratch the surface of the culture split within which Palestinian society has subsisted for many years. To imagine for a fleeting moment that Palestinians can reconcile through some obscure meetings that bring Fatah’s central committee member Nabil Shaath and Hamas’ Imad Alami – or any other combination – together, is too frivolous a thought to be taken seriously.

Last May, both factions had agreed to a timetable that didn’t exceed three months, during which they formed a unity government and prepared for elections. However, they did much to counter these very efforts, as both sides indulged in using the same polarizing language, dismissing the other with complete impunity, arresting each other’s members and so on. Moreover, both factions carried on with a political line that was contrary to the many promises made since the reconciliation treaty signed over two years ago, and all other meetings, statements and press conferences held since then.

Also since then, Abbas formed a short-lived government – so short-lived in fact that future historians are likely to omit the uneventful week or so when addressing the PA’s uninspiring past. Moreover, the Fatah PA leader is willingly walking into another ‘peace process’ pretense, this time under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The American diplomat is giving little details about the nature of his latest shuttle diplomacy efforts, starting June 28. But this was his fifth trip to the region and it is being compared to Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy of the 1970s. History has taught us that little good can be expected from all of this, of course, but, unsurprisingly, Abbas is playing along, to the dismay of Hamas.

Following a Friday prayer sermon in Gaza, Hamas’ prime minister Ismail Haniya implored: “We ask brothers in the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen (Abbas) not to fall yet again into the trap of talks.” Before talking to Israel, Haniya insisted, Abbas must “build a Palestinian strategy based on reinstating unity and ending division.”

Of course, Hamas is doing little to tone down the rhetoric or to truly work towards achieving that coveted ‘unity.’ The Islamic group is politically evolving in its own direction, with self-preservation topping its agenda, and almost completely independent from the rest of Palestinian factions. It is formulating a political program that is predicated on essentially exclusive priorities: capitalizing on the current political remake of the Middle East, thriving with financial and political support emanating from rich Gulf countries, and forming its own political alliances from Doha to Istanbul.

Such an approach would not have been as problematic if it were not for the fact that it is evolving in a direction that is perhaps beneficial to Hamas as a movement, but hardly to the Palestinian national project, whose dimensions transcend political geography, ideology or religion.

Unity talks between two factions with track records that give greater priority to the faction over the collective interest of a nation will not succeed, even if they seemingly succeed. Fatah has historically been the dominant faction, and over the years has morphed into a culture that can only accept dominance over all the others. Hamas was formed to counteract the Fatah culture and to offer an equally overriding narrative. Their problem is too deep to disentangle with simple terminology and overcome with wishful thinking.

The problem is principally Palestinian and can only be resolved using national platforms that appeal to the individual, free from factionalism, and to the collective, free from the confining symbolism and polarizing discourses. A national debate must start soon so that it can address the Palestinian national identity and truly unite Palestinians around common objectives. This should have already been the case for many years, rather than the investment in fragmentation and self-serving politics.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle  and  “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

 

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail