FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mahmoud Abbas vs Mohammed Dahlan

by RAMZY BAROUD

When late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was confined by Israeli soldiers to his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mohammed Dahlan reigned supreme. As perhaps the most powerful and effective member of the ‘Gang of Five’, he managed the affairs of the ruling Fatah movement, coordinated with Israel regarding matters of security, and even wheeled and dealed in issues of regional and international affairs.

That was the period between March and April 2002 and it was a different time. Back then, Dahlan – a former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister, a former National Security advisor and a former head of Gaza’s PA Preventative Security Service (PSS)- was king of the hill. All of his rivals were conveniently or by chance out of the picture. Arafat was then imprisoned in his office in al-Muqata’a, and Dahlan’s toughest contender, Jibril Rajoub, leader of the West Bank PSS, was discredited in a most humiliating fashion. During the most violent Israeli crackdown of the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000-2005), Rajoub handed the PSS headquarters to the Israeli army with all of its Palestinian political prisoners and walked away. Since then, Rajoub’s star faded into a dark chapter of Palestinian history. For Dahlan, however, it was yet a new start.

This is not exactly the kind of history the Fatah leadership, Dahlan included, would like to remember. Such history is simply too dangerous as it underscores the reality that engulfed, and to a large degree, continues to shape the ruling class of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah whose reach has touched upon every aspect of Palestinian life.

The second uprising, starting in Sep. 2000, unlike the first Intifada of 1987, resulted in much harm. The latter revolution seemed to lack unity of purpose, was more militarized, and allowed Israel to rearrange the post-Intifada and post-Arafat political scene in such a way as to privilege its trusted allies within the Palestinian camp. Dahlan, and the current PA president Mahmoud Abbas, elected in 2005 to a five-year-term, were obviously spared the Israeli purges. Hamas, on the other hand, lost several layers of its leadership, as did the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which like other socialist groups suffered massive crackdowns and assassinations. Even Fatah activists paid a terribly heavy price of blood and imprisonments because of the leading role they played in the Intifada. For Abbas and Dahlan, however, things were not too bad. In fact, at least for a while, the outcome of the Intifada was quite beneficial for some Palestinian leaders who were at one point relegated to minor roles. Thanks to Israeli schemes, and American pressure, they were brought back to the limelight.

12 years later both Abbas and Dahlan are still the center of attention. Abbas, 79, is an aging president of an authority that has access to funds but no real sovereignty or political leverage (aside from what Israel finds acceptable); and Dahlan, 52, is in exile in the UAE after his supporters were chased out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, and then the West Bank by his own party in June 2011. This occurred after he was accused of corruption and the poisoning of Arafat, on behalf of Israel, during the Israeli siege. But Dahlan, aided by some strong friends around the region – and of course, his old intelligence contacts in Israel and the US – is unmistakably plotting a comeback.

Abbas knows well that his rule is approaching a sensitive transition, and not only because of his old age. If the John Kerry peace mediation deadline of April 29 results in nothing substantial, as will most likely be the case, it would not be easy for Abbas to keep Fatah’s various competing cliques under control. And since Dahlan is sagaciously finding and manipulating gaps to reassert his relevance in a political milieu that continues to reject him, Abbas is lashing out in anticipation of a possible showdown. Interestingly enough, Dahlan is answering in kind by using the generous space given to him by private Egyptian media. Fatah is in crisis once more, and, by its sheer political dominance, Palestinian political institutions in their entirety are likely to suffer.

Even after being banished by both Hamas and Fatah, Dahlan’s name continued to be associated with bloody conflicts in the Middle East. In April 2011, Libya’s Transitional National Council accused him of links to an Israeli weapons cache that was allegedly received by former Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi. Muhammad Rashid was another name mentioned by the Libyans, as he was also a member of the ‘Gang of Five’ and Fatah Central Committee.

But things got even uglier when a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was assassinated in Dubai in January 2011. While Hamas maintains that the Mossad was behind the assassination (as shown on video footage), two of the suspects who were arrested in Dubai for their purported involvement and for providing logistical aid to the Mossad hit team- Ahmad Hassanain and Anwar Shheibar – work for a Dahlan-owned construction company in Dubai. The men’s intriguing resumes also link them to a death cell under Dahlan’s command that operated in Gaza, and was dedicated to suppressing any dissent among Palestinian groups.

The ongoing Abbas-Dahlan spat is inadvertently confirming all suspicions of Fatah’s detractors regarding the leadership role in conspiring with Israel to destroy the resistance and its leaders. Yet, strangely, both Abbas and Dahlan continue to present themselves as the saviors of Palestinians, while each accuses the other of being an Israeli collaborator and an American stooge. Many Palestinians are not amused, and it has gone to the extent that Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas member, called on Abbas and Dahlan “to refrain from exchanging accusations that serve only the Israeli interests,” reported the Middle East Monitor on March 20.

Abbas’ laundry list of accusations against Dahlan (first delivered to the Fatah Revolutionary Council on March 10, then publicly two days later), included Dahlan’s role in the assassination of a top Hamas and resistance leader, Salah Shahadeh, along with his family and some of his neighbors in an Israeli airstrike in 2002. Abbas went further by suggesting a Dahlan role in the poisoning of Arafat in 2004. The PA president made a reference to ‘three spies’ who worked for Israel and carried out high profile assassinations. Aside from Dahlan, the ‘spies’ included Hassan Asfour, who is another member of the ‘Gang of Five’.

On March 16, in an ‘interview’ with privately owned Egyptian Dream 2 satellite channel that lasted hours, Dahlan was granted uncontested space to articulate his political agenda as he saw fit. Dahlan called Abbas a “catastrophe” for the Palestinians. “The Palestinian people can no longer bear a catastrophe like Mahmoud Abbas. Since the day he came to power, tragedies have struck the Palestinian people. I may be one of the people who bear the blame for bringing this catastrophe upon the Palestinian people.”

The saga continues with all of its unpleasant details. Fatah supporters who are neither loyal to Abbas nor Dahlan, know well that there movement must fight for and reclaim its revolutionary identity, the very reason behind its existence in the first place.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “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

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail