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:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail