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In the territories of Palestine, an internecine war ebbs and flows between the factions that represent he Palestinians. Simultaneously, the military forces of Tel Aviv wage their own battle against the Palestinian forces and, more importantly, against the civilians in the occupied lands. The struggle between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah has a number of causes, but the most obvious reason for the most recent violence stems from the decision by Washington to isolate the popularly elected Hamas government while arming the Fatah movement. In fact, the White House wants to send Fatah another $86.4 million sometime in the next month. Despite this, Fatah and Hamas seem to be working hard on maintaining the unity agreed to in recent Mecca agreements. These agreements were brokered by the Saudi regime for reasons of its own and seem to have stilled the violence between the two factions for now. Among other things, they do not insist that the Palestinian government officially recognize Israel or renounce violence against Israel. The former makes Washington’s arms shipments to Fatah less likely to go through, especially given the overall disagreement with those shipments in the US Congress.
Although Washington, Tel Aviv and President Abbas all agree in principle to a two-state solution and a Palestinian state not born of violence, the Mecca agreements are agreements that neither Washington or Tel Aviv plan to respect. This fact alone points out the true nature of the Palestinian Authority. After all, what genuine government must depend on its greatest enemies in order to gain international legitimacy? China existed for years without recognition by Washington and barely suffered. Palestine refuses to recognize Israel and suffers for it daily, although at least twenty other countries also do not recognize Israel. On a parallel note, even Hamas recognizes that Israel exists, which is another way of saying that it recognizes Israel de facto, but not de jure. A similar situation exists between China and Taiwan, with little ill effect on either state. As for the renouncing of violence, let me state it this way, most governments reserve the right to use violence (unfortunately) and continue to exist as full-fledged members of the international community. Indeed, it is government’s monopoly on violence that in the final note, ensures their existence. While most people in the world–supporters and detractors alike– probably would love to see Palestinians renounce violence and war, it is also reasonable within the logic of warfare that for Palestine to do so would remove one of the few pieces of leverage it has. This would especially be the case given that Israel is not even being asked to temporarily end its military operations inside the territories it occupies. It need not be said that those operations assume the use of violence and utilize whatever force the occupier deems necessary to maintain his grip.
In essence, Washington and Tel Aviv are asking the Palestinian Authority to give up its right of self-defense against Israel with no guarantee that Israel will leave the Palestinian lands or stop making war on the people living there. This is not a road to peace but a path to surrender. Nothing has changed since the Oslo agreements fell by the wayside. Even those agreements left a good deal to be desired on the Palestinian side, which is why they were not endorsed. Since then, the Israelis have encroached further on Palestinian lands and consequently hardened the stance of the majority of the Palestinian people, as evidenced by their support of Hamas. As Khaled Hroub explains in his book Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, the election of Hamas in 2006 “was almost unavoidable” and was due not to the group’s Islamist agenda but to its opposition to the Oslo agreements, which Hamas believes (and apparently, a majority of Palestinian voters) were designed to serve Israeli interests and compromise Palestinian rights. In short, Palestinians elected Hamas because of its principled position in favor of Palestinian nationhood.
As noted above, the election of Hamas brought with it a struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah that has occasionally become bloody. The agreements reached in Mecca were as much the result of Fatah’s acknowledgment that Hamas’ hold on power is genuinely popular as they were the result of cooler heads in both factions desiring to maintain some kind of national unity in the face of the greater threat of the occupation. In addition, the fact that Fatah member President Mahmoud Abbas finally accepted Hamas’ terms as regards the refusal to legally recognize Israel and renounce violence while essentially doing Washington’s dirty work only days before in its attacks on Hamas is further evidence of which faction commands the popular will of the Palestinians. If Abbas does not back down to pressure from Washington, he will probably lose whatever support he has inside the State Department and White House. If he does back down, after making such a show that Palestinian unity is a greater cause than cooperating with Washington and tel Aviv, he will lose most of whatever support he has left among the Palestinians.
If Washington and tel Aviv were interested in some kind of a just peace, they would accept the situation as it is and work from there. Instead, both capitals continue to insist that the Palestinians agree to conditions they consider impossible to agree to at this point in their history. So, like the non-negotiations that occurred before the US attack on Serbia, the ultimatums Washington called negotiations issued to Iraq before the 1991 and the 2003 invasions, and the current refusal to talk with Tehran and Damascus, the US understanding of diplomacy is insuring the continued decimation of the Palestinians.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com