FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Divide and Rule: How Factionalism in Palestine Is Killing Prospect for Freedom

As Palestinians in the Occupied Territories begin preparations for local elections which are scheduled for next October, division and factionalism are rearing their ugly head.

Palestinian political platforms and social media are abuzz with self-defeating propaganda: Fatah supporters attacking Hamas’ alleged failures, and Hamas’ supporters doing the same.

What is conveniently overlooked by all sides is that the performance of Palestinian municipalities is almost entirely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.

In the West Bank, local councils are governed by strict Israeli-PA arrangement. Aside from very few chores, village and town councils cannot operate without a green light: an endorsement from the Palestinian Authority itself conditioned on a nod from the Israeli Occupation authorities.

This applies to almost everything: from basic services, to construction permits to digging of wells. All such decisions are predicated upon political stipulation and donors’ money, which are also politically-motivated.

Blaming a local mayor of a tiny West Bank village that is surrounded by Israeli military walls, trenches and watchtowers, and is attacked daily by armed Jewish settlers, for failing to make a noticeable difference in the lives of the villagers is as ridiculous as it sounds.

The local elections, however, are also politically and factionally-driven. Fatah, which controls the PA, is buying time and vying for relevance. No longer having a major role in leading the Palestinians in their quest for freedom, Fatah constantly invents ways to proclaim itself as a relevant force. It can only do so, however, with Israeli permission, donor money and US-Western political backing and validation.

Hamas, which might endorse selected candidates but is unlikely to participate in the elections directly, is also embattled. It is under a strict siege in Gaza and its regional politicking proved costly and unreliable. While it is not as corrupt – at least, financially – as Fatah, it is often accused of asserting its power in Gaza through the use of political favoritism.

While one must insist on national unity, it is difficult to imagine a successful union between both groups without a fundamental change in the structure of these parties and overall political outlook.

In Palestine, factions perceive democracy to be a form of control, power and hegemony, not a social contract aimed at fostering dialogue and defusing conflict.

Thus, it is no wonder that supporters of two Fatah factions, one loyal to PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and another to Mohammed Dahlan, recently clashed in Gaza. Several were hospitalized after sustaining injuries.

Of course, a main case in point remains the civil war of 2007, a year or so after Hamas won parliamentary elections. The Fatah-Hamas political culture failed to understand that the losing party must concede and serve in the opposition, and the victorious party cannot assume the vote as a mandate for factional domination.

Other factors contributed to the Palestinian divide. The US, at the behest of Israel, wanted to ensure the collapse of the Hamas government and conditioned its support for Fatah based on the rejection of any unity government.

Israel, too, inflicted much harm, restricting movement of elected MPs, arresting them, and eventually entirely besieging Gaza.

The European Union and the United Nations were hardly helpful, for they could have insisted on the respect of Palestinian voters, but they succumbed under American pressure.

However, there can also be no denial that these factors alone should not have jeopardized Palestinian unity, if the factions were keen on it.

To appreciate this further, one must look at the experience of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Although they divide themselves based on factional and ideological affiliations, they tend to exhibit much more solidarity amongst themselves. When a prisoner from a certain group goes on a hunger strike, he or she is often joined by a few, tens or even hundreds of other political prisoners from all factions.

These prisoners find ways to communicate and transfer messages amongst themselves, even when in solitary confinement or shackled to their beds.

They even hold elections in larger prisons to choose their own representatives, and issue joint letters to Palestinians outside, calling for unity and a common strategy.

If shackled prisoners are able to foster dialogue and adhere to a semblance of unity, those living in Ramallah mansions and those free to travel outside Palestine should be able to do so, too.

But the truth is, for many within the Palestinian leadership, unity is not an urgent matter and, for them, the ascendency of the faction will always trump the centrality of the homeland.

This is partly because factional politics is deeply rooted in Palestinian society. And like the Israeli Occupation, factionalism is an enemy of the Palestinian people. It has constantly overwhelmed any attempt at fostering dialogue and true democracy among Palestinians.

It is true that democracy is suffering a crisis in various parts of the world. In Brazil, a parliamentary subversion pushed an elected president out of office. In the UK, Labor Party plotters are entirely discounting the election of a popular leader. In the United States, democracy had been reduced to clichés while powerful elites are bankrolling wealthy candidates who are, more or less, propagating the same ideas.

But Palestine is different. It ought to be different. For Palestinian society, dialogue and a degree of a democratic process is essential for any meaningful national unity.

Without unity in politics, it is difficult to envisage unity in purpose, a national liberation project, a unified resistance strategy and the eventual freedom of the Palestinians.

There can never be a free Palestine without Palestinians first freeing themselves from factional repression, for which they, and only they, are ultimately responsible.

For Israel, Palestinian factionalism is a central piece in its strategy to divide and rule. Sadly, many Palestinians are playing along, and by doing so are jeopardizing their own salvation.

More articles by:

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 22, 2019
George Ochenski
Breaking the Web of Life
Kenneth Surin
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Helter Skelter
Enrique C. Ochoa – Gilda L. Ochoa
It’s About Time for Ethnic Studies in Our K-12 Schools
Steve Early
A GI Rebellion: When Soldiers Said No to War
Clark T. Scott
Sanders And Bezos’s Shared, Debilitating, Basic Premise
Dan Corjescu
The Metaphysics of Revolution
Mark Weisbrot
Who is to Blame for Argentina’s Economic Crisis?
Howard Lisnoff
To Protect and Serve
Cesar Chelala
A Palestinian/Israeli Experiment for Peace in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
No Deal Chaos: the Brexit Cliff Face and Operation Yellowhammer
Josue De Luna Navarro
For True Climate Justice, Abolish ICE and CBP
Dean Baker
The NYT’s Upside Down Economics on Germany and the Euro Zone
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail