Arabic text appeared on Al-Jazeera Net on 5 September, 2013
Monday, 09 September 2013 14:59

Hamas and Gaza in the eye of the storm
di Yassir al Zaatara

The campaign to remove Hamas from government in Gaza has started: a "rebellion" movement has been announced; journalists have been invited to meet its "secret" leader; and Fatah's Azzam Al-Ahmad has said that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is still looking at how to respond to Hamas's call for factions to participate in governing Gaza. The Islamic Resistance Movement is already targeted by PA security agencies in the occupied West Bank. The next step is to stop the flow of funds from the PA for the government in Gaza to the point that it will be impossible for it to fulfil its functions.

The counter-revolutions in the Arab Spring countries have been boosted by the coup in Egypt; are working on the Tunisian government; and even have designs on Libya. With Yemen already under counter-revolutionary control, the Hamas government in Gaza is the logical next step. Turkey and the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also on the counter-revolutionaries' radar; they hope to exploit ethnic divisions in the country.

Hamas appears to have sensed the danger and has offered other factions the opportunity to share in the government of the besieged Gaza Strip. That offer is undoubtedly linked to the counter-revolution's intent but, in any case, it is a smart move to make.

The PA and Fatah leadership has responded viciously to Hamas's offer by rejecting it and asking others to do likewise. Given that some other factions are funded by the PA it is difficult for them to refuse its call.

Fatah's claim that the offer encourages the division between Gaza and the West Bank is merely an excuse to reject it. It is a dream of the "moderates" negotiating with Israel to annex the Gaza Strip to the West Bank statelet likely to result from the talks, regardless of whether its borders are "temporary" or permanent. Al-Ahmad and his colleagues are shedding crocodile tears about the lack of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. They want to destroy the Islamic movement through an election in which they believe they can win a majority (which, with most Islamist politicians in the West Bank in PA or Israeli detention, will not be too difficult). A Fatah victory is the desire of Israel, the US and now some Arab states as well.

The Israelis need to have the Gaza Strip and West Bank as one entity so that it is part of the agreement that is being conjured up with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Israel has been unable to defeat Hamas in two massive military assaults against the people of Gaza so it would suit the government of Benjamin Netanyahu very well if the demise of the Islamic movement can come about "internally", as it were, through other Palestinian factions.

It is important to remember that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have not abandoned resistance to the occupation, and have the means to defend themselves against Israeli aggression. It is for this reason that the Israelis and their supporters are pushing Mahmoud Abbas to agree that a future Palestinian state will be demilitarised. By all accounts, he has agreed to this.

Those who have created the Tamarod-style rebellion movement in Gaza ignore this dimension. They are not concerned about resistance, even popular resistance; all they care about is settling scores and factional dominance. In all honesty, it is doubtful if they even care about the Palestinian cause at all.

They also ignore how ex-Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan tried to disarm the factions when the Israelis abandoned their settlements in Gaza in 2005.

The role of Egypt's coup organisers in this conspiracy against Hamas and Gaza will be vital, lending power, cover and support, and even sanctuary, to those who would overthrow the most legitimate government in Palestine. They hope to put pressure on Hamas and the Palestinians by destroying the tunnels and closing the border but are they ready to face Arab public anger at such moves?

In response to the "Gaza Tamarod" the authorities must use wisdom and restraint; violence should be avoided. Public protests should be matched by protests in support of the government; again, violence should be avoided.

Since 2007 I have been proposing a comprehensive solution for these problems; it has gained a new importance in the light of the current negotiations. If a state is created with "temporary" borders, and it is recognised by the UN, the conflict will be reduced to one about borders between two UN-member states; the issues of Jerusalem, refugees and sovereignty over important parts of the West Bank will be wiped out at a stroke.

The proposal requires a united front ready to create a consensus administration for the West Bank and Gaza Strip; a joint leadership to be elected by all Palestinians at home and in exile, not the Palestinian Authority, to head another intifada to end the occupation of all land taken by Israel since 1967; and an unconditional return of the refugees as a prelude to freeing all of historic Palestine.

Because the PA leadership and Fatah will refuse such a proposal, Gaza should be agreed upon as a free zone with a consensus administration governing affairs; it should become a base for resistance movements of all kinds.

For now, there should be a move by Hamas to criminalise the Gaza Tamarod movement along with efforts to extend the representation of the people in government in the territory. Gaza is still in a state of war and it is not permitted to allow it to become ungovernable.

The right to resist the Israeli occupation cannot be abandoned to please those driven by factional considerations and funded by Arab states who do not want anything good for Hamas or the Palestinians and their cause. Such states want only to end all rebellion in the region and maintain the status quo in which their own undemocratic and dictatorial regimes can continue to rule unopposed.