Thursday, January 2, 2014

Arab analysis: Fatah and Hamas do not represent Palestine

This week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has returned to the Middle East for the tenth time since July/August, 2013. He’s here for more peace talk between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

News analysis in Israel is upbeat. Israeli analysis suggests peace could be possible (“The World From Here: Will Abbas defy Islam for peace with Israel”, Dan Diker and Harold Rhode, Jerusalem Post, 12/31/13).

But news analysis in the Palestinian Authority doesn’t talk about peace. In the PA, the question being asked this week is not, is peace possible? The question being aired in PA news is, don’t you know that Hamas and Fatah/PLO are illegitimate—and harm the Palestinian people?

In case you didn’t know, Hamas and Fatah/PLO drive the Palestinian political engine.  Despite much publicized differences, these two organizations are actually two halves of the same anti-Israel coin. As described by this week’s most interesting Arab news analysis (below), Fatah/PLO is the ‘secular’ half of Palestinian political leadership. Hamas is the ‘religious’ half.

You see this distinction in the Hamas and PLO Charters. The Hamas Charter expresses its goal (to destroy Israel) using mostly religious references. The PLO Charter expresses its goal (to destroy the Zionist entity) using mostly political terms.

The goal is the same. The terms for expressing that goal differ because they come from different parts of the war against Israel: the PLO articulates the secular war. Hamas articulates the religious war.

This news analysis (“Analysis: Dis-participation as a Palestinian Strategy?”) was first published in PA news on December 21, 2013. It was updated on December 23rd. Then it was republished for the week of December 25, 2013 – January 2, 2014. It claims that the PLO/Hamas leadership architecture is in crisis. It says that both Hamas and the PLO have become illegitimate; they no longer represent ‘the Palestinian people’ (ibid).

Is John Kerry pushing Israel to make peace with an illegitimate ‘partner’? Everyone says no. But then PA news runs an analysis that says, yes.

What’s going on here?

For the Palestinian people to move forward, this analysis suggests, they must ‘dis-participate’ (hence the title of the analysis) from the ‘illegitimate and ineffective’ PLO/Hamas political arrangement. Given the fact that the US Secretary of State identifies Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas as Israel’s true ‘peace partner’, such a condemnation of Abbas’ Party apparatus does not suggest a lasting peace. If anything, it suggests trouble—big trouble.

This Arab analysis is important because it appears during a crucial moment in peace talks with Israel. The PA news service is not a free and independent press which publishes whatever it wishes. It’s an outlet for political policy.

If peace were a real possibility, the PA should be talking about a ‘peace dividend’.  But it isn’t doing that. Instead of exploring the benefits that statehood could create, this analysis undercuts the leaders who pursue that statehood.

Is this what John Kerry has fomented—accusations of illegitimacy in the Palestinian Authority?

In Israel, the media promote peace (“Poll: Most Israelis, Palestinians support 2-state solution”, The Times of Israel 12/31/13). The US comes to Israel and promotes peace talks (“Kerry: Israeli, Palestinian leaders want peace talks”, Ynet (1/1/14). Israel’s Jewish leaders want to give peace a chance (“Lieberman: Israel must give Kerry's peace efforts a chance “, Haaretz, 1/1/14).

But in PA news, there is no talk of peace. Instead, the talk is of an illegitimate PLO/Hamas maintaining a strangle-hold on the ‘Palestinian people’. This strangle-hold throttles Palestinian national rights and self-determination.

The claim here is that Fatah and Hamas are illegitimate because they are too committed to ‘the two-state project’. That commitment—that project--favours the Israelis.

Does John Kerry know about this analysis? Does he know the PA is showcasing such an argument to its audience?

How curious that the PA presents this argument at precisely the moment Kerry returns. Perhaps Kerry should read it.

The last time the ‘Palestinians’ signed anything with Israel was at Oslo, in 1993. But this analysis claims that those Oslo Accords have brought only disaster to ‘Palestine’. Oslo was a "second Nakba" (the national catastrophe for ‘Palestinians’). Oslo brought with it an unprecedented level of corruption and security cooperation with Israel. Oslo enabled an even more aggressive Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It was Oslo, this analysis claims, that has allowed Israel to pursue its brutal and remorseless siege of Gaza.

But there is a solution: "dis-participation".

Specifically, this analysis wants ‘Palestinians’ to ’dis-participate’ from anyone talking to Israelis. The analysis promotes a public rejection of the existing political system in the PA. That’s what it will take, the analysis concludes, to keep alive Palestinian national rights.

How strange to see this argument during the most intense part of peace talks. It certainly doesn’t promote peace.

It seems to promote civil war.


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