Friday, June 22, 2007
Gaza: The Return of Realpolitik
NOTE: This post originally combined two topics -- recent events in Gaza, and gun control in Massachusetts. I've decided to split the two subjects into two separate posts. Sorry if this causes any confusion. --DiB
Apologies to both my regular readers; I've been busy with other things lately, without much time to blog.
Frankly, I've also been demoralized by some of what I've been reading. The Gaza Strip has fallen completely to Hamas, which consolidated its victory by threatening Christians and Muslims alike -- while Fatah, busy retaliating against Hamas in the West Bank, has Western politicians falling all over themselves to help!
Have we forgotten that Fatah is a terrorist organization, whose name means "conquest" and whose emblem features two crossed weapons, a stylized map of the entire state of Israel, and the slogan "revolution until victory"? These are the people President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert want to support? What on Earth are they thinking?
(I've duplicated the emblems of Fatah and Hamas at the top of this post, by the way. It might amuse you to figure out which is which.)
Mind you, there are reports that Fatah gave up Gaza without a struggle. Here's one report of that; IRIS seems to agree. Personally, I think it makes sense: I can easily see Abu Mazen throwing up his hands at the ungovernable mess that the Gaza Strip has become, thanks to his own apathy and Arafat's reign of terror.
UPDATE: One of the links above discusses Olmert's incipient transfer, to Fatah, of $400 million in withheld Palestinian taxes. (Does that sound wildly incomprehensible to you? Me too. But as I understand it, the deal is this: Israel has been providing Palestinians with essential services for many years, e.g. electricity, water, and so forth. Taxes are built into the charges for this; but taxes collected from Palestinians should, in theory, go to the Palestinian Authority, not to Israel. Israel has withheld these funds from the Palestinian Authority since last January, when Hamas won control of the PA.)
From that same article:
The withheld tax funds will be transferred to the Palestinians in installments, through a mechanism that will ensure none of the funds reach terror organizations, or any groups associated with terror, including Hamas.I'm reminded of President Lincoln's despair, upon hearing from Gen. Meade, during the American Civil War, that "we have driven the invader from our soil". Lincoln reportedly cried: "Will our generals never get that idea out of their heads? The whole country is our soil!"
Unbelievable. Olmert's government really has forgotten that Fatah is a terrorist organization, haven't they?
As if to underscore the point:
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also remarked on the issue of the withheld tax funds during a visit to Luxembourg earlier in the week. Livni said that Israel would release the funds to the Palestinian Authority, if the emergency government acknowledged Israel's right to exist.Good grief, is that all? $400,000,000, if Abu Mazen's "emergency government" acknowledges Israel's right to exist? Does she not realize, based on endless bitter past experience, that Fatah will say anything, anything at all, if it is to their temporary advantage? Does she not realize that she is conditioning her support on words, which need not be backed up by anything?
If you still think Fatah are the "good guys" among Palestinians, you might want to read about the Fatah torture chambers, in which Fatah operatives tortured and murdered their political opponents. This is how they treat their own people, in other words.
And Hamas is just as bad:
The near-perfect public order that reigned in Gaza this week can be(emphasis mine)
attributed, at least in part, to the fear Hamas struck into residents'
hearts last week, during the Strip's civil war. Testimony collected from the
days of fighting indicates that Hamas imposed a methodical system of terror
and scare tactics intended to deter, shock and frighten Fatah operatives and
Gaza residents in general.
It began on a Monday 11 days ago, when a Fatah man was tossed off a
multi-story building in the Strip; it subsequently came to light that Hamas
operatives managed to shoot him in the legs before throwing him to his
death. Although this method was used on only one other Fatah operative, it
had the desired effect and became the talk of the town. A number of Fatah
leaders, who knew that their names appeared on Hamas hit lists, decided to
make their exit, with some heading to Ramallah and others crossing into
"It's very easy to criticize the senior officials who disappeared," says a
Gazan journalist. "But you have to remember that they wanted to stay alive.
People had already tried to assassinate them in the past and they knew that
Hamas wanted their heads. Someone like that wants to survive."
Hamas was not using a random hit list. Every Hamas patrol carried with it a
laptop containing a list of Fatah operatives in Gaza, and an identity number
and a star appeared next to each name. A red star meant the operative was to
be executed and a blue one meant he was to be shot in the legs - a special,
cruel tactic developed by Hamas, in which the shot is fired from the back of
the knee so that the kneecap is shattered when the bullet exits the other
side. A black star signaled arrest, and no star meant that the Fatah member
was to be beaten and released. Hamas patrols took the list with them to
hospitals, where they searched for wounded Fatah officials, some of whom
they beat up and some of whom they abducted.
Aside from assassinating Fatah officials, Hamas also killed innocent
Palestinians, with the intention of deterring the large clans from
confronting the organization. Thus it was that 10 days ago, after an
hours-long gun battle that ended with Hamas overpowering the Bakr clan from
the Shati refugee camp - known as a large, well-armed and dangerous family
that supports Fatah - the Hamas military wing removed all the family members
from their compound and lined them up against a wall. Militants selected a
14-year-old girl, two women aged 19 and 75, and two elderly men, and shot
them to death in cold blood to send a message to all the armed clans of
And now the West is dealing with the Palestinian civil war... by deciding which of two terrorist organizations to support? What kind of realpolitik nonsense is this?
As I said, it's been a demoralizing week.
UPDATE II: It's starting to look as though Muslims and Arabs have finally lost patience with the Palestinians. According to a New York Sun editorial by Youssef Ibrahim:
"Palestinians today need to be left without a shred of a doubt" as to what other Arabs think of them, a widely read opinion commentator for the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat, Mamoun Fandy, thundered on Monday. "We need to tell them the only thing they have proven over 50 years is that they are adolescents who cannot and should not be trusted to run institutions of state or any other important matters."(emphasis mine)
While it could be argued that the overwhelming public outrage in Saudi Arabia reflects resentment over the collapse of the much-vaunted reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah -- which was personally brokered by King Abdullah earlier this year in Mecca -- the anger expressed across the Muslim Arab world reflects deep embarrassment at the discredit Hamas has brought, in the name of Islam, through its savagery against Fatah.
For its part, the Egyptian press has become unhinged, spewing vile denunciations of what is universally known as "the cause" -- support for the Palestinian Arabs -- and describing it as dead. Egypt's government pulled its embassy out of Gaza on Tuesday.
Kuwaitis, who have harbored contempt for Palestinian Arabs ever since they allied themselves with Saddam Hussein's occupation in 1990-91, also dropped all restraint. "Palestinians are neither a modernized nor a civilized people," Ahmad Al Bughdadi wrote Monday in Al Siyassah, an influential Kuwaiti daily. "They are not statesmen. If what happened in Gaza is what they do without a state, what then shall they do when they get one?"
If there could be an editorial coup de grace, it surely was delivered by no less than Abdelbari Atwan, undoubtedly the Palestinian Arabs most influential and respected journalist and a familiar face on both Western and Arab television.
Writing in the London-based Al Quds International, his painfully felt commentary, "Yes, We Have Lost the World's Respect," argued that "the cause" may have lost its legitimacy: "Many, myself among them, find it difficult to speak of Israeli crimes against our people in view of what we have now done," Mr. Atwan wrote. "I never thought the day would come when we would see Palestinians throwing other Palestinians from the tops of buildings to their death, Palestinians attacking other Palestinians to tear their bodies with knives, Palestinians stripping others naked to drag them through the streets."
My feeling is that, much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I think the Palestinians will succeed in restoring their reputation, both in the West and in the Arab world, and the demonization of Israel will continue as planned. Give it a few weeks, and it'll be back to business as usual.
I'd love to be proven wrong, of course.
Oh, and if you're still wondering about the two emblems at the top of this post, Hamas is on the left; Fatah is on the right.