by Simon Assaf
The stunning military victory by the Palestinian Hamas movement over the rival Fatah organisation in the Gaza Strip last week was a strike against imperialism in the Middle East.
The US and its allies have described the Islamist group Hamas’s driving out of Fatah from Gaza as a “military coup” aimed at creating a “mini Taliban state”.
It is nothing of the sort. Hamas is the democratically elected Palestinian government. Its victory last week stopped an attempted military takeover sponsored by the US and its Israeli and Egyptian allies.
George Bush rushed to embrace the “Fatah moderates” in “the battle with extremism”.
Yet it is Bush who has worked hardest to strip Fatah of any credibility among the Palestinians by failing to deliver even the smallest concession in return for its recognition of Israel.
The showdown came last week after the attempted assassination of Hamas prime minister Ismail Hanaiya.
Angry Hamas fighters moved to crush what they considered to be the beginning of an Egyptian-inspired coup. Abandoned by its supporters, Fatah crumbled.
Hundreds of its fighters surrendered or walked away from the battle. Others fled across the border into Egypt.
The speed of Hamas’s victory stunned the US. Israel and its Arab allies rallied around the Palestinian president, Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas.
The day after Abbas’s security services were driven out of the Gaza Strip, Bush promised that the Israelis would “ease the siege” of the West Bank to “prove that life under Fatah was better than under Hamas”.
Bush’s comments were followed swiftly by the Israelis promising that they would finally hand over some of the Palestinian tax revenues worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
For Abbas and his Palestinian Authority it was too little too late.
Abbas has announced a new government headed by Salam Fayyad, a US-educated technocrat who was the International Monetary Fund’s representative to Palestine until 2001.
This final humiliation must be painful for the generations of Fatah fighters and their supporters.
Fatah has been transformed from an organisation that fought against Zionism and imperialism into an organisation that polices its own people in their service.
Fatah, first under Yasser Arafat and now under Mahmoud Abbas, agreed to control the Palestinians in return for being allowed to run the virtually powerless Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Despite its concessions, it suffered numerous humiliations from the US and Israel.
The US demanded that Abbas crush any resistance before setting out any details of the “roadmap for peace”. Then in 2005 the Israelis unveiled a new wave of settlements for the West Bank.
Israel has built an Apartheid Wall that snakes across the Occupied Territories.
When the wall is complete it will annex 47 percent of the West Bank, isolating Palestinian communities into ghettoes and closed military zones.
Around 12 percent of Palestinians will be trapped inside the wall’s boundaries, including 200,000 residents of East Jerusalem.
These relentless land grabs have left Palestinians living on 12 percent of their historic homeland.
As the Israelis grabbed more of the West Bank, Israeli settlers abandoned the Gaza Strip in what was widely credited as a victory for resistance.
Buoyed by the Israeli withdrawal, Hamas made its boldest move. In January 2006 it stood in the legislative elections and won because of the deep discontent with Fatah.
The US and its allies organised an international boycott of the Palestinians. Israel laid siege to Gaza and arrested Hamas MPs and ministers.
The US, Israel and their Arab allies in Egypt attempted to crush Hamas as the international boycott punished ordinary Palestinians for their democratic choice of government.
Far from the boycott and sanctions isolating and weakening Hamas, it gutted Fatah.
With its strategy of isolating Hamas in tatters, Egypt and the US insisted that Abbas stage a coup against the Hamas government.
In April, Israel announced it was transferring a million rounds of ammunition to Palestinian Authority troops, while 500 highly trained Fatah fighters crossed from Egypt into Gaza.
There were growing fears that it was only a matter of time before Fatah launched a coup against Hamas.
Yet, despite the Hamas victory, the Gaza Strip remains isolated and surrounded by hostile forces. Hamas cannot militarily defeat Israel, nor can it shift the Egyptian blockade on its southern border.
Reliant for power and water from Israel, and food and medicine from Egypt, the only way out could be the well trodden path to the Arab rulers.
As Fatah learned before, their support always comes at the price of toning down revolutionary policies.
Israel, humiliated by its defeat by the radical Islamist Hizbollah group in Lebanon last year, is threatening to launch a new war on the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians are trapped between a hostile Egyptian dictatorship and a hateful Israeli state. There is a huge responsibility on the growing movement in Egypt to topple its dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
That would be a major defeat for imperialism and the beginning of the process that could lead to the liberation of the Palestinian people.The following should be read alongside this article:
» Fatah’s journey from resistance fighters to tool of Israel and the West