Gaza, Hamas, 'Hamastan'
Thieves, thugs and terrorists
By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Last month has witnessed a tremendous power struggle between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine with the declaration of State of Emergency by President Mahmood Abbas in order to control the law and order situation as well as saving the entire nation from going into the tight grips of Hamas notoriety.
According to several political analysts, the land of Palestine is gradually turning into 'Hamastan' which certainly leaves a strong signal to the peace-seeking global community about the incubation of notorious jihadist in that part of the world under the guidance and patronization of mega-terrorist organizations like Hamas.
Eminent columnist Michael Freund writes, "As Gaza is being transformed before our very eyes into 'Hamastan', it is interesting to note the deafening silence of those who supported the Israeli withdrawal from the area two years ago."
Opponents of the retreat predicted that Hamas would assume power over Gaza, and that is precisely what has happened. They also warned that pulling the IDF out from the strip would lead to intensified Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel, and that too has come to pass.
The pullout from Gaza has proven to be a disastrous strategic blunder, one that has claimed numerous Israeli lives--and Palestinian ones, too. So when Israelis consider their options, they should be wary of following the advice of those who trumpeted a retreat as the solution to all of our problems, as their track record hardly inspires confidence in their ability to grapple with complex challenges.
Let one thing be clear: Israel cannot and must not allow a rogue Hamas-run entity to rise up along its borders. And the solution to our security problems in Gaza does not lie in reliance on foreign forces or intra-Palestinian political intrigue."
Daniel Pipes writes, "Two 'Palestines' would undercut the notion of Palestinian nationalism and damage the international myth of Palestinian nationalism. The continued existence of 'Hamastan' and 'Fatahstan' would likely also diminish the Palestinian will to eliminate Israel."
Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush has categorically said that, terrorists can't be allowed to win in the Gaza Strip and hold their heads high forever.
According to news reports, Fatah gunmen and Palestinian Authority policemen launched a wide-scale crackdown on Hamas figures and institutions in the West Bank on Thursday. More than 30 Hamas officials and supporters were rounded up in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm.
The crackdown, ordered by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is seen as an attempt to consolidate Fatah's grip on the West Bank after the Gaza Strip fell into the hands of Hamas.
Unlike in the Gaza Strip, Hamas does not have thousands of militiamen in the West Bank. The few Hamas military cells that operate in the West Bank are hardly felt. Hamas does not have security bases in the West Bank, nor does it have armed groups that roam the streets openly. Fatah, meanwhile, has many armed groups and policemen in the West Bank.
Most of Hamas's activities in the West Bank are restricted to political, information and charity work. And Hamas remains popular in several cities, villages and refugee camps. In the last municipal elections, Hamas candidates scored major victories in Ramallah, el-Bireh, Bethlehem, Nablus and Kalkilya.
Hamas's West Bank political leadership is currently in Israeli jails. In the past few weeks, the IDF even arrested many of the Hamas mayors there. The Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank began almost immediately after the abduction of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit a year ago.
That's why Fatah is now only going after low-level Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
Despite the clampdown, there is no evidence that Hamas's popularity among the West Bankers has been severely affected. In fact, the Israeli and Fatah campaign against Hamas is likely to backfire. The majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank have yet to come out in public to pledge their allegiance to Fatah in its war with Hamas.
It's true that many West Bankers are unhappy with what Hamas has done in the Gaza Strip. But there are still many Palestinians who are fed up with the scores of Fatah armed gangs that have long been running wild in the West Bank.
When Hamas leaders decided to take over the Gaza Strip, they knew that they didn't have much to lose in the West Bank. After all, the most that Fatah can do is shoot an imam of a mosque in the legs or close down Hamas-affiliated institutions or kidnap a handful of supporters of the Islamic movement.
The Fatah gunmen and security officers may be in control of the streets of the West Bank, but this does not necessarily mean that they enjoy the support of the majority of the Palestinian public there. In fact, Fatah's humiliating defeat in the Gaza Strip is likely to undermine the faction's party in the West Bank. Pictures of half-naked Fatah officers surrendering to Hamas are certainly not going to boost Abbas's standing among his constituents in the West Bank.
News from Gaza vividly confirms that it is time for the international community to consider deployment of multi-national forces within that territory to fight Hamas terrorists.
A proposed multinational force deployed along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt must be willing to fight Hamas to stop weapons smuggling in the area, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Friday.
Livni said Israel was not interested in any proposal involving a monitoring force for the Philadelphi corridor where, she said, Hamas used tunnels to bring in weapons.
"Those who are talking in terms of international forces have to understand that the meaning is not monitoring forces but forces that are willing to fight, to confront Hamas on the ground," Livni said.
"The question is the effectiveness of these (multinational) forces. We don't need monitors to come in to tell us about the (smuggling), we need someone to stop it," she told a news conference during an official visit to Portugal.
Livni rejected the possibility of deploying an international force inside the Gaza Strip.
"I don't think that this is relevant ... when the situation is that Hamas controls everything," she said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the possible deployment of a multinational force in Gaza with the Security Council on Wednesday. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on last Tuesday proposed stationing international forces along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian terrorists.
Livni said the Gaza Strip fighting was "an internal problem" for Palestinians.
"Let's wait and see what the Palestinians do," she said. "We are waiting. We are watching the situation very closely."
She urged the international community to join Israel in strengthening the strategy of isolating extremist movements, such as Hamas, and encouraging moderates, including Fatah.
On Thursday, US officials expressed doubt that the international community would be willing to risk its troops in the region. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that although the US would consider any such proposal, it was unlikely that any country would be ready to volunteer forces.
"We'll, of course, take a look at whatever the Secretary General has to propose. And I have to confess I haven't seen any details of such a proposal. But I would, just as an initial reaction, put out for you that I think it would be difficult to find forces that would be ready and effective in going into such a clearly non-permissive environment," said McCormack.
Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Arafat in January 2005, had run on a platform that promised Palestinians an end to corruption, mismanagement and nepotism. That's why more than 60 percent of the Palestinians then gave him a mandate.
But after Abbas came to power, he did almost nothing to fulfill his pledges. Instead of fighting corruption, he surrounded himself with symbols of corruption and former Arafat cronies.
Instead of ending the anarchy and lawlessness, he promoted notorious warlords, and for the first time, the number of Palestinians killed in internal fighting under Abbas was higher than those killed by Israel. And instead of dismantling gangs and militias, whose members had long been terrorizing the Palestinian public, Abbas rewarded many of them by granting them "military" ranks and placing them on his payroll.
Many voters who went to the ballot boxes in January 2006 wanted to punish Abbas and his Fatah faction for having failed to improve their living conditions on all fronts.
That's why they voted for Hamas. Even some Christians are said to have cast their ballots for Hamas. The name of the game back then was: Let's punish these Fatah thieves and thugs who have been stealing our money and terrorizing us for so many years.
ON THE eve of the 2006 election, Hamas knew exactly what the Palestinians wanted: an end to financial corruption and good governance. That's why Hamas ran under the banner of Change and Reform. That's also why Hamas put on its list of candidates doctors, university professors, engineers, pharmacists and lawyers. By contrast, the Fatah list did not come up with any new faces.
From the factual information, Fatah has lost its credibility to govern the Palestinian people because it is considered to be a party filled with thieves and thugs. On the other hand Hamas, which was accorded a massive mandate by the people of Palestine as a hope against Fatah, has established itself as a notorious terror monger element. Analysts feel that, Palestinians have now two options, to choose between thugs and terrorists, both as a potential threat to the existence of any nation. After the recent conflict between Fatah and Hamas, it has not only destabilized the aspiration of establishment of a Palestinian state, but has left substantial grounds for the international community to consider the nation to be either rogue or absolutely spoilt. Under such scenarios, it is possibly time for the global players to consider deploying multi-national forces in Palestine thus seizing power both from Hamas and Fatah in order to let its people be accorded substantial time for building an alternative third force against these two elements. Certainly such process will require time. But, still it is important not only for the sake of peace in the Middle East but for the world as continuation of power either by Hamas or Fatah might give chance to notorious jihadists within both the parties in concentrating more and strength both financial and otherwise, which would finally turn into a major threat to global peace.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor and publisher of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. He is a journalist, columnist, author and Peace activist. He is the recipient of PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005, Recipient of American Jewish Committee Moral Courage Award 2006. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Other articles by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury