ATbar Israel’s Battle in Gaza - The Future of the Palestinian Cause
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Israel’s Battle in Gaza - The Future of the Palestinian Cause

07/01/2009 | by Fighel, Jonathan (Col. Ret.)  

Since Hamas' taking over the power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, there is a marked rise in violent terrorist organizations acting without disturbance under the protection of the Hamas rule, lack of law enforcement and even encouragement or tacit agreement to activities of organizations with radical Islamic ideology with inclinations to global Jihad. Hamas’s interests were met by these organizations as the “flag bearers” of the authentic “struggle” (“Mukawamah”-in Arabic, implication for armed struggle). Hamas used the radical Islamic elements to enhance its own status as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in the local arena and the inter-Arab and Islamic arena against Israel. 

Israel's current military all out campaign in Gaza Strip (“Cast Lead”) is directed against a Hamas terror radical regime that has controlled the Gaza Strip since its 2007 coup, creating the conditions of the emergence of other militant Islamist organizations in Gaza in the past two years. 

Hamas' strategic long-term objective that has been evedent since its inception in 1987, is to take over and replace the PLO in the leadership of the National Palestinian Movement. For that end, the Hamas aspires to take over the PLO and its institutions including the Palestinian Authority’s governmental, security and civil apparatus established in 1994 as a result of the implementation of the Oslo Accords signed between the PLO and Israel. PLO was recognized by Israel for the first time, under the patronage of the international community, as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. Following the success of Hamas’ military takeover in summer 2007 of the Palestinian Authority’s security organization in Gaza, Hamas’s complete takeover of the Gaza strip was completed in the summer of 2008 with two additional power moves in the field of the civil system, tincluding taking control of the educational and health systems. Thus, Hamas has completed its takeover of the Palestinian Authority’s systems and has established a new reality on the ground, to the surprise of the world. 

The Palestinian representation- the underground stream rupture 

Many Islamic groups support democracy as a practical tool to arrive into power and strive for the democratic process as ameans of realizing  their ideology, but do not agree with democracy as a political “idea” at its root. They view the democratic concept as a golden opportunity for realizing the “white revolution”, which will bring them into a position of political power, without the need for violence. Algiers is a typical example of an Arabic democracy that has brought radicalism to the forefront of the political stage, under the patronage of embracing the idea of freedom and liberty. The elections for the Algerian parliament, held for the first time in 1991, brought the extremist party “The Islamic Rescue Front” to win the election with a vast majority, which ultimately led to a military coup whose objective was to weaken the extremist forces. Hamas, as various other Islamic terrorist organizations in the Middle East, embraced the golden opportunity given to them to exploit democracy, allowing elections and embrace it as a tool for realization of the radical ideology and bring it to government in a democratic fashion. 

The battle Israel conducts in Gaza against Hamas has future strategic and historic ramifications within the Palestinian internal arena regarding the right of representation of the Palestinian cause. 

The streak of success in the election process for the local councils held in 2005 and the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006, has provided Hamas with the justification to the claim that from the results of the elections it has been proven that the Palestinian people have spoken in favor of its support of the Hamas and placing it as a newly genuine legitimate force, at the forefront of the Palestinian leadership instead of the historic traditional PLO. Hamas which in fact is a radical Islamic organization, far removed from values of democracy, has adopted the democratic argument and claims that from now on, it is the representative of the Palestinian people, while posing a new threatening challenge to the arrangement existing since 1964, where the PLO has taken the right of representation and leadership of the Palestinian cause. 

The elections that took place in 2006 when the Hamas overpowered the Fatah and achieved majority in the Legislative Council, when the presidency was still under the control of the PLO, emphasized and deepened the rift between the PLO as a secular national Palestinian movement and the Hamas who challenged the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy in continuing to represent the Palestinian interest. 

Hamas victory in the elections for the Legislative Council signaled the beginning of an all out campaign to de-legitimize the Palestinian Authority and its head the deployment of a propaganda campaign for the heart of the Palestinian public to support Hamas who has won in democratic elections to lead the representation at least in the Legislative council. Taking over government in Gaza during an armed and violent takeover and Palestinian Authority’s government institutions, were another step in the takeover and defiance process of the Hamas in face of the Palestinian government bodies and stating a final fact pointing to the weakness and the lack of legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority led by the PLO as leader and representative of the Palestinian public in the Gaza strip. 

One of the examples publicized recently reflecting Hamas’s stance regarding the non-legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, is reflected in an article published by Ibrahim Ghausha, representative of Hamas in Jordan in the “Al-Majd” newspaper on September 29th 2008. The writer states that the Palestinian Authority led by the PLO lacks legitimacy in light of the results of the elections and also due to the fact the Authority and Abu Mazen are a tool for promoting the interests of Israel, the United States and the members of the European Quartet. Ghausha goes on to declare that in regards to the Palestinian Liberation organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Council, the Hamas movement will be willing to acknowledge these institutions only after its re-establishment based on the democratic principle, holding free and clean elections in the “inner” territories (i.e. West Bank and Gaza) and “outer”(i.e. the Palestinian Diaspora around the world) that will bring to the establishment of a free Palestinian National Council, an Executive Force and other institutions of the PLO comprised of new people instead of those today acting in the service of Mahmmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) who abuses the PLO and its institutions for political and other maneuvers.[1] 

Ghausha’s position express Hamas’s premise that if general elections for the PLO will indeed be held, Hamas and the Palestinian rejection front organizations will win the majority of votes in a democratic expression of the Palestinian’s desire. This new post election reality will cause a historical revolution in the PLO that will change from a secular-national representative entity into an entity representing the radical national Palestinian Islamic interests as might be reflected in the results of the elections, and the victory of Hamas in the Legislative Council. 

Hamas’s attempt to establish a “new” PLO as a framework of a new authentic alternative and a new legitimate leadership instead of the “old” PLO is at the basis of the PA fears. The PA lead by Abu Mazen, is aware of a concrete threat facing the Palestinian Authority in the fight for the right to represent the Palestinian cause, and Hamas’s challenge against the “old order” after its victory on the elections to the Legislative Council, especially after its complete takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007, when the Palestinian Authority in Gaza has collapsed. 

The events mentioned above sharply emphasize the difference in ideological perception between the Fatah and Hamas as expressed violently in the rally held at the Gaza strip on January 17th 2007 commemorating Fatah Day, when in an unprecedented manner Hamas was nicknamed “Shiite” by Fatah supporters. It is obvious the Hamas is not a Shiite movement and the call of the masses was not due to a mistake. The call of Shiite was intended as an insult to the Hamas, an insult as an expression of lack of religious and political legitimacy. The comparison to the Shiite (who is perceived by the popular Sunni belief as inferior, contemptible and despicable) was meant to reflect the hostility and the fear of Fatah supporters from Hamas, which threatens the continuation of the PLO’s historical legitimacy and leadership and the secular Fatah. 

The radical Islamic Hamas, who has won the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council views its victory as the justification and the legitimate and legal basis for its striving for the implementation of Islam’s religious and political principles and the “Sharia” and the duty to establish an Islamic religious state in Palestine as obliged by the principles of its religious-political belief as expressed in the Hamas Covenant. This is the real essence of Hamas’s battle in its fight for getting complete Palestinian legitimacy to which it is entitled as reflected by the results of the elections, a fact that gives in its eyes and according to its understanding the right and position to be the sole, legal, and legitimate representative of Palestinian cause.

The PLO secular nationalism confronting the Islamic Hamas challenge
Hamas’s on going attempts to weaken the Palestinian Authority and establish an alternative PLO and leadership (Qiyada Badila-Arabic) constitute a threat on the traditional PLO and the Fatah leadership. This fact poses a challenge in face of what is left of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank headed by Fatah and Abu Mazen. From this it can be understood the seriousness in which Abu Mazen takes the Hamas and the radical Islamic movements getting stronger in the Gaza strip under the patronage of government and Hamas (as in the western bank), as a radical Islamic center of gravity with tendencies to global Jihad as an ideological, political and religious alternative to the national-secular ideology rule of the Palestinian Authority headed by Abu Mazen and the Fatah leadership, who is fragmented in conflict and internally divided between various centers of power within its leaders. 

The real battle and struggle of ideas between the Fatah and the Hamas takes place to a great extent behind the scenes and in a fashion that does not receive headlines. The fight is not only for the legal legitimacy and right to represent the Palestinian cause and its people, but also for the ideological, doctrinal, national, personal and physical survival. The Palestinian historical achievement backed by the Arab and Muslim countries, which was achieved by Yasser Arafat in an ongoing battle since the mid 1960’s, is now in danger of being expropriated by the Hamas. The achievements of the PLO molded by the Fatah after 1967 as a national secular Palestinian revolutionary movement (“Filastin Al- Thawra”-Arabic), is threatened by the Islamic alternative (“Filastin Al-Muslimah”-Arabic), which poses the solution through the religious principals of Islam (“Al-Islam Hu Al-Hal” – Islam is the solution). 

Hamas as a violent governing power and radical Islamic movement, views the secular Palestinian Authority regime as an illegitimate entity that should be brought down and replaced in any possible way. The building processes of organizations and armed groups, inspired and characterized as global Jihad under the protection of the Hamas regime in Gaza, are perceived as a threat of radical Islam on the Palestinian system and the future possibility to reach an agreement with Israel. 

The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed warned that under Hamas's rule, Gaza was becoming like Afghanistan, a hotbed of poverty, violence and strife among armed factions.[2] Al-Homayed stated:” "The transformation of the Gaza strip into another Afghanistan is a future whose first casualty will be the Palestinians and their cause. This cause has been shattered by Hamas, whose members want to rule as they will, and are waiting for the world to accommodate them". Homayed continues his somber analysis accusing Hamas as “ a very real danger to the Palestinian cause. They have already blown thechance of creating a Palestinian state by splitting off from the legitimate authority of Abu Mazen…we must take a decisive stand against Hamas, for a simple reason, the boat in which they are drilling holes will not only drown them, but will drown all of us, and we will all be the victims”.[3]

The Israeli Battle in Gaza and the Palestinian Battle over Gaza 

The success of Israel’s military campaign to reach its security objectives and crack Hamas, as declared by the Israeli government, will have a direct impact on the Islamization and radicalization of the Palestinian issue as represented by Hamas, which poses a threat for any potential progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas’s radical Islamic foundations and ideological commandments are “non-starter” positions. The new reality created by Hamas in Gaza poses a great deal of concern within the Palestinian secular national movement, in Israel and the west as well. The weak Fatah and the shaky Palestinian Authority transmit messages, statements and declarations of apprehensions that this situation may “shut the door” for a long period of time to any chance promoting the Palestinian dreams and aspirations to fulfill its national goals. It appears that the Israeli battle in Gaza is very much the battle over Gaza of the Palestinian rational moderate majority. 

The Palestinian national aspiration towards a rational pragmatic two states solution, are threatened by the Islamic Hamas whose maximal, irrational radical Islamic aspirations pose internal Palestinian danger to the very existence of the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. The simple strategic equation should be clear, metaphorically presented within a connected vessels system, suppressing military and political measures in weakening Hamas will directly effect the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority. 

A successful outcome of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza to weaken and break Hamas as representing the radical Islamic threat, creating a new fundamental security strategic change, will have a direct effect and a major impact on role of the Palestinian Authority within the internal Palestinian arena to fulfill its national political aspirations and goals. 

Notes

[1] Ibrahim Al Ghausha, “Juzur al Khilaf Bain Fatah wa Hamas” (The roots of conflict between Fatah and Hamas) Al Majd, 29 September 2008. See http://www.almajd.net/article/details/details.asp?id=2843. 

[2] Tariq Alhomayed, "Gaza: Following Afghanistan's Footsteps", October 6, 2008. http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=14308 

[3] Ibid.