Friday, August 22, 2008

Fatah Increases Attacks on Hamas

In recent weeks, the Fatah-led government in the West Bank has sharply increased the pressure on the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas' defeat of Fatah's abortive coup attempt last summer, the two governments have engaged in a series of tit-for-tat aggressions resulting mainly in the detention by security forces of the opposition's loyalists.

Recently, however, Fatah has markedly increased the pressure on Hamas. First, there was the bomb on a Gaza beach a month ago which killed several high-ranking Hamas military figures. Though no conclusive evidence has surfaced linking the bomb to Fatah, there is reason to believe that the West Bank government was at least sympathetic to thsoe who planted it. Egyptian Labour Party leader Magdi Hussein pointed out that "When news of the beach blast was initially broadcast on PA television in Ramallah, it was accompanied by triumphant music and patriotic anthems as if it were a victory."

Following this, Fatah ceased its regular shipments of Palestinian passports to Gaza. Though Fatah and Hamas are officially not talking, they have continued to work together on some bureaucratic issues like the distribution of passports. Withholding the documents from Gaza residents has effectively intensified the Israeli-led siege that Gazans have suffered under since they dared elect Hamas in Feb. 2006. Though Fatah spokesmen blamed the cessation of shipments on a lack of paper, West Bank residents are still receiving their passports.

In the last few weeks, Fatah has moved against Hamas-associated charities and hospitals still operating in the West Bank. PA Minister of the Interior
Abdul-Razzaq Al-Yehia ordered his forces to take over "all Islamic institutions, including charities, boarding schools, orphanages as well as youth and sports clubs." PCHR Gaza also reports that included in the raids were a number of independent printing houses in the West Bank. The attempt to dissociate Hamas from the infrastructure of civilian relief in West Bank is clearly an attempt to remove a major source of its popularity and consolidate Fatah's hold over the West Bank.

All of this occurs, disgustingly, with the death of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in the background. An initial supporter of the PLO, Darwish left the organization in 1993 over its participation in the Oslo Accords. After Darwish died, Abbas and Fatah held a state funeral in which they attempted to use his legacy as a bolster for their own policies of Israeli appeasement. Darwish's death, as Sumia Ibrahim points out, is in many ways symbolic of Palestinian politics' inability to forge the unity for which Darwish fought.