The recent hostilities between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank have been presented in the media as a sort of small-scale Palestinian civil war, ending (for now) with a Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip.
It is far more accurate to understand it as a failed coup attempt against the elected government by US-sponsored gangs in Gaza — “the Palestinian Contras” as Ali Abunimah puts it. Chief among their leaders was Gaza warlord Mohammed Dahlan, who earned the contempt of Hamas during the Oslo years with round-ups and torture of their activists.
Furthermore, it’s not only Hamas who sees things this way. Hani al-Hassan, one of the founders of the Fatah movement recently supported this view during an interview with al-Jazeera TV. In the current Al-Ahram weekly, veteran Palestinian journalist Khaled Amayreh reports from Ramallah that: “He argued that the recent showdown in Gaza was not a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas but one between Hamas and the Dahlan faction. Referring to Dahlan’s supporters as ‘the Dayton group’, a reference to the American General Keith Dayton who was in charge of arming and financing the former Gaza strongman, Al-Hassan said that Hamas had to do what it did in order to protect the overall national cause”. After he spoke out, al-Hassan’s house was shot at by unknown gunmen.
US backing of Dahlan via General Dayton is a matter of record as reported in the New York Times on the 18th of May:
Israel has made no secret of backing Fatah and attacking only Hamas targets. When a Fatah leader, Muhammad Dahlan, needed to bring in reinforcements on Tuesday — a brigade of guards undergoing training in Egypt — Israel made sure in a widely publicized move that the Rafah bordere crossing would be open to admit them.
The training of the guards is being supervised under an American program devised by the American security coordinator, Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, which is being financed by some $40 million from Congress and more from Western allies.
There is currently a theory popular those among Palestinian supporters of Fatah, who nevertheless recognise that Dahlan and his ilk are US stooges — those that Hamas refers to as “genuine Fatah” and that a Palestinian friend of mine calls “the Fatah of the first intifada”. The theory goes that Palestinian President, and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas actually conspired with Hamas to rid Gaza of Dahlan, since the violent chaos his armed gangs caused there was (presumably) becoming too much of an embarrassment. Once it succeeded, and Hamas by default ended up in control of the whole of Gaza, Abbas then turned on Hamas and used it as an excuse to dismiss the democratically elected government and install a government comprised of his and the US government’s favourites.
Whether or not this part is true (that Abbas wanted rid of Dahlan), the fact that Fatah-tending people in the West Bank believe it shows just how unrepresentative Dahlan and his gangs are. But a story published in Israel’s most popular paper Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday, that the PA emergency government has confiscated millions of dollars from Dahlan would seem to support the theory.
Also well worth reading is this op-ed on YA about Israel’s hypocrisy when it claims to want “Palestinian democracy” whilst saying it supports Abbas. It is worth remembering (as most media reports about the “new” government seem to forget or ignore) that this government is, according to Palestinian law, only supposed to be an “emergency government,” lasting one month.
Let’s see what anti-democratic steps are taken to extend it when this runs out…