The PA’s “One Gun” belongs to Israel

In December the US weapons industry trade publication Defense News carried a telling interview with two top big-wigs in the Palestinian Authority. These were PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and mukhabarat chief Major General Majid Faraj.

The magazine’s Israel bureau chief, who conducted the interviews, described them as “the top two advisers” to PA leader Mamoud Abbas. Abbas is now 80 years old, has no clear successor, and has claimed he will not stand again for elections to the presidency of the PA.

In fact, Abbas has only won a single election, way back in 2005. Fresh elections are years overdue, and have been blocked at every turn. Back in 2006 Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic resistance movement, won elections to the PA’s legislative body. After a months of civil war with forces loyal to Abbas, the elected Hamas-led PA government was overthrown in a coup in the West Bank. Hamas pre-empted a similar coup in Gaza and kicked out militias loyal to Mohammad Dahlan, who had been backed by the CIA, Israel and other Western forces in an attempt to overthrow the results of a fully democratic election.Since then there have been varying degrees of division between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the forces of Fatah in the West Bank. Various “unity deals” have come and gone without being implemented.

The reality is that elections to the PA were always for show, so that the West could claim it was backing the forces of democracy in the region. When the democratic processes did not go the way that the imperial power and its allies insisted on, the results could be overthrown.

Continue reading over at MEMO.

Or read a French translation here (I can’t vouch for its accuracy).

Hamas in South Africa

Last week top leaders from Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic liberation movement, made an official visit to South Africa. The delegation, led by Khaled Meshaal himself, visited the country at the invitation of the African National Congress, the ruling party.

At a press conference, it was explained that the ANC and Hamas had signed a letter of intent aimed at fostering closer relations between the two liberation movements. The goal, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe explained, is to build “a long lasting relationship” between the two parties.

The Israeli government was unsurprisingly not happy about the invitation, and summoned the South African ambassador in Tel Aviv to protest at the conferring of legitimacy on what it claims is a “terrorist” group.

But ANC spokespeople responded that their leaders were once considered to be “terrorists” by western governments too, and that it regarded Hamas’ struggle against Israeli occupation to be a legitimate one.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Is Tony Blair setting a trap for Hamas?

Reports have trickled out over the summer that Israel and Hamas are engaged in indirect negotiations in Doha. The reports, some of which have originated with Middle East Eye, say that the talks have been facilitated by Tony Blair, and are aimed at establishing a long-term ceasefire in exchange for a lifting of the siege on Gaza and other conditions.

MEE first reported this in June, based on anonymous “European and independent Palestinian sources”. Since then, Blair has reportedly met with top Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal several times. The latest revelation is that Blair had even made an offer to Meshaal for a visit to London and that this offer was made with the knowledge of Prime Minister David Cameron himself.

A significant related development over the summer has been Meshaal’s attempt to reconcile with the Saudi royals. This has been met with mixed results.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Hamas is keeping ISIS at bay in Gaza

On the lie of Israeli “Hamas = ISIS = al-Qaida” propaganda:

ISIS (which began as a branch of al-Qaeda before going off on its own tangent) by way of contrast envisions an “Islamic” supra-state which would stretch over the whole Levant, or Greater Syria region, as well as Iraq.

Al-Qaeda, despite the historic rhetoric from Osama bin Laden about the plight of the Palestinians, has long condemned Hamas as apostate movement for its nationalism, and for participation in democratic elections. ISIS seems to be following along the same path, and is now stretching these rhetorical attacks into armed attacks,

Since 2007, Hamas, elected to power in 2006, has had a firm grip on the coastal strip in terms of security. It has met and bested several security challenges over the years from different sources.

Read the whole thing over at MEMO.

Cameron buries Muslim Brotherhood report to please Gulf tyrants

Yet another delay, probably for good this time:

Reports in the British press suggest that Sir John has cleared the Brotherhood of any violent extremist tendencies. It is “not a terrorist organisation but should be more open about its dealings,” is how The Independent summarised the findings on Monday, when the report failed to materialise.

Read the full story here.

Spy Cables show America’s hypocrisy on Hamas

If the South African spy’s account is accurate, it only goes to show the hypocritical nature of American policy on Hamas. Although in public the US states its refusal to negotiate with Hamas, the reality on the ground may force them to do so in secret. Hamas is a part of Palestinian society, runs many charitable and social programmes and was voted into power in landslide PA elections in 2006.

Read the full article over at MEMO.

I talk to Voice of the Cape about the Hamas attack on an Israeli military base

I spoke to the South African Muslim community radio station Voice of the Cape about Hamas’ now-famous attack on the Nahal Oz Israeli military base near Gaza. The video we discuss is embedded below. I also wrote a column about the incident.

Factual errors undermine new book on Hamas

Published by The Electronic Intifada and protected by copyright. Republished with permission.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | 16 March 2012

There is no shortage of books in English about the Palestinian political party and Islamic resistance movement Hamas. This latest effort is by Italian journalist Paola Caridi, who has lived in the Middle East since 2001.

Continue reading Factual errors undermine new book on Hamas

Palestine is Still the Issue: On American Principles for Negotiating With Official Enemies

My fortnightly column published by Ceasefire.

By Asa Winstanley

This week Barack Obama confirmed something the US government had been moving towards for a long time: opening negotiations with the Taliban. “America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban,” Obama said in a speech Wednesday. This has been in the works for a while. On Channel 4 News Thursday, minor celebrity soldier Captain Doug Beattie said that British forces had been talking with the Taliban “on a local level in Helmand since 2007”.

The US military, along with satellites such as Britain, are being defeated by the Taliban. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the fact that, at exactly the same time negotiations were being made public for the first time last week, Taliban military activity was very much ongoing. Indeed, as reported by AP Saturday, quasi-puppet Afghan president Hamid Karzi announced to the world the US was in talks with the Taliban “even as insurgents stormed a police station near the presidential palace, killing nine people.

And yet, we are dealing with the very same United States establishment that absolutely rules out any talks with Hamas, despite the fact that the Islamic Resistance Movement forms the elected majority of the Palestinian Authority’s parliament; and despite the fact that Hamas has by now presented multiple offers to Israel of long term negotiated ceasefires.

In Gaza Hamas has even, at times, enforced truces with Israel, imposing them on smaller armed factions that had continued to fire rockets at Israeli positions – and even arresting Al-Aqsa Brigades fighters (members of the rival Fatah faction of Mahmoud Abbas, lately propped up by the US).

Ideologically, Hamas is a conservative movement which has much in common with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (indeed they share historical roots). Reactionary as they have proven to be, both of these Arab movements are a world away from the Taliban.

The Taliban is far more reactionary and brutal and has zero democratic legitimacy. Hamas on the other hand is essentially a popular resistance movement – a Palestinian nationalist movement with Islamist tendencies.

It is true that the corruption of the Fatah-dominated PA was an important factor behind Hamas’s 2006 election victory, but I find this is usually over-emphasised. The movement’s reputation for resistance to Israeli occupation was the main reason. Since then, it has more and more moved away from armed resistance and tried to make itself appealing to the West.

Instead of negotiating with Hamas when they won the elections, the US initiated a proxy conflict that sparked a mini-civil war in Gaza, until Hamas fighters ejected what had been termed the “Palestinian contras”.

It is quite instructive that even while the Taliban continues to fight America it gets negotiations. Hamas stops fighting Israel (a US client state by any definition), reconciles with Fatah, increasingly moves towards the “two state solution” – and yet is still shunned by the US government. It follows then, that the stated pretexts of Empire – pious declamations about democracy, freedom and women’s rights – cannot possibly be the real reasons for shunning Hamas.

It looks very much like the Taliban have forced America to sit at the negotiating table. The US are essentially trying to save face, because they know they can’t stay in Afghanistan forever: the American people simply do not support it any more. By now the war is so unpopular that even some Republican presidential candidates have started to call for American troops to come home. The message this “softer” American strategy sends is, in effect: if you want America or its regional clients to back down, do NOT stop fighting.

Indeed, the only meaningful negotiations Israel has ever had with Hamas have been over an occupation soldier captured by Hamas in Gaza, in 2006, and still held prisoner. Should the long-discussed prisoner exchange for him eventually go ahead, it would be proof that armed resistance by liberation struggles can still achieve concrete gains despite the military odds.

However, the Hamas government’s “morality campaigns” in Gaza in recent years have led to a decline in its popularity. At the same time, Fatah’a “security coordination” with Israel, corruption and a succession of scandals have meant they too remain unpopular. Recent polls show low approval ratings for both, with a majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories favouring no political party at all.

The fledgling Arab revolutions have changed the rules of the game. The Palestinian people are unlikely to tolerate Hamas and Fatah’s mutual delay in implementing the April deal to form a unity government and prepare for new elections.

Although Fatah and Hamas probably think they have diffused popular Palestinian discontent by signing their unity deal, the way things are going the third Palestinian intifada, an increasingly plausible prospect, is highly likely to cast them aside for a better, more unified strategy, transcending party politics.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears in Ceasefire every other Saturday. His website is