Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Tony Karon's Rootless Cosmopolitan
An Important Article
Guest Column: Mark Perry offers 10 reasons why Hamas, rather than Abu Mazen and his U.S. backers will prevail in the struggle for Palestinian hearts and minds. The Islamists today represent the Palestinian mainstream, while Fatah is broken from top to bottom. Even more importantly, Abbas is increasingly isolated within his own organization, most of whose grassroots and mid-level leadership want nothing to do with the U.S. schemes on which Abbas has staked his future. By Halloween, expect Abbas to be either back in a unity government with Hamas, or else having departed the scene.
"......Instead, Abu Mazen will fail to solidify his position as President of the Palestinian Authority; the American program to support him will fail; there will be no international conference; and, within the next sixty to ninety days — and almost certainly by the end of the year — Abu Mazen and his colleagues will either be forced into exile or will take steps to reconstitute the national unity government that they have spent the last 60 days destroying.
And here’s why:
1. Palestinian society is not divided
Palestinian society is more united than it has been in years, in spite of what we see on our televisions or read in the American press. The “Gaza coup” was not launched in Gaza, but in Ramallah — and the forces that brought instability to the Strip were funded and armed by the United States......The Palestinian people know this. They know their vote was overturned by Abu Mazen and the United States, and they resent it.
2. Hamas remains popular, and it is gaining strength
It is true, there have been some dips in the popularity of the movement in some areas, but the losses are not significant. And, remember, there is a tendency in the U.S. to consistently underestimate Hamas’s popularity....Hamas has not repeated Fatah’s mistakes: despite the clear temptations of power, it has provided as good a government as its resources have allowed — no stain of impropriety has touched its senior leadership. This remains its most significant achievement.
3. Hamas represents mainstream Palestinian society
Palestinian society is not secular, liberal, progressive and western. It is Arab, traditional, conservative and Muslim. Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayad, Saeb Erakat and Yasser Abed Rabbo are fine people — and they are friends of mine — but they do not represent mainstream Palestinian society. Hamas does......and Palestinians aren’t governed from Ramallah, but from Jubalya — and wishing it so doesn’t make it so. That Fatah was defeated is not simply a comment on their corruption, but on their inability to speak for the people of Palestine. It is for this that Hamas is likely to grow and prosper.
4. Hamas is is not innately or irrevocably wedded to violence
.....The view from Gaza may seem dark, perhaps the view is even darker in Damascus. But there is another side to the ledger, and it is as significant: Balancing Hamas’s strengths are Fatah’s continuing weaknesses — and those cannot be reversed with a simple infusion of our money.
5. From top to bottom, Fatah is broken
Fatah is weak, aging, corrupt, disorganized, and even more divided than Hamas; it is funded exclusively through outside sources; it lacks a clear political program and political vision; its leadership is out-of-touch, conference-bound, tethered to a past era; it is dependent for its survival on the United States and Israel (a fact of which Palestinian society is well aware, at the expense of Fatah’s credibility)....
6. The political battle being waged in the West Bank now is being waged inside of Fatah
..... Abu Mazen’s plea to the Central Committee last Tuesday, that “my aides have told me my actions are legal,” brought laughter even from his closest supporters. Former Prime Minister Abu Alaa has refused to support him and Hani al-Hassan has denounced him......
7. Abu Mazen is increasingly isolated
....And doing that is deeply resented in the West Bank. So too, the security services are in a posture of near-revolt over the policy of continuing arrests of anti-Abu Mazen partisans. Posters have begun to appear in the West Bank, styling Abu Mazen a Palestinian Pinochet...The posters are being designed by Fatah, not Hamas. Do we really believe that the Palestinian police will continue to follow Abbas’s orders: to arrest Hamas activists because they do not meet the conditions of the Quartet? Because Hamas does not “recognize Israel?”
8. The united front of the U.S.-Israel and the Arab regimes is no match for Hamas in the battle for Palestinian support
......The U.S. program in Iraq is in a shambles, calm and stability are returning to Gaza, questions about the American program for Palestine are being raised in Washington. This is not a time for sudden political movement or a shift in strategy, it is a time for political calculation. Hamas knows it. Israel knows it. Egypt knows it. Saudi Arabia knows it. The only person who doesn’t seem to know it is George Bush.
9. Hamas’s reign in Gaza undermines the propaganda of its foes
....There is no enforcement of the veil or other conservative Islamic social laws, no Sharia council, no compulsion to attend the mosque. Stability has returned to Gaza. People are obeying the law, and feel secure. This is not a lesson lost on either Egypt or the Israelis. Which would they rather have — civil conflict or civil order?
10. Abu Mazen has crossed the line
.....There are lines. Palestinians do not send other Palestinians into exile; Palestinians do not shoot other Palestinians; Palestinians do not betray other Palestinians, Palestinians do not resolve their political differences by gunfire, Palestinians do not collaborate with their enemies, do not betray their own people, Palestinians are not traitors to their own cause, Palestinians do not send Palestinians to Israeli jails. And at one time or another each of these lines has been crossed. But at no time, ever, has any Palestinian ever renounced the one principle — the one true commandment that has motivated every Palestinian patriot from Arafat to Abu Musa to Abu Nidal: that the Palestinian people are indivisible; that they cannot be divided.
Until now. By turning his back on the Palestinians in Gaza, but even actively seeking their impoverishment in the United Nations (as he did, shamefully, on Friday, when his diplomats blocked efforts to seek a Security Council statement on the humanitarian situation there), Abu Mazen has set out to divide the Palestinian nation, to set it against itself. And that line, in the end, cannot be crossed. And the fact that Abu Mazen has crossed it will, in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people, make all the difference. There is only one Palestine and now, Abu Mazen is not a part of it."