Friday, June 15, 2007

US and Israel Stir Up Palestinian Crisis

by Ira Chernus

"......But if you know how to read between the lines, even our mainstream media tell a much more complicated story, one that implicates Israel and the U.S. government too. All the quotes that follow are from reporting on the crisis in the mainstream’s flagship newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post......

The U.S. and Israel have led the world in forcing Fatah to resist Hamas’ democractically-won power. In a just-released document, “the United Nations’ former top Middle East envoy has sharply criticized U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the Hamas-led Palestinian government, saying the policy has further radicalized Palestinian opinion and undercut long-term efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state. The broadside by Alvaro de Soto was contained in a confidential 52-page report he filed before resigning from the United Nations last month. Starting in May 2005, de Soto directed U.N. efforts to ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “With all the focus on the failings of Hamas,” De Soto observed, “the Israeli settlement enterprise and barrier construction has continued unabated.”

But Hamas’ complaint is more specific. “Hamas wants a restored unity government where the security forces would all report to the interior minister.” Why is that so important? The security forces have been controlled by Fatah and its security chief Mohammed Dahlan. “During 12 years in power, Fatah had repeatedly cracked down on the [Hamas] Islamists, including in 1996 when the Preventive Security Service, then led by Dahlan, arrested Hamas leaders.” “Many of those who were imprisoned remember the treatment they received as cruel and humiliating.”

Now “Hamas spokesmen said the movement had no political goal except to defend itself from a group within Fatah collaborating with Israel and the United States. They said they wanted to bring the security forces under the control of the unity government.” “A Hamas spokesman said the movement was defending itself, not reaching for unalloyed power. He said Hamas ‘is doing the work that Fatah failed to do, to control these [security] groups,’ whom he accused of crimes, chaos and collaboration with Israel and the United States.”

Indeed, Israel “has made no bones about backing Fatah and attacking only Hamas targets.” And the U.S. has funded and supported the Israeli efforts. “Since the election victory of Hamas in January 2006, the United States and Israel have worked to isolate and damage Hamas and build up Fatah with recognition and weaponry.” The weapons go to Fatah’s security forces, led by Dahlan. CIA operatives have long worked closely with Dahlan’s security apparatus.

According to De Soto, “U.S. officials ‘clearly pushed for a confrontation’ between Hamas and Fatah. … A U.S. [diplomatic] representative, he recalled, said: ‘I like this violence . . . it means that other Palestinians are resisting Hamas.’”

In the midst of the current crisis, the Bush administration continues to take sides and stir up the conflict. “Administration officials were pushing Mr. Abbas to dissolve the power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas [and] dismiss the entire government.” When Abbas did just that, “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for Mr. Abbas’s decrees.”......

But now Israel seems to have a new reason for fanning the Fatah-Hamas feud into a civil war. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “is expected to tell Mr. Bush that Israel favored sealing off the West Bank from the turmoil in Gaza, continuing to prevent contact between the two territories.” “Some Israeli security officials say Israel wants to see the West Bank isolated from Gaza.”......"

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