Hassan Khader
November 30, 2008 - 1:00am

The Palestinian political struggle is not between Fatah and Hamas, but is between the Palestinian national movement as such and an armed militia that is supported by Syria, Iran, Qatar, and Muslim Brotherhood cells in the Arab world and beyond. And if both sides are accorded equal political status, then the national movement will lose.

Some people in Fatah think that the struggle is between Fatah and Hamas (and there are some factions in the Palestine Liberation Organization who hold the same view). But Hamas knows that its struggle is with the national movement as such, and not with Fatah. However, it focuses its struggle on Fatah, because Fatah is the most important national movement faction, and because it can overcome the other factions, either by elimination or cooptation, if it succeeds in defeating Fatah.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip derives its legal status from a series of regional and international agreements and understandings. As a result, if the Palestinian Authority agreed to be treated as an equal to Hamas in regional and international forums, it will lose.

The worst thing that could happen would be to Arabize or internationalize the struggle with Hamas. We should not fall into the trap of letting Arabs judge an interior Palestinian issue, even if their judgment was against Hamas, because turning an internal Palestinian matter into a bargaining chip in an intra-Arab political game would mean giving up independent Palestinian decision-making on national issues. Depending on Arab judgments, which depend on international judgments, does not necessary serve Palestinian interests.

Hamas won the Parliamentary elections, but it didn’t follow democratic rules in resolving internal conflicts and instead relied on violence to resolve the conflict by force, in spite of its ramifications for the Palestinian national cause. Not the least of which were separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, poisoning the Palestinian political scene, and subordinating the fate of a million and a half human beings to pursuing political aims that serve Hamas but do not serve Palestinian national interests. That is why talking about the law is meaningless before a return to the polls.

And there should not be any preconditions before participating in new presidential and parliamentary elections. All parties should instead engage in a transparent competition for the votes of the Palestinians, who have now realized the full consequences of Hamas’ policies, as well as the effects of the Palestinian National Movement’s political program as represented by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They have also realized where each program would take them.

What happened before, during and after the coup was not a disagreement in perspectives, but a struggle between competing nationalist and Islamist agendas. Some people in the nationalist camp are under the illusion that it is possible to contain the Islamist camp, while there are no illusions on the Islamist side, which is bent on controlling, restructuring, and Islamizing the Palestinian political scene or forcing an all-out Palestinian civil conflict that would take everyone down.

For the first time in the history of the Palestinian people, the struggle isn’t between the right and the left, the reactionaries and the progressives, the moderates and the extremists, or even between the fighters and the pacifists. The struggle that is being insisted on is be between “the believers and the infidels,” between “the Muslims and the secularists.”

In this regard, and in the midst of this chaos and this moral and political regression, President Mahmmoud Abbas represents the Palestinian national interests, and Fatah and the other factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization have to realize that standing by him, and morally and politically supporting him, is the best option the Palestinians can choose at present. That would also guarantee a prevention of the collapse of the entire Palestinian political field. Keeping this in mind, we should take special note of the last session of the Palestinian Central Council, and the decisions that resulted from it.


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