Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Hamas and Fatah divided | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, left, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: AP)

On Tuesday, July 16, I read the following news on the Gaza Now website: “Ghussein confirmed that security services affiliated to the Fatah movement are aiding the Egyptian media in fabricating stories against Gaza.”

First, we must note that the Ghussein in question is none other than Ehab Al-Ghussein, and he is—according to Gaza Now—the spokesman for the “Palestinian government” and head of the government’s media office. Of course, as everybody knows, the government that we are talking about here is the Ismail Hanniyeh (or shall we say Hamas) government of the Gaza Strip.

So what precisely are these “fabricated stories” that are appearing in the Egyptian media “against Gaza”? These stories predate the Egyptian military’s intervention in the political scene and ouster of President Mohamed Mursi and center around well-known accusations against Hamas of interfering in Egyptian domestic affairs.

So who is lying, and for what reason? To begin with, what we are looking for is lies and political deception. Nobody has the right to accuse another of lying without having evidence to back it up. My question here is not particularly about what is being reported in Cairo in terms of media allegations against Hamas, and this is also not the first crisis of its kind between Cairo and the Palestinian movement. In fact, the mutual slinging of accusations between Egypt and Hamas is something that we have witnessed on a number of occasions.

My questions are directed at the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, that will certainly have the most influence on Palestine’s present and future, leaving past considerations aside. Let me emphasize that I write without seeking to line up behind any specific party or side. I am not obliged to remain neutral in any way, shape or form. Following this, we must recognize the honorable record of both parties—and others—in the ongoing struggle to renew the Palestinian people’s hopes of the establishment of an independent state. So what has convinced the Hamas and Fatah leaders to act in this manner, disregarding the hopes and dreams of the Palestinian people? Why, at this crucial point in history, are the majority of Palestinian leaders prioritizing the interests of their own factions above those of the Palestinian people?

It is not good to generalize. However, I still recall—indeed, it is difficult for me to forget—the inter-Palestinian violence that occurred in the past. This is not to mention the documents and announcements issued by secret cadres within both organizations which, as soon as they were issued, appeared to strongly hint at the possibility of impending attack. Must we see a return to the bloodshed that took place in the streets of Amman in September 1970 [the Black September civil war]? Or is this scenario closer to Damascus and its role in Beirut? Is it necessary now to re-open old wounds regarding what happened in the camp wars in Lebanon between the former blood brothers and comrades-in-arms, resulting in an inter-Palestinian slaughter?

What is certain is that the Palestinians are not the only ones to be stung by the specter of civil war, and it is enough to look at what has happened from the mid-1990s until today across the globe to confirm this. However, recollections such as this often fail to impress. No problem. Take your time, understand the situation as you will, and accuse whomever you like. I have my own take on what is happening: namely, that all this talk aims to entrench discord simply in order to undermine past victories.

Briefly, problems can be resolved quickly and easily if we avoid complicating the issue. Over the past few years, Hamas and Fatah could have resolved all their problems if they had met face-to-face just once and each of their leaders focused on what united them, rather than what divided them. The things that unite Fatah and Hamas far outweigh those that divide them, and these are things that are shared with the majority of the Palestinian people.

Am I naive in thinking this way? Am I committing a sin in even suggesting this? I do not know, but what I do recall is a certain meeting that took place in one of the lavish restaurants of London’s Knightsbridge in 2008, during which a well-known Arab journalist who shall remain nameless broke bread with a senior Fatah official.

Of course, the conversation focused on the latest developments in Gaza. We agreed on some points, and disagreed on others. On the way to the Carlton Hotel, where the guest was staying, I said: “President Mahmoud Abbas could have moved to Gaza as soon as the June 2006 events started, even after Hamas had full control, and that would have prevented the inter-Palestinian division.”

I will never forget the manner in which this Fatah official stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and looked me in the eye. “Do you want the truth?” he asked. “Of course,” I replied. He said: “Nobody wants Gaza, and that is the truth.” I answered that Hamas has shown that it wants the Gaza Strip, and indeed has taken it, so what is Fatah going to do now? He did not give an answer.

Over the past six years, several meetings have been held between Hamas and Fatah, allegedly to achieve reconciliation or settle differences. However, nothing has been achieved. Today, Hamas contradicts “stories” allegedly fabricated by Egyptian media outlets. In fact, no one can deny Hamas this right. But shouldn’t people begin to questions Hamas and Fatah’s desire to achieve reconciliation after all this time?

This question has already been proposed by many others, but let me add my own question to this.

In the event that you are incapable of finding a solution, would it not be better for you and everybody else to announce that you accept this state of affairs publicly? Would it not be better for Hamas and Fatah to announce that they accept the two-state solutions, but referring in this case not Israel and an independent Palestinian state, but rather the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? What would be so wrong about this? In fact, the Palestinians would not be the first people in history with two states, which could move towards union in the future with the advent of a more capable and selfless generation. I hope the future will answer this question and prove my pessimistic fears wrong. However, I believe that it is my duty to express such fears regardless of the troubles they may cause.