August 5, 2008.
It is a damning indication of just how bad things have become in the
Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip when Fatah militants there must look to Israel for
protection from their Palestinian rivals.
The Jewish state announced on Monday that it would help a group of 150
Fatah fighters who had fled weekend clashes in Gaza relocate to the West
Bank, after determining that they would face “imminent danger” if they were to
The scenes of Israel coming to the rescue of Palestinians after a bout of Arab
fratricide were reminiscent of the events of Black September, during which
scores of Palestinians sought asylum in Israel to escape King Hussein’s
crackdown on the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The only difference this time around is that instead of seeking refuge
from a heavy-handed Arab crackdown, Palestinians are fleeing from the
murderous hands of their own Palestinian brothers.
Achievement of the Palestinian cause requires that all factions maintain a
semblance of orderliness and keep their eyes on the price of independent
statehood. In this both Fatah and Hamas have been miserable failures. Both
have put partisan interests ahead of national ones and therefore have failed to
maintain anything like a united Palestinian front.
Even the mediation attempts of Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have not
been enough to curb the political infighting and internecine bloodshed that have
served to further threaten the Palestinians’ very right to existence.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been deteriorating since the international
community callously decided to punish an entire people for having exercised
their democratic rights in the legislative elections of January 2006.
But the Hamas movement is now exacerbating the situation by
undermining the rule of law in the territory. After accusing its Fatah rivals of
carrying out a deadly bombing late last week that killed five Hamas leaders and
a little girl, the Islamist party launched what can be only be described as a
witch-hunt, rounding up some 200 Fatah activists.
Fatah provided an equally bad example of governance in the West Bank when it
retaliated against the move by rounding up scores of people it branded “Hamas
activists,” including many judges, students and activists who have no known
affiliation with the Islamist party.
On both sides of divided Palestine, civilians must now add Fatah and
Hamas to the long list of threats to their security and wellbeing.
The events of the last week are just the most recent example of how the
situation in the Occupied Territories has gone from bad to worse under the
watchful eyes of elected Palestinian “representatives.”
Hundreds of people were killed last year when the two groups allowed
their rivalry to degenerate into street violence. Hundreds more were prevented
from going about their normal activities such as attending school, going to work
or expressing political views.
Over the past few days the two Palestinian factions seem to be close to
repeated the same disastrous mistakes. We have seen Palestinians denigrating
the legitimacy of other Palestinians, Palestinians making war on other
Palestinians, and Palestinians arresting other Palestinians, while the Jewish
state has come to the rescue of those Palestinians who fear for their lives.
Israel has never looked so good.