From Socialist Voice, July 2007


Divide and rule

Two years ago, Israel, the European Union and the United States were demanding that the Palestinian people be allowed to vote to form a new government that would reflect their wishes. They presumed that the Palestinians had taken such a beating that they would be demoralised and broken as a result of the onslaught of the Israeli occupation forces and that they would elect a government that would sue for peace at any price.
     Unfortunately the Palestinians did not read the script properly and did not follow what the “international community” wanted them to do. Instead they elected a government led by Hamas—not the outcome that was expected or required. What the result showed was that the Palestinian people were not broken or defeated by the Israeli occupation but were sick of the corruption of leading circles of Fatah and other elements of the Palestinian elite. They wanted peace with justice, not surrender.
     Recently, friends and supporters of the freedom struggle of the Palestinian people watched in disbelief at the seemingly endless destruction, infighting and descent into chaos that the political forces representing the Palestinian people appeared unable to overcome and to end.
     Within the space of one week a series of seemingly unconnected events took place that may have a long-term effect on the Palestinian freedom struggle. Firstly we had the defeat and the expulsion of Fatah fighters from Gaza, resulting in Hamas assuming the dominant position in the area, while the daily incursions by the Israeli forces of occupation continued to wreak havoc on the people.
     Shortly after Hamas took control in Gaza they claimed to have unearthed evidence in the vacated headquarters of Fatah of collaboration between elements of Fatah, the CIA and the Mossad (Israeli secret intelligence), claims that have yet to be repudiated.
     Secondly, no sooner had Hamas routed its Palestinian opponents from Gaza and assumed control there than the Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas (a man who wrote a book about Palestine that never once described the Israeli army as an army of occupation), dissolved the elected Palestinian Authority and replaced the democratic government with a technocratic one, in effect creating two Palestinian entities, Gaza (controlled by Hamas) and the West Bank (controlled by Abbas and Fatah), with the people left confused and angry at the activities of their leaders.
     The dissolution of the elected government and its replacement with an unelected one was immediately welcomed by the “international community”—i.e. the United States, the European Union, and Israel. All agreed to release money withheld illegally from the ousted Hamas-led government. If the stick wasn’t working, maybe a bit of carrot might help the Palestinians see the error of their ways. If elections deliver the right result, that’s fine; if not, they must be set aside.
     A third event, apparently unrelated, was the announcement that Tony Blair, the retiring British prime minister, would be appointed a “special peace envoy” to the Middle East on behalf of the “international community.”
     All these events happened within the space of week or so, all apparently unrelated and unconnected.
     It is tragic to see the Palestinian people divided among themselves at a time when they need even greater unity as the forces of imperialism and those of religious fundamentalism attempt to corral them within their agendas for the Middle East.
     Progressive and secular forces appear to be impotent, unable to give effective leadership to the democratic struggles of the people.
     The old colonial tactic of divide and rule is still operational and being used with great effect against the Palestinian people.

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