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Posts tagged ‘Fatah’

Fatah strangled at rebirth

Last week, Fatah finished up its general conference in Bethlehem, the first time the movement had held such a gathering for 20 years. The conference, which began on 3 August and ran for several more days than scheduled, was billed as the opportunity for Fatah to breathe some life into an ossified leadership structure and kickstart a political comeback.

As the gathering drew to a close, with Abbas re-elected as party leader, new central committee members announced and votes being counted for the revolutionary council, western media headlines gave the impression that it had largely been a success, like the New York Times’s report: Fatah party election brings in a new generation. Read more

The Palestinian Authority’s authoritarian turn

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions. Read more

Fatah is turning into a footnote

The future of Fatah is up in the air. Internal divisions and a confused political programme – problems that arguably date back decades – have led this historic Palestinian party to a moment of truth. It is no exaggeration to say that the crisis is of sufficient proportions that Fatah’s continued existence as a political force to be reckoned with is under threat.

This can be best illustrated by a non-event, namely the sixth Fatah general conference, which some 20 years on since the last such meeting, continues to be bereft of a firm date or location. Rumours come and go about when – or even if – the conference will be held; in public, the official line is that the inordinate delay is a result of the necessary preparations. Read more

How did Palestine lose its prime minister?

As the Palestinian factions meet in Cairo for crucial reconciliation talks this week, analysts are still trying to decode the resignation of Salam Fayyad from his role as prime minister.

The standard assessment, such as that reported by the BBC on the Cairo unity talks, is that Fayyad’s resignation was “intended to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government”. Why would removing Fayyad help? Because, goes the theory, such a step is an appeasement of Hamas, who have always maintained that Fayyad – appointed rather than elected – was an “illegitimate” prime minister. Read more

The Palestinian torturers

Two reports released this week are throwing the spotlight on Palestinians who are detained without charge and tortured by the Hamas and Fatah forces. Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, has detailed how more than 1,000 have been arrested in the last year, with “an estimated 20%-30% of the detainees” having suffered torture “including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions”.

Human Rights Watch is today releasing a similarly-focused report which concludes that “the use of torture is dramatically up”. Al-Haq accuses both Hamas’s Executive Force, and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)’s Preventive Security Force of widespread maltreatment of detainees. Read more

Decoding the media’s Palestinian “civil war”

Major news stories from Palestine/Israel are often accompanied by what becomes a self-reinforcing “vocabulary,” typically generated by Israeli government ministries or other propaganda outlets, and then picked up by the Western media. A classic example was the redeployment of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which was successfully packaged as a “disengagement” that pitted “Israeli against Israeli,” in a “painful compromise.” This kind of marketing exercise often works even when there are widely available contradictory reports, such as how “disengagement” was openly trumpeted by Sharon and his advisors as a strategy for destroying the peace process. Read more

The War in Gaza

The events in Gaza this week, which represented the dramatic climax of months of tense bouts of fighting between Hamas and Fatah, were painful to watch. Those who stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, like the thousands who marched in London last weekend, need not be shy about speaking out, despite the pressures of the cynical, smug analysis that laughs at Palestinian ‘self-rule’ and says ‘I told you so’. Responsibility for the current crisis is shared amongst most of the protagonists. Read more

Some uncomfortable questions

There is no doubt that to witness the Hamas-Fatah confrontations is a discomforting experience for those working for justice for the Palestinians. On the most basic level, it is distressing to see a colonized people expend energies not resisting occupation but in kidnapping and killing each other. There is also the knowledge that all of this plays right into Israeli hands, serving as both a justification for occupation (‘look what happens when we give them territory’), as well as a distraction for a media that does not exactly need an incentive to avoid discussing the conflict’s roots. However, there are other, more profound reasons why Palestinian domestic politics of the last year should produce discomfort, as the PLC elections and subsequent events have thrown into sharper relief some questions that are unpleasant – yet necessary – to face. Read more

Fragmenting Palestine and Palestinians

Before leaving for Palestine earlier in the summer, a friend of mine gave me a postcard by a Palestinian artist that expressed, he said, the fact that “the situation in the Middle East always seems to get worse, never better”. Sadly, three months in Palestine seemed to confirm this grim reality, as with each passing day, the occupation’s grip becomes tighter and ‘Palestine’ gets smaller. As 2006 begins to draw to a close it is useful to take a step back from the daily horrors in Gaza or the arrest raids in the West Bank, to assess three broad Israeli strategies vis à vis the Palestinians, and how they might be resisted. Read more

Reform as resistance

The word ‘reform’ has rarely been so common a part of the discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Whether wielded by Israel and the ‘Quartet’ as a stick with which to beat the Palestinian Authority (PA), or the key slogan of the victorious Hamas’ election campaign, everyone is talking about ‘reform’. The fact that it is used in such different contexts and by such diverse actors is enough to warrant an examination of ‘reform’ as it is applied in the Palestinian context.

In the last few years Israel has continued its time-honoured practice of establishing facts on the ground, unhindered in part due to its stalling tactics in the remaining vestiges of a ‘peace process’. The typical argument has been that there can be no progress in negotiations or concessions until the Palestinians, one, ‘reform’ their institutions and purge the corruption from the PA, and two, ‘rein in the militants’. Read more