by Gerry Foley / March 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
The unexpected victory of Hamas in the Jan. 25 Palestinian Authority legislative elections was a resounding rebuff to the U.S.-Israeli policy of trying to push Palestinian leaders into collaborating with the Zionist state.
U.S. experts have been trying to explain away the Islamist group’s victory by saying that it was only a result of divisions within the previous ruling party, Fatah. But that avoids the question of why Fatah was split. In fact, it was splintered by tensions between collaborationists and fighters, which ultimately were a result of Zionist and Western imperialist pressure on the Fatah leadership.
The response of Fatah militants to Hamas’ victory was to promise more military action against Israel.
Another argument by such experts is that the Islamic group gained the votes of Palestinians disillusioned by the corruption and incompetence of Fatah. But that also begs the question of why Fatah became so riddled with corruption. In fact, the rot was part of the imperialist-Zionist policy of trying to draw Palestinian leaders into collaboration.
In the economically besieged Palestinian territories about a third of incomes come from Palestinian Authority jobs that have been mainly financed by aid from imperialist governments and taxes and duties collected by Israel on behalf of the PA.
The Western imperialists and the Zionist government are now threatening to cut off that money unless Hamas makes the same kind of political concessions that Fatah did before—that is, recognizing the legitimacy of the state of Israel and confining its aspirations to the formation of a Palestinian mini-state in the shadow of Israel, and promising to halt military
attacks on Israel.
The prospect of an Islamist government in the Palestinian territories pledged to the destruction of Israel and financed by anti-Western and anti-Zionist Islamic forces in the region—first of all, the Islamic Republic of Iran—has aroused alarmist talk in the Israeli government as well as in Washington. There are some dangers for the Zionist state, if the PA now becomes dependent on Iran.
The Lebanese Hezbullah are an example in point: a very effective guerrilla force backed by Iran. It is apparently far more formidable than any of the Palestinian armed forces, or even all of them together.
The U.S. and Israel cannot expect to bully Iran out of financing the PA. In fact, they seem to having no luck even with Saudi Arabia. And Iran has developed missiles that can hit Israel if there is a major confrontation.
Direct Iranian involvement therefore raises the specter of a major war in the Middle East. However, this is not an entirely new threat. The planting of a Western colony-fortress in the heart of the region has always posed the threat of spreading wars. Since their victory, Hamas leaders have been raising the idea of integrating all the Palestinian armed forces into a national army to defend the Palestinian people.
Obviously, this implies a threat of a general war between the Palestinians and Israel. However, the Palestinian security force has tried to defend Palestinian cities and neighborhoods against Israeli attacks, and firefights between it and the Israeli army have not been so rare.
As long as the Israeli army continues to attack Palestinian areas, all Palestinians with the means will try to fight back. And it will be difficult for the Iranians to provide them with more resources. Israel surrounds all the Palestinian territories. It continues to control the Jordan valley, the border with Jordan, so completely that a human rights group has accused it of de facto annexing the territory, which accounts for nearly a third of the West Bank. Since the Hamas victory, Israel has closed the border with the Gaza strip, and is not even allowing elected Hamas deputies from Gaza to travel to the Palestinian parliament. Already, the border closures are ruining Gaza farmers.
Hamas talks a more intransigent line than Fatah. But the practice of the two organizations was never very different. The armed organizations connected with Fatah have also been carrying out desperate military attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israel and Israelis. Obviously, they have had to do that to maintain credibility with the Palestinian people. Any organization that seeks the support of the Palestinian people has to show its determination to strike back at the Zionists.
Historically, all of the Palestinian organizations have indulged in fire-breathing threats against
Israel. That is probably a defense mechanism of organizations representing a defeated and humiliated people. It has never been backed up by a real strategy for defeating Zionism.
The original leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Ahmed Shukeiry, habitually boasted about driving “the coward Jews into the sea.” These threats were ably exploited by Israeli propaganda, but they were never followed up by effective action against the Zionist state.
Since their electoral victory, Hamas leaders have been sending signals that their refusal to recognize Israel and their aim of liberating all of Palestine is something for the indefinite future. For the time being, they are prepared to agree to a two-state coexistence with Israel and an indefinite military “truce,” if Israel turns over all the territories conquered in 1967 to the Palestinian Authority. Of course, Israel is unlikely to do that. The Zionist authorities insist that they want to maintain control of the border with Jordan and the large blocs of Zionist settlement on the West Bank.
But the implicit proposals of Hamas suggest a continuation of military attacks as a means of
pressuring the Israelis for concessions (a policy that was long followed by the PLO of Yasir Arafat), rather than a strategy for defeating the Zionist state, In an interview published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Khaled Meshal, an exiled leader of Hamas even offered an end to the armed struggle: “If Israel recognizes our rights, and pledges to withdraw from the occupied territories, Hamas, and with it, all of the Palestinian people,
will decide to put an end to the armed struggle” (Le Monde, Feb 22).
The real threat of the Hamas victory to Israel and its imperialist protectors, therefore, is not based so much on what Hamas may do, but on being another demonstration of the general rise of anti-imperialist feeling in the Middle East. This consciousness is becoming so extensive and so furious that it threatens powerful explosions—which might even overwhelm the imperialist forces and allies in the region.