Johnston’s release: a bourgeois propaganda disaster
After his release, he stood beside the Hamas leader and illegally ousted prime minister, Ismail Haniya, and thanked everyone who had worked for his release. Haniya noted that this result confirmed that Hamas “is serious in imposing security and stability and maintaining law and order in this very dear part of our homeland”.
According to the BBC, Johnston said that Hamas’s seizure of power in Gaza and its subsequent pledge to improve security in the territory had facilitated his release, adding that “the kidnappers seemed very comfortable and very secure in their operation until a few weeks ago, when Hamas took charge of the security operation here … If it hadn’t been for that real serious Hamas pressure, that commitment to tidying up Gaza’s many, many security problems, then I might have been in that room for a lot longer.”
Hamas security chief Mahmoud Zahar noted: “It’s a clear message. We will not allow illegal actions against anyone. We are going to confiscate weapons in the hands of clans used for personal interests.”
Incoming prime minister Gordon Brown showed himself up as a hypocrite at his first parliamentary question time. The facts of the case were so obvious that he felt obliged to acknowledge the “crucial” role played by Hamas in securing the journalist’s release. Yet in the next breath he asserted that the British policy of aggression towards Palestine’s elected leaders would continue until Hamas showed a commitment to non-violence (ie, gave up resistance)!
But Johnston’s testimony carried more conviction than Brown’s weasel words ever could, resonating with the sentiments of those in Gaza itself. Hatem Shurrab, a 22 year-old aid worker in Gaza, told Al Jazeera’s Voices from Gaza: “I don’t think the Fatah militants are all bad or criminals, many are good people who want to work for the Palestinian people. Hamas has just targeted those who killed other Palestinians and helped the Israelis … The solution – what I demand as a Palestinian – is an agreement between the two parties. Fatah can even still have some power. This past month, when we heard explosions, we knew it was the Palestinians fighting each other, but now when we hear something we will know that it will be from fighting the Israeli occupation. It will feel like a war between two sides, not the same side fighting itself.”
Defending Arafat’s legacy: unity in struggle
Nor is it Al Jazeera alone that carries such reports. In a valuable admission, the New York Times concedes that, without what Hamas “considers the troublemakers of the Fatah security forces, some of whom had been engaging in crime and destabilising acts, Hamas may very well bring a new security to the people of Gaza” . (‘Palestinian split poses a policy quandary for US’, 16 June 2007)
Another report in Jerusalem Post has a Fatah security officer explaining why his unit surrendered. “We decided to surrender … because we didn’t feel that our commanders and leaders were behind us. Many of our commanders had fled to Ramallah and Cairo, where they were issuing orders to us from air-conditioned hotel rooms … We were stationed near President Mahmoud Abbas’s office in Gaza City … They just told us to stay where we are and to defend the office of the president. I didn’t want to die defending an empty building while the president and Muhammad Dahlan are sitting in Ramallah.” (‘Our leaders betrayed us’, 16 June 2007)
Small wonder that honest patriots within Fatah, inspired by the tradition of unity in struggle associated with the leadership of the late Yasser Arafat, should be made sick to the stomach by the divisive influence of the Abbas-Dahlan leadership faction within the movement.
Just whom that disunity was intended to serve is clear from the grumbling of the paymasters. Olmert is quoted in the New York Times as whining: “I look at the Fatah fighting now in Gaza, and I don’t see any of the commanders in the area. Where have they been? Where have they disappeared? Why are they not in Gaza? How can one expect that the Fatah will prevail if all their commanders are away ..?” (17 June 2007)
Clearly the man feels he is not getting value for his money – or rather, for the US dollars that alone keep zionism afloat. Imperialism hoped to buy itself an endless civil war in Palestine, sapping the strength of the national resistance struggle long term. Instead, it has hastened the exposure of its own collaborators and cleared the way for the revival of the authentic struggle tradition within Fatah.
Haniya: Gaza belongs to all Palestinians
Falsely presented in the media as a sectarian Hamas victory over Fatah, what has in fact been re-established in Gaza is the legitimate authority of the leadership chosen by the Palestinians in democratic elections.
It was the sectarian divisions sown within Fatah itself by the enemies of Palestine that necessitated the security crackdown. Whilst the puppets of imperialism have busied themselves inventing a new ‘Palestinian government’ more to the taste of their masters, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, supposedly ‘dismissed’ along with the rest of the Unity Government (to be replaced by a puppet regime in the pay of Washington and Tel Aviv, trying to lord it over the shrinking Bantustans of the West Bank), has continued to call for talks with Fatah, stressing again and again that “the door is open to restructure Palestinian relations on the basis of national values”. (Financial Times, 15 June 2007)
Contrary to all the media garbage about plans for establishing ‘Hamastan’, Haniya specifically rules out setting up a separate state ruled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In an interview with France’s Le Figaro, he asserted that “Gaza belongs to all the Palestinian people and not just Hamas. Separation is not on the agenda and never will be.” (Cited by Al Jazeera onlin, 17 June 2007)
The political head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, told a press conference in Damascus: “What is needed now is to deal with the Palestinian schism. Hamas is for Arab sponsorship of a dialogue in the Palestinian national interest.”
In shameful contrast, efforts by the Arab League to mediate between Meshaal and Abbas were repudiated by the latter, who rejected these efforts as “a flagrant intervention in our affairs”, and an attempt to impose “a dialogue with killers”. (Clearly it’s a different kettle of fish when the intervention comes from the paymasters in Washington and Tel Aviv, and when the killers are those orchestrating violence against Hamas supporters in the West Bank.)
There is evidence that those forces within Fatah for whom the national interest is paramount are regrouping in the interests of Palestinian unity. The new, non-sectarian head of Fatah in Gaza, predictably rubbished in the bourgeois media as no more than a mediocre yes-man for Hamas, in fact has long been a significant figure within Fatah.
As spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior of the Palestinian Authority, Khalid Abu Hilal addressed a press conference back in April 2006 to report on efforts being made to merge six different armed resistance wings into a special unit in support of the Palestinian police. One of those resistance wings belonged to Hamas, and two belonged to Fatah. The Palestine News Network release of the time noted that “The point is to rid Palestine of internal chaos.”
Wishing to rescue the Fatah tradition of unity in struggle from the mud into which it has been dragged, Abu Hilal has announced the formation of Fatah al-Yasser (after Yasser Arafat), calling on the “good guys” in Fatah in both Gaza and the West Bank to rally round. At the inauguration of the party, speeches hailed slain Fatah leaders from the pre-collaboration period, making clear the continuity of the Intifada tradition.
Divide and rule: Israel’s panic measures
Imperialism is doing all in its power to re-impose ‘internal chaos’, hoping to promote division within the resistance at all costs. After illegally withholding revenues from the PA since the Hamas election victory, Tel Aviv equally illegally transferred $118m into the hands of the new puppet government, enabling the quislings to portray themselves as benefactors, paying out salaries to nearly 140,000 civil servants in the West Bank.
Carrying out imperialism’s divide and rule agenda, however, the puppets explained that civil servants in Gaza would get nothing – unless of course they agreed to ignore any instructions from local Hamas managers and hearken only to diktats from the stooges! This means that up to 23,000 workers who were hired after Hamas won the January 2006 elections will get nothing.
Meanwhile, Fatah members of Gaza’s security forces have been told to stay at home as a condition for receiving their salaries. What better way could there be to try and scupper the restoration of unity than to bribe a section of the security forces to abandon their posts? By telling them to strike or starve, the sectarian agents of imperialism vainly hope to re-impose the ‘internal chaos’ from which Gaza has so recently escaped.
It should be understood that Israel sponsors these arms-length provocations, in concert with its own direct and murderous military assaults upon the Palestinian population, in a spirit of mounting desperation at its own failures, setbacks and divisions.
As Lalkar pointed out recently, “The continued Palestinian resistance against occupation, combined with the bloody defeat Israel suffered at the hands of Hizbollah in its war of aggression against Lebanon last year, have served to reveal the limits of Israeli might and its inherent weakness”, further observing that “by missing the opportunity to grasp the two-state solution, so generously offered to them by the Palestinians, they are creating the conditions for a one-state solution, and with it the end to the whole racist idea of an ethnically cleansed Jewish state. Roll on the day.” (July/August 2007)
For the Palestinian resistance, the struggle is now on to restore and strengthen unity in the teeth of all external aggression and internal provocations. All efforts to strengthen unity in struggle deserve the full support of all progressive people. Remember the words of the aid worker in Gaza quoted earlier. “This past month, when we heard explosions, we knew it was the Palestinians fighting each other, but now when we hear something we will know that it will be from fighting the Israeli occupation. It will feel like a war between two sides, not the same side fighting itself.”
Long live the unity of the Palestinian resistance!
Victory to the Intifada!