Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Palestinian President & Fatah Chief Mahmoud 'Abbas Calls for New Elections

After months of political squabbling between the ruling religious HAMAS party and the more secular-minded Fatah party founded by Yasir Arafat, Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President and Fatah chief Mahmoud 'Abbas [RIGHT] has called for new legislative elections despite the fact that it's been less than a year since HAMAS took power in January. 'Abbas and other senior Fatah officials such as security chiefs Muhammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub hope to sweep HAMAS aside after the two premier Palestinian political movements failed to reach an agreement for a unity government in order to push forward peace talks with the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Within days of making his announcement 'Abbas received vocal support (to no one's surprise) from Olmert [to RIGHT of photo on left], embattled British Prime Minister Tony Blair [to LEFT of photo], and the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush. Blair, Bush, and Olmert said that it was important to strengthen the Palestinian faction which was most interested in entering into negotiations with Israel. Two facts, namely that HAMAS was swept into power through a democratic election verified by international monitors as fair and new elections are of dubious legality according to the Palestinian consitution, do not seem to have interested the three. The underlying message seems clear: Blair and Bush are only interested in "democracy" when the results of democratic processes are amenable to the United Kingdom, the U.S. and its chief ally and its client-states in the Middle East which include Israel and authoritarian secular Arab regimes such as those in Egypt, Jordan, and a Fatah-led PNA.

For more information, see:


In an effort to bolster 'Abbas' standing with the Palestinian people, Olmert said that he would work hard to set up a meeting between himself and the Fatah chief. He also promised to release part of the hundreds of millions of tax dollars collected for the PNA by the Israeli government for "humanitarian purposes" with funds likely going to Fatah-controlled institutions as opposed to the HAMAS-led government.

For more information on Ehud Olmert's promise to meet 'Abbas, see:

The stalemate between Fatah and HAMAS revolves around the refusal of HAMAS to drop clauses from its foundational 1987 charter and recognize Israel as a legitimate state. HAMAS leaders such as the Damascus-based head of the political bureau Khaled Meshaal and Gaza-based Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyeh [RIGHT] have stated that they would enter into a longterm truce with Israel if the latter withdrew to the borders of pre-June 1967 when Gaza and the West Bank fell to Israeli forces. Israel withdrew approximately 7,500-8,000 radical Jewish messianic settlers from Gaza in 2005.

HAMAS has threatened to boycott early elections if they are found to be legal and are indeed held. "We stand against any step that is against the law and against the constitution. "What's needed to address the inter-Palestinian crisis is national agreement, not actions by individuals, especially taken in response to foreign pressure," said Meshaal [LEFT], who characterized 'Abbas' call as "illegal."

For more information on HAMAS' threat to boycott early elections, see:

Fears of a Palestinian civil war have increased over the past eight days as HAMAS and Fatah paramilitary units have battled each other in the streets of Gaza City and the West Bank. Although hostilities between the two parties have been brewing since HAMAS took power earlier this year, two attacks last week caused tensions to boil over.

On Monday, unknown gunmen (probably affiliated with HAMAS or Palestinian Islamic Jihad) fired on the car of PNA intelligence officer and Fatah strongman Baha Balousha in Gaza City. Although he wasn't in the car, his three children were killed. The attempted assassination of Balousha followed an attempt last Sunday to assassinate PNA Interior Minister Sa'id Siyam, a HAMAS leader. Following Monday's violence, unknown gunmen (probably affiliated with Fatah or one of its quasi-affiliated paramilitary wings, the secular al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades or the Tanzim militia, SEE LEFT) fired upon the party of Prime Minister Haniyeh as he waited on the Egyptian/Gaza border after the Israelis temporarily refused to let him enter despite the fact that the PNA was supposedly in control of its Gaza border with neighboring Egypt. One of Haniyeh's bodyguards was killed and his son 'Abed and several others were wounded. HAMAS blamed the attack on senior Fatah official Dahlan [RIGHT] , who expectedly denied involvement.

For more information on Palestinian factional fighting, see: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/15/news/mideast.php

On Friday, HAMAS demonstrations celebrating the nineteenth anniversary of the movement's founding which were held in the Palestinian administrative capital city of Ramallah were violently interrupted by the Fatah-controlled official PNA security forces, of which Dahlan and Jibril have a significant role in commanding. Initial reports suggest that the security forces initiated the violence by attempting to break up demonstrators with batons [BELOW.]
After the failure of an earlier ceasefire over the weekend to halt inter-factional violence, a new ceasefire was negotiated between the two parties and has nominally gone into effect today. Both 'Abbas and the Fatah leadership and Haniyeh and the HAMAS leadership have called for their paramilitaries [HAMAS, BELOW LEFT] to show restraint in order to maintain peace. The fighting has already led to the death of over a dozen Palestinians including several Fatah and HAMAS members or affiliates who were kidnapped and murdered by unknown gunmen, probably affiliated with the other party. Among the deaths was HAMAS-affiliated judge Bassam al-Fara who was executed on a street in Khan Yunis on Wednesday.

For more information on the new Palestinian ceasefire, see:

There are also signs that Fatah supporters have begun using sectarianism against HAMAS. In a rally in Khan Yunis in Gaza, Fatah loyalists chanted, "Shi'a, Shi'a," against HAMAS, referencing Iranian support of the latter party. This occurence is the latest example of anti-Shi'i bigotry shown by certain segments of the Sunni Arab community, thinly disguised as anti-Iranian sentiment. The fact remains that within large segments of the Sunni Arab community, "Iranian" and "Shi'i/Shi'a" are synonyms: all Iranians must be Shi'i and vice versa.
Even secular and supposedly enlightened peo-U.S. autocrats like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt [to RIGHT] and King 'Abdullah II [to LEFT] of Jordan have used similar rhetoric during the past 2 years. With the continued political ascension of Hizbu'llah and AMAL in Lebanon and the destruction of Saddam Husayn's Sunni-dominated Ba'th Party in Iraq, Sunni Arab leaders (both religious and secular) are deathly afraid of what they perceive as growing Iranian influence in the region. This fear is fed by nonsense from the Bush administration who lump all anti-American and anti-Israeli Shi'i socio-political movements in with Iran.

In fact, many of the most prominent Shi'i parties are not pro-Iranian. In Iraq, Jama'at al-Sadr al-Thani (Movement of al-Sadr the Second) of Muqtada al-Sadr [LEFT] and the movement of Shaykh (rumored to be an ayatullah) Mahmoud Hassani al-Sarkhi are Shi'i Arab nationalists and rose to prominence on platforms that advocated an Iraqi Arab leadership. Despite receiving support from Iran, Hizbu'llah is not, as is often alleged in subpar Western media outlets, an extension of the Iranian state. Hizbu'llah has also received significant support from Syria but this doesn't mean that the former buys the rabidly secular Syrian Ba'th ideology of either the late Hafiz al-Asad or his son and successor Bashar.

It's interesting how those who reject the idea that Israel is a U.S. client-state allege that Hizbu'llah [RIGHT] is simply an agent of Iran. The U.S. funds Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year, more than any other country. U.S. foreign aid dwarfs whatever Iran sends to Hizbu'llah. If financial and political support equal control, wouldn't it be fair to say that Israel is essentially an extension of the U.S.? Although I do not support this simplified idea, this question makes clear the twisted logic used by some policy "experts" in Washington, D.C.

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