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By Micah Halpern

Wednesday July 30, 2008


There are murders, mass arrests and a leading newspaper has been shut down. Tensions that had been simmering below the surface are now out in the open and they are boiling over. Hamas and Fatah are not only out for blood, they are out for power and control.

Gaza and tension go together like America and apple pie. They are inseparable. Even when the tension was not obviously manifest, even when it was not visible to the naked, untrained, non-Palestinian eye, it was palpable, it could be felt by the locals. An outsider's first peek at the rising tensions came when five Hamas military members were killed in a parking lot explosion in Gaza - and Hamas immediately pointed the finger of blame at Fatah.

And where Gaza goes, the West Bank is sure to follow. Here too, tensions, violence, acts of intimidation and menacing threats are emerging and hitting the streets and byways. Hamas began by arresting members of Fatah in Gaza. Fatah followed by arresting Hamas members in the West Bank. Now it is a game of Tit for Tat, Palestinian style. And for the players in the West Bank and Gaza Tit for Tat is a war game.

The game has just been taken up a notch. Murders, arrests, finger pointing, newspaper closings - those are the old components of the game. A new component has just been unleashed, it is the Palestinian propaganda machine. When it comes to Palestinian propaganda, Fatah is at a distinct disadvantage, Hamas is master.

It was one year ago that Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza. Seven months earlier Hamas defeated Fatah in a parliamentary election. Hamas is using that imagery to convince the Palestinians of their superiority and right to rule. Hamas is using that imagery to instill fear in the hearts of Fatah and all other Palestinians. It is the imagery of victory and defeat.

Hamas has released some very powerful statements that cut to the core of every Palestinian citizen and taunts present-day, mainstream Fatah leadership. "Now the Zionists are protecting you," says Hamas. "You know that once the protection of the Zionists is over, people will enter your headquarters and kick you out."

These statements evoke memories of the coup in Gaza, pictures that every Palestinian has etched in their memories as clear as the photos that were taken and proudly flaunted at the time. Hamas gunmen taking over Fatah headquarters in Gaza. Hamas gunmen kicking up their feet with a massive portrait of Yasser Arafat on the wall behind them. Fatah, forced out and on the run.

"You must know," continues Hamas "we are not acting against you now in the West Bank because ... we know the Zionists will immediately back you."

Believe me, the average Palestinian is thinking those exact thoughts. And judging by recent polls it looks as if Hamas is gaining popularity - not in overwhelming numbers, but certainly gaining.

Palestinians leadership, that is Fatah leadership, is caught in a real sticky situation. Fatah needs Israel to prop them up, but Fatah cannot be seen as collaborating with Israel. The average Palestinian wants an end to the conflict, but the average Palestinian does not want to live in a West Bank ghetto. Palestinians prefer economic opportunity, Palestinians want freedom of movement. Palestinians want to be able to go into Israel and find work. Israel is a tool that is and will continue to be used by both sides in this war of words and actions.

The intimidation continues. So do the arrests and so does the bloodshed. Reuters reported that human rights groups are charging both Fatah and Hamas with the use of torture. The situation is out in the open, once again. The situation will continue to escalate.

The war between Hamas and Fatah never ended, it just went underground for a while.

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4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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