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By Micah Halpern

Monday December 18, 2006


The opening shots have been fired. The cannon has roared.

The civil war has begun. The Palestinian civil war. Hamas vs Fatah. Fatah vs Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is not Iraq. This is not only about respect. This civil war is about real power, it is about real leadership. This civil war is being fought by and for the Palestinian people.

The conflict was inevitable. Hamas was elected into power as a rejection of the Arafat legacy. The election of Hamas was a reaction to years of corruption and misdirected leadership. Palestinians were voting against cleptocracy when they voted for Hamas. They were desperate for direction, they were gullible, they were hurting.

Hamas cannot lead. They have no experience in leadership and none in bureaucracy. They are an ideological movement and ideological movements do not - cannot, compromise on beliefs. Hamas is now only a significant minority within the Palestinian people, a significant minority with a very significant voice and a very significant signature. They were elected. But that was a fluke. It was an aberration. That aberration must now be corrected. Hamas will not just walk away.

Now the Palestinian people deserve better. And they are rising up.

Some observers are saying that the Palestinians are getting whatever they deserve. They are saying that the Palestinians knowingly and willingly elected Hamas. Some people go so far as to say that this is the process of natural selection and we should just let the bad guys kill each other off, the more the better. People are asking why anyone should care about what happens when Palestinians kill Palestinians. Well, we should care. The collective Palestinian people took a gamble, they lost - they should not have to pay with their lives.

We must care. It is important to care. Not to care is to think and to act like Hamas and we are not Hamas. Hamas does not care about the greater Palestinian perspective, Hamas cares only about narrow Hamas objectives. We must see the greater picture. The greater picture requires ousting Hamas leadership with leadership that is sympathetic to the real needs of the Palestinian people, leadership that is responsive to the voice of the people. The Palestinians need leadership that understands power and compromise.

Hamas must be removed from power for two simple and intertwined reasons. First, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Second, Hamas no longer represents the mainstream Palestinian point of view. Mainstream Palestinians want very much to move on, to change their lives and to improve their status. The Palestinians want to be earn a decent living. They want to provide for their families. None of these goals will ever be accomplished until the Palestinian people i.e. Palestinian leadership recognizes the State of Israel.

For months Abbas and his Fatah party spoke about a commitment to Palestinian unity. For months he tried to cobble together a unity government. When that failed he tried to create a technocratic government, a government run by a professional bureaucrat. That too failed. Abbas was trying to force something that did not, that could not exist. For the Palestinians unity means compromise. And neither party can compromise on the question of Israel. Abbas cannot compromise on the right of Israel to exist, he has committed too much time and energy courting the United States and the Europeans on this very issue. And Hamas cannot compromise on their declared intention to destroy Israel. For both these sides, for both these pillars of Palestinian leadership, Israel is the deal breaker.

So now, we wait.

According to polls conducted over the last few days 61% of Palestinian want new elections. And Fatah would win that election by a landslide. Over the past few days there have been assassination attempts on Hamas leaders. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, both targets of the attacks, slipped away alive. Significant government offices have been attacked and occupied by Fatah forces. There have been shootouts and kidnappings. Now, finally, Abbas has begun the process of calling for new elections. The most powerful move against Hamas was not military. It was democratic. But the bullets have already begun to fly.

In the end, democracy will win out for the Palestinian people. But we are not yet at the end. First comes civil war and the civil war is only beginning.

4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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