The news continues to filter in as the triumph of Hamas in the Gaza strip becomes apparent, culminating with the Palestinian government being dissolved by President Mahmoud Abbas this past hour. Fatah is running with its tail between its legs (quite literally – 40 Executive Force soldiers loyal to Abbas had to blow up a section of the Israeli-constructed Gaza-Egyptian wall to escape into Egypt), much to the dismay of the Western governments who trumpeted Abbas as the heralded moderate in post-Arafat Palestine. It seems his time is dwindling as a serious power broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or in Palestinian internal affairs (the tally for Abbas brokered cease-fires to be consequently ignored the next day is in the teens).
The casual observer will be quick to judge on lines of the media-fueled zero-sum game between Islamist Hamas and Moderate Fatah (capitalized due to caricatures). The adjectives may be comfortingly simple, the reality has always been faith-based militants with a panache for service and charity against white mustaches primarily interested in diverting funds to Swiss bank accounts and sending their children to Paris. Though not nearly as popular as reported, Hamas has succeeded in creating a following extremely devoted to their principles, while Fatah generated support primarily by bullying and defacto generational transposition. The common thread of allegiance to Fatah is that of Palestinian antiquities — tribes, elders, local militias — compared to the grassroots organization of Hamas.
While Fatah was birthed out of the loins of the pan-Arab, Nassir-led movement, it was reared by the slimy hands of Yasser Arafat, who personally siphoned off over one billion dollars of international aid and lined the pockets of those around him. The bleakest moment came on the international stage as the world recoiled at the actions of an over-militarized, second-world dictator: Arafat openly cheered on the sideline as Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991. For years, Fatah became synonymous with the delusional old crank who only had friends because of internationally funded hand outs.
Arafat’s malignant spirit still casts a dark shadow over a group that has further mimiced his policies of graft and kleptocracy. While the money laundering continued as the Palestinian infastructure collapsed, Fatah sunk in a cesspool of its own political bankruptcy, leading to the dismal showing in the 2006 parliamentary elections that may be regarded in the future as the institutional revolution of Hamas. Some claimed a philosophical victory for Hamas in the territories, but the truth was a poorly coached game, mired by political infighting over spoils within Fatah while the populace grew more disaffected with the habits of corrupted old elites.
In the short run, the collapse of the Palestinian government and the split between a Fatah dominated West Bank and a Hamas dominated Gaza will be disastrous. The West’s worst fears of an isolated Islamic state in Palestine and guerrilla warfare against Israel won’t be realized. However, this rupture will not only take a significant portion of time to heal, but certainly speeds up the process of decline for Fatah that began in 1993 at the Oslo agreements and the proceeding failed peace negotiations.
In the long term, this may speed up the precipitous decline of Fatah, a shell of a party that long ago abandoned its platform of secular socialism in favor of an unhealthy dose of bureaucracy and corruption. The only hope can be that a true moderate party, more responsive to the Palestinian people, will arise during the slow bleed of Fatah’s death.
Hamas: Documents from GSS HQ prove Fatah links to CIA by Terresa Monroe-Hamilton