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by I-Witness Palestine
Tuesday, Feb. 06, 2007 at 10:31 AM
In the fevered minds of Bush administration ideologues, Palestine has become another front in what they conceive of as a new Cold War against "Islamofascism."
THE AMERICAN PROXY WAR IN GAZA
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 3 February 2007
In recent days the unremitting, murderous brutality of the
Israeli occupation has been eclipsed by the carnage in
Gaza as dozens of Palestinians have been killed in what is
commonly referred to as "interfactional fighting" between
forces loyal to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud
Abbas and his Fatah faction on the one hand, and the
Hamas-led government on the other.
The airwaves have been filled with anguished calls from
every sector of Palestinian society -- political parties,
nongovermental organizations, and Christian and Muslim
religious leaders -- for the fighting to cease and for a
return to dialogue.
Perhaps for fear of exacerbating the already bitter
situation, few of these voices have directly confronted
the engine of this violence.
In the fevered minds of Bush administration ideologues,
Palestine has become another front in what they conceive
of as a new Cold War against "Islamofascism." They see
Iran as the central target and proxy battles are being
waged against a phantom enemy from Afghanistan and
Pakistan, through Iraq into Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia
and ever onwards wherever Arabs and Muslims are to be
found. In every case, local conflicts with specific
histories are being escalated and marshalled into this
grand narrative .
Mahmoud Abbas and Gaza warlord Muhammad Dahlan have become
the willing proxies for the Palestine franchise of this
wider project, as their tactics and loyalists' statements
The latest round of fighting began on February 1, when
forces of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, run by the
Hamas government, attempted to interdict a convoy of
trucks that crossed into Gaza from Israel. Officials
alleged that the trucks were carrying weapons destined for
the Presidential Guard.
Fatah figures, speaking on the BBC Arabic Service,
vehemently denied the allegation, making contradictory
claims about the contents of the trucks. One said they
contained "food and medicine for the Palestinian people,"
another "tents and equipment," and another still
"electrical generators and spare parts." No two denials
Yet the fact that the Presidential Guard is receiving arms
via Israel is common knowledge to Palestinians in Gaza and
the West Bank and has been talked about openly in the
Israeli media for months. Since October, eight truckloads
of AK-47 rifles and machine guns and several million
rounds of ammunition have entered Gaza from Israel through
the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings, according to a
high-ranking officer of the Force-17 Fatah militia who
conveyed this information to Hebron-based journalist
Khaled Amayreh. Not all these guns go solely to the
Presidential Guard; many are sold on to the highest
And just days ago, President Bush announced that he would
transfer million dollars in the near future to further
In order to change the subject from the scandal of the
Palestinian "presidency" receiving US arms through Israel
to use against the Palestinian people, the Presidential
Guard launched a counterattack against the Islamic
University in Gaza shelling, burning and destroying parts
of it. Abbas' officials claimed that their forces had
arrested seven Iranian weapons experts working for Hamas,
and labelled Hamas leaders "extremists" and "putschists."
Fatah and Fatah-backed local radio even accused Hamas of
burning down the Islamic University themselves in order to
blacken Fatah's 'glorious image.' The allegations about
Iranians were universally dismissed but they revealed the
extent to which Abbas officials have adopted the Israeli
and American paradigm as their own.
In several recent demonstrations, Dahlan loyalists have
shouted "Shia, Shia," at Hamas supporters. This was
perhaps supposed to draw attention to Iranian support for
Hamas (the movement, like the rest of the Palestinian
Muslim community, is Sunni) but this hateful sectarian
incitement, hitherto unknown in Palestinian society,
serves (for now) the wider strategic agenda of Abbas' and
After Hizbullah defeated Israel last summer, the Lebanese
Shia movement, backed by Iran, gained enormous prestige
among the region's people, especially Palestinians, as an
Arab nationalist and pan-Islamic movement, standing firm
against Israeli aggression, in contrast to toothless,
unpopular and corrupt governments. Hence the active
promotion of Sunni fear of their Shia brethren is designed
to limit the influence of Iran -- and serve up a good
old-fashioned dose of divide and rule. (Thus from this
perspective, the carnage in Iraq and the outrage at the
brutal televised hanging of the Sunni-identified Saddam
Hussein by a Shia-identified militia was a real bonus.)
Abbas is at last doing what Arafat was always urged to do,
while Israel and the US watch with glee. As Ha'aretz
explained, Israel felt no need to launch a large scale
revenge operation against Gaza following the January 29
Eilat bombing: "When Fatah and Hamas are so good at
killing each other, why should Israel intervene and spur
them to close ranks against the common enemy?"
As the battles were raging in Gaza, the mouthpiece of
American policy, the so-called Quartet (made up of
representatives of the US, European Union, the United
Nations and Russia) met to discuss the long-dead "peace
process." The body voiced its "deep concern at the
violence among Palestinians and called for respect for law
and order." In a repeat of the American approach to last
summer's Lebanon war, the Quartet pointedly did not call
for a ceasefire.
It did however call "for Palestinian unity behind a
government committed to non-violence, recognition of
Israel and acceptance of the obligations under the
Roadmap," while remaining totally silent about Israel's
continued slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,
particularly last week's announcement by Israeli prime
minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was extending the illegal
West Bank separation wall further east to annex several
large Jewish-only colonies. This measure will add twenty
thousand to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
already cut off in walled ghettos that former US President
Carter has likened to "apartheid."
The Quartet even "welcomed" US arming of the Presidential
Guard, though in diplomatic doublespeak this was
euphemized as "efforts to reform the Palestinian security
sector and thus to help improve law and order for the
Bleak as things are, cracks are starting to appear.
Although US propaganda asserts that the arming of the
Abbas militia is in part a response to growing Iranian
influence, the British parliament's International
Development Committee last week concluded that it was
Western sanctions and isolation that had driven Hamas to
seek Iranian support. The committee condemned the UK
government's refusal to talk to Hamas, urged it to do so
as it did with the IRA, and urged consideration of EU
sanctions against Israel, such as suspending the
Association agreement granting the Jewish state special
Israeli and American propaganda, now also adopted by the
European Union, attempts to obscure the basic
understanding that Palestine is the struggle of a
colonized people for liberation. The policy of supporting
a quisling group to fight as a proxy on behalf of empire,
colonizer and occupier will only increase the bloodshed.
But it will ultimately fail in Palestine as it did before
in Northern Ireland, Southern Africa and Central and
Southern America, and as it is failing in Iraq.
Ali Abunimah is the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada
and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the
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|It's a proxy war
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||Wednesday, Feb. 07, 2007 at 10:00 AM
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