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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."


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

boost Abbas.

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

Dahlan's sponsors.

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

Palestinian people."

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

trade privileges.

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

Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

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