Op-Ed: Lessons from the Gaza War, III: Abbas Sides with Hamas
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is anchored in the premise that the mainstream Palestinian Arab leadership has truly given up its old terrorist ways. Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement --the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization-- put down their guns and "recognized" Israel. The bad guys became the good guys, and the only bad guys are left are a small minority of Hamas extremists.
The Gaza war provides an opportunity to test that theory. Hamas kidnaps and murders Israeli teenagers, and fires hundreds of rockets into Israel. How has Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, responded?
If Abbas and his Fatah movement are truly moderate and against terrorism, then they should side with Israel against the terrorists, even though they have announced Fatah-Hamas unity and upcoming elections. If Abbas and Fatah are indeed the good guys, then they should be opposed to the bad guys.
Unfortunately, it hasn't turned out that way.
On the very first day of the war, Fatah's official Facebook page, called "Fatah - The Main Page" posted what it called "A message to the Israeli government and the Israeli people." Here's what Abbas's Fatah had to say to Israelis as hundreds of rockets were being fired at them from Gaza: "Death will reach you from the south to the north. Flee our country and you won't die. The KN-103 rocket is on its way toward you."
And that was just the beginning.
On July 9, a cartoon on the Fatah Facebook page, titled "Israel Fires Rockets at Gaza," showed an Israeli bomb, adorned with a huge swastika, about to strike a Palestinian child. (It's worth recalling that the then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, has said that comparing Israel to the Nazis is anti-Semitic.)
Perhaps the most telling item of all on Fatah's Facebook page is a dramatic full-color illustration of three heavily-armed Palestinians--one from Hamas, one from Islamic Jihad, and one from Fatah, standing together. The text reads: "Brothers in Arms: One God, one homeland, one enemy, one goal!" If anyone doubts whose side Fatah is on, this makes it crystal clear.
A video segment on Fatah's Facebook page shows a masked Fatah member standing amidst a huge arsenal of rockets, declaring: "Praise Allah, our jihad fighters have managed to develop these rockets so they will reach the Zionist depth, Allah willing, to a distance of 45 kilometers inside the occupied Palestinian territories…With these rocket we will liberate our Jerusalem. With these rockets we will crush the Zionist enemy…"
And it's not just words. On July 7, Fatah's Facebook page announced that Fatah's military unit, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, "targeted the enemy's bases and settlements with 35 rockets."
(All translations courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch.)
When the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians were signed in 1993, the U.S. State Department removed Fatah from its list of terrorist groups. Removing it was not just a statement of how the U.S. views Fatah; it also made it legally possible for the U.S. to start sending $500 million to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, of which Fatah is the largest faction. Now that Fatah has openly boasted that it is carrying out rocket terrorism against Israel, it's time to put Fatah back on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.
Fatah and Hamas both belong on that list because, in the end, they are birds of a feather. Certainly there have been moments of tension between the two movements. But those clashes reflected either internal disputes unrelated to Israel, or differences in tactics regarding Israel--not differences in their overall goals.
The third lesson from the Gaza war: The "moderate" Palestinian leadership has shown its true colors. It sides with the terrorists, not with Israel.
[Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America. This is the third in a series. To view previous installments