Will the Palestinian groups create a new Palestinian political project?

“Despite Hamas’s agreement to the ceasefire proposal, Israel launched violent attacks on Rafah and took control of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt (closing the main aid route to Gaza). The talks continue, but Israel is simply unwilling to take them seriously.”

Vijay Prashad*

In Cairo, Hamas representatives conducted indirect negotiations with Israel on a ceasefire. The sticking point for several rounds was the order of events. Israel wanted the hostages released before it would stop the bombing, while Hamas said the bombing had to stop first. Israel has called for the disarmament and dismantling of Hamas, a maximalist demand that is unlikely to be met. Hamas, meanwhile, not only wants a ceasefire, but also an end to the war. Both sides blamed each other, which made the task of the Egyptian and Qatari negotiators more difficult.

The best possible outcome of the Cairo talks is an end to the current genocidal war against the Palestinians in Gaza. Negotiations to end the war took on added urgency when Israel bombed the outskirts of Rafah, the only city in Gaza not yet decimated by Israel. With no place to flee, Palestinian civilians in Rafah cannot be protected from any attack, even if not as violent as that of the Israeli army against Gaza City and Khan Younis. These attacks have created 37 million tons of debris filled with pollutants and an immense number of unexploded bombs (which will take fourteen years to disarm). Israel believes that the last organized remnants of Hamas are in Rafah, and that it will either bomb the millions living there to destroy it or agree to destroy itself through negotiations. Both are unacceptable to Palestinians, who want neither more civilian casualties nor the dissolution of one of the fiercest defenders of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Despite Hamas agreeing to the ceasefire proposal, Israel launched violent attacks on Rafah and took control of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt (closing the main aid route to Gaza). The talks continue, but Israel is simply unwilling to take them seriously.

Palestinian unity

Israel’s disregard for negotiations and the level of its violence can be measured against two political realities. It does not take negotiations with the Palestinians seriously and believes it can bomb with impunity. This is because, firstly, Israel is fully supported by the states of the Global North (mainly the United States and Europe) and secondly because it does not regard Palestinian political views as essential because it has succeeded in building political unity among the Palestinians and succeeded in politically disorienting the various factions through the arrest of their main leaders. This is not entirely true of Hamas, whose leadership was able to set up operations in Damascus and later in Doha, Qatar. Although it is impossible to imagine a rapid turnaround of the countries of the Global North, it has become perfectly clear to the Palestinian factions that without their unity there will be no way to force Israel to put an end to its genocidal war, and then of course its occupation. of Palestinian territories combined with the apartheid policy within Israel.

In late April 2023, Hamas met with Fatah, the other major Palestinian political force, in China as part of a long process to create common ground between them. Relations between these two major political parties broke down in 2006-2007, when Hamas won the parliamentary elections in Gaza and when Fatah – which was in charge of the Palestinian Authority – contested these results; In fact, the two factions fought each other militarily in Gaza before Fatah withdrew to the West Bank. During Israel’s war of genocide, both Fatah and Hamas tried to bridge the gap and not allow their differences to enable both the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and the defeat of Palestinian political objectives in general. Senior representatives of these two parties met in Moscow earlier this year and again in China in May.

For this meeting in China, Fatah sent its senior leaders, including Azzam al-Ahmad (who sits on the Central Committee and heads the Palestinian reconciliation team), while Hamas sent equally senior leaders, including Mousa Abu Marzouk (a member of the Political Committee of the party). Bureau and its de facto Secretary of State). The negotiations did not lead to a final agreement, but – as part of a long process – deepened the dialogue and political will between the two sides to work together against Israel’s genocidal war and occupation. Further meetings at this high level are planned, with a joint statement to follow later on a call – encouraged by Chinese President Xi Jinping – for an international peace conference to end the war and a joint Palestinian platform on the way forward.

Gaps

Fatah, the anchor of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was founded in 1959 by three men, two of whom were from the Muslim Brotherhood (Khalil al-Wazir and Salah Khalaf) and one of whom was from the General Union of Palestinians. Palestinian Authorities. students and would eventually become the main leader (Yasser Arafat). The PLO established itself as the core of the Palestinian struggle against the 1948 catastrophe that lost them their land, made them second-class citizens within Israel and sent hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile for decades. The Muslim Brotherhood imprint did not emerge within the PLO, which adopted a national liberation tone honed by the various left-wing factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP, founded in 1967) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation. of Palestine (DFLP, founded in 1968).

The PLO became hegemon in the Palestinian struggle and coordinated the political work in the exile camps and the armed struggle of the Palestinian fighters. fedayeen (fighters). The PLO factions faced a concerted attack from Israel, which invaded Lebanon to exile the leadership and its core to Tunisia. With the fall of the USSR, the PLO began serious negotiations with the Israelis and the United States, both of which imposed a form of surrender on the Palestinians, the so-called Oslo Accords of 1993. Fatah took control of the Palestinian Authority, which was partially operated to maintain the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Angered by what appeared to be a Palestinian surrender in Oslo, eight factions formed the Alliance of Palestinian Factions in 1993. Within this alliance, the largest groups belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood tradition. These included the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (founded in 1981) and Hamas (founded in 1987). The PFLP and DFLP initially joined this alliance, but left in 1998 due to differences with the Islamist parties. The Islamist parties won Gaza’s parliamentary elections by a narrow margin (44 percent for Hamas to 41 percent for Fatah), a result that angered Israel and global northern states, which they then sought to undermine.

Denied a path to political power through the ballot box and subsequently faced with continued Israeli suffocation and bombardment of Gaza, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad strengthened their armed wings and defended themselves from humiliation and attacks. Every attempt at peaceful protest – including the Long March of Return in 2018 and 2019 – was met with Israeli violence. There has never been a time since 2007 when the people of Gaza have experienced a year of peace. However, the current bombardment is on a different scale than even the worst of Israel’s previous attacks in 2008 and 2014.

The main political disagreements between the factions include their different interpretation of the Oslo Accords, their respective ambitions for political control and their separate ambitions for Palestinian society. The fact that their political leaders have been imprisoned for decades and prevented from normal, democratic political activities (such as maintaining their political structures and recruiting people) has prevented them from bridging their distances. In prison, however, leaders have had sustained dialogues on these issues. Immediately after the parliamentary elections in Gaza, the leaders of the five major factions imprisoned in Israel’s Hadarim prison wrote a National Prisoners’ Mediation Document. Marwan Barghouti of Fatah, Abdel Raheem Malluh of the PFLP, Mustafa Badarneh of the DFLP, Abdel Khaleq al-Natsh of Hamas and Bassam al-Saadi of Islamic Jihad.

The Document of the prisoners, which was widely circulated and discussed, called for Palestinian unity and an end to “all forms of division that could lead to internal conflict.” The text did not outline a new Palestinian political agenda, but called on the various factions to “formulate a Palestinian plan aimed at comprehensive political action.” The development of this plan, almost twenty years later, is an important goal of the talks between the various Palestinian political organizations.

It is agreed that the first task is to prevent the attack on Rafah and end the genocidal war against the Palestinians. Shortly afterwards, however, the feeling is that the political malaise that has befallen the Palestinian people must be overcome and that a new political project must be used to create a new political atmosphere among the Palestinians within the borders of Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of East Jerusalem. , Gaza and the West Bank, in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and in the six million Palestinian diaspora.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writer and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is editor of LeftWord Books and director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of US Power.