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The Palestinians’ Christmas Gift By: Michael Widlanski
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 25, 2006

Palestinians are marking the bloodiest Christmas season in years -- and even most of them admit, for once, that they have no one to blame but themselves.

A recent cartoon in the daily newspaper Al-Quds showed Santa Claus wearing a bullet proof vest. The cartoon in Al-Quds, the widest selling Palestinian newspaper, was a take-off on the Palestinian “sling-shot”—normally a symbol of Palestinian unity and defiance to Israel, but now it showed a Hamas fighter and Fatah fighter as two rocks in the same sling-shot, aimed at one another. 


More than 40 Arabs have been kidnapped by other Arabs in Gaza alone in the last month, and tens of Palestinians have been murdered, many of them women, children and adult bystanders.


In one recent incident, three children of a Fatah operative were murdered in a hail of bullets fired by a squad of Hamas hit-men eager to “punish” the father.  The Hamas gunmen surrounded the car that was taking the children to school and fired more than 50 bullets at it from all angles, making sure the children were killed. In response, Fatah killed several Hamas operatives, including the body guard of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyye (perhaps aiming at Haniyye himself). 


“These incidents are part of the state of security, chaos and misuse of weapons prevailing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in light of the failure of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to take effective legal steps to stop it,” declared the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.


“We have to stop bleeding ourselves to death,” asserted Dr. Saeb Arikat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and an advisor to PA President and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the man who was once the great hope of Western policymakers.


Abbas has been unable to cobble together any kind of compromise between his Fatah movement and the Islamic movement of Hamas, which has a clear majority in the PA legislature. He has threatened to dismiss the legislature and force new elections, but many doubt he will carry out his threat.


Hamas says that the Abbas election move would be a “legalistic coup d’etat,” and Hamas has threatened to fight the action with full hostilities.


After repeated failures by Egypt to try to intervene to get a truce between Fatah and Hamas, Jordan’s King Abdullah is now trying his hand, holding behind-the-scenes talks with Abbas, Hamas and the Israeli government.


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has already met quietly with the Jordanian king, and both men are alarmed by the growing connection between Hamas and Iran, which has been sending money and arms both to Hamas and to Fatah units, but which has upgraded its ties with Hamas especially.


Just recently, Israel and Egypt intercepted Hamas Prime Minister Haniyye as he was carrying a suitcase with 35-million dollars in cash that he picked up during his recent trip to Teheran. Arab banks are loathe to transfer funds from Iran to Hamas because of the fear of American and European sanctions against their banks.


There is reason to believe that Jordan, like Israel, has more to fear from Palestinian anarchy than does Egypt, because most Jordanian citizens are Palestinians, and expanding violence in Gaza could expand easily to the West Bank and Jordan itself.


Many Israeli policy makers and security analysts believe that Egypt has actually turned a blind eye to weapons smuggling into Gaza, since the guns, bombs and rockets would be aimed at Israel. But within the last two weeks, even Egypt has grown increasingly alarmed at the chaos in Gaza.


Egypt faces increasing terror from Al-Qaeda-supported terror cells among the Bedouin tribes in Gaza—tribes that thrive on smuggling, but which have seriously hurt Egypt’s tourism industry. 


There are signs that Egypt has had some success in curbing the Bedouin cells working for Al-Qaeda, but the Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli efforts to establish stability in Gaza appear to be much less successful.


“The scenes here in Gaza are one of an inescapable descent into full-scale civil war between Fatah and Hamas,” declared Israeli TV reporter Shlomi Eldar, filming running gun battles in Gaza.


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Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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