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Fatah-Hamas deal ‘not historic’


Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 24 April 2014/23 Jumadal Ukhra

Palestine’s political organizations, Fatah and Hamas, yesterday struck a reconciliation accord. The latest deal is meant to end seven years of political rift between the two main bodies leading the struggle for liberation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Fatah is in charge of the West Bank and was founded in 1959 by Yasser Arafat and fellow activists in the diaspora then. The 27-year-old Hamas, on the other hand, was legitimately elected in 2007.

Given the two organisations’ perceived poor record, in the unity department, not many people are upbeat of the latest accord. Added to this poor record is a mix of personal interests as well as unmistakable external influence – notably from the US and Israel – which prefer a disunited Palestinian political arena. Combined, these factors make Professor Abdul Sattar Qassem, he told Sabahul Khair, the Fatah-Hamas relationship is littered with several examples of fallouts and attempts at unity.

One of the biggest factors threatening to extinguish the flickering hope, even before the accord comes to life, is foreign influence. Strange as it sounds, it is a fact that the Mahmoud Abbas-led Fatah receives funds from external sources that in turn maintain the unwanted establishment. Abbas, on the other hand, is already taking flak from his funders, notably Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who feels that reconciling with Ismail Haniyeh-led Hamas – perceived as a “terror” organization by the occupying Israel and the West – is bad for the region.

There is no guarantee that, to express its opposition, Israel – or any other backer – will not turn around and stop funding the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority, asserted Qassem. Such an outcome will cause internal problems for that authority, he added. Abbas’ view that “bread is much more important than freedom”, as Cassim recalled during a telephonic interview from West Bank speaks volumes.

“There are so many personal interests in the whole thing. There are so many people who have been receiving privileges from Israel and the United States. Would these people sacrifice these personal interests for the interest of the Palestinian people? The experience says no, they are not going to sacrifice,” the professor told Cii listeners. To illustrate this, the West Gaza academic recalled Abbas’ stated bread-versus-freedom viewpoint. From this angle not much has in the past prevented Fatah from selling out to Israeli and US occupation agenda instead of advancing the aspirations of ordinary Palestinians who continue to endure occupation, Qassem suggested.

“So we should be cautious, we hope that this time it would be something different but personally I don’t believe that there would be a difference,” said an unconvinced professor and an old hand in the Middle East’s political arena. Amid this iffy background, people should be “a little bit optimistic, not over optimistic” because the latter could just “lead to frustration”, warns Cassim, worrying that Fatah and Hamas have in the past given false hopes. “If they were lying in the past, are they lying this time again? I hope not and we will see,” he said, resignedly.

While the reconciliation deal is hailed as a groundbreaking by some, the academic doesn’t feels there isn’t much worth celebrating. “They did not talk about our position, for instance, from the negotiations or on the unity of the Palestinian people, or rebuilding the Palestinian society, and so on. They didn’t talk about major or very important issues but they talked about certain measures that will lead to government from both sides – from different sides – in the Palestinian arena,” Cassim explained.

However, the fact that this is a deal of measures, they “have an open door to flee the scene and to get out” rather than working towards implementing the accord. “Besides we have a very bad experience with both factions that they do not believe in implementation. They talk too much … about reconciliation,” lamented the professor who is yet to see the results.

Palestinian factions to form unity government

A meeting of Palestinian leaders in Gaza has reached a milestone reconciliation pact that will see rival Palestinian groups form a national consensus government in five weeks – after seven years of operating under separate administrations.

Under the agreement announced on Wednesday, rival groups Fatah and Hamas will form a government together under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The groups plan to form a national unity government in five weeks and will hold elections in six months.

At a news conference, leaders of all the groups said the past divisions had taken a toll on the Palestinian goal of establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who announced the terms of the agreement, said the deal came as “the entire city of Jerusalem has been painted Jewish with an attempt to wipe out the Arab identity and desecrate the Muslim and Christian sanctities”.

Azzam al-Ahmed, the Fatah delegation head, said he hoped the pact “will be a true beginning for a true partnership in all our spectrums; political, social and societal”.

The Palestinian factions have been at odds and sometimes even at war with each other since 2007 – following Hamas’s democratic win in Gaza.

Since then, Hamas has independently ruled the 40-kilometre long Gaza strip, home to nearly 2 million Palestinians – while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from Fatah, governs areas of the West Bank – home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

The two-sides met and signed deals in 2011 and 2012 in meetings in Cairo and Doha – but never with the desired result of unification.

The new agreement, reached in only two days, will honour the terms of both agreements.

The deal also comes at a crucial time when the US-led talks between the Israelis and Palestinians are at a stalemate.

Israel cancelled a session of peace negotiations scheduled for Wednesday night after the announcement of a new Palestinian government.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement that “whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace”.

“I said this morning that Abu Mazen (the Fatah-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) needs to choose between peace with Israel and an agreement with Hamas, a murderous terrorist organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel and which both the United States and the European Union define as a terrorist organisation,” Netanyahu said.

Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli foreign minister, described the signing of the agreement as “tantamount to a signature on the end of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority”.

Some Palestinians, weathered by divisions in the past, told Al Jazeera they remained sceptical of the new agreement.

Ramallah resident Nur Hamad, said she supported reconciliation “because we have to be one nation”.

“No factions, only a Palestinian nation, but I don’t think Fatah and Hamas are going to succeed,” Hamad said.

And Mariam abu Daqqa, an activist in Gaza said, “We are saying to both Fatah and Hamas for the sake of Palestine and the Palestinian children, you must get unified against the Israeli occupation.” Al-Jazeera

Facebook gets hit with $1bn ‘Palestinian Intifada’ lawsuit



Facebook and its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are being sued for more than $1bn over a page that called for an uprising in occupied Palestine against Israel.

The page, entitled ‘Third Palestinian Intifada’ had gathered more than 340,000 ‘likes’ for its proposed May 15 uprising before its removal from the popular social networking site.

The lawsuit was filed by US attorney Larry Klayman, who described himself in the suit as “an American citizen of Jewish origin”. In a statement on his website, he alleges that Facebook failed to take the page down quickly enough, keeping it online to “increase the social network’s net worth based on viewership and use.”

“It is not in dispute that Facebook has profited handsomely by the turmoil in the Middle East,” the statement said. “While Facebook has accomplished a lot of good, it can, as in this instance, be used for nefarious and evil purposes.

“They must be not only enjoined but also hit in their purse, which is where they understand matters best.”

The page was removed by Facebook on March 29 following a number of complaints.

A Facebook spokesman told AFP that the claims were “without merit,” adding that “we will fight it vigorously.”

Facebook’s director of policy for Europe, the Middle East and Asia Richard Allen was quoted as saying by AFP: “Our reviewers felt that the content of the Page began as a call for peaceful protest, even though the term Intifada has been associated with violence in the past.

“In addition, the administrators initially removed comments that promoted violence. Under these conditions a page of this nature would normally be permitted to remain on Facebook.”

Mr Allen said the company ‘continues to believe that people on Facebook should be able to express their opinions, and we do not typically take down content that speaks out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.

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