I recently read and enjoyed the informative and generally very well argued review article on three recent books on Palestine that the British conflict-resolution entrepreneur Alastair Crooke has in the latest issue of the London Review of Book. I really must try to get hold of all three of the books he’s reviewing there, which are respectively written by Azzam Tamimi and Sara Roi, and edited by Jamil Hilal.
In the article, Crooke well describes the depressing record of the damaging machinations that the US and the Europeans have undertaken in their attempts to bring down first of all the hopes the Palestinians’ elected Hamas leaders had of creating a broad unity government under their leadership last year, and then the national unity government that Hamas and Fateh jointly established through the Mecca Agreement of last March.
I have two small quibbles with Crooke’s analysis. One is where he describes the US-European plan to build a Fatah militia around Dahlan that could confront Hamas militarily as being part of a plan to engineer a “soft coup d’état” against the Hamas-led government. Not much “soft” about that plan, as far as I can see. Especially not in view of the fact that it was also linked to the continuing Israeli-US efforts to put intense economic pressures on the Palestinians (pressures which have killed vulnerable members of the Palestinian community), as well as Israel’s continual crackdowns on Hamas leaders and activists in the OPTs, including the IOF’s arrest of tens of elected Hamas legislators from the West Bank.
A second, bigger criticism I have of Crooke’s analysis has to do with his judgment that,
- now that Fatah has been humiliated the grass-roots are unlikely to be in a mood to support anyone who argues for a working partnership with Hamas. It is one thing to be perceived by fellow Palestinians as a Western proxy: to be regarded as a failed Western proxy is far worse.
First of all, the judgment in that first sentence simply is not true. Dahlan’s threatening moves against Hamas, and Hamas’s successful counter-strike against Dahlan has not led– as it seems Crooke was supposing it would– to any “circling of the Fateh wagons” around Dahlan. Quite the opposite. As I wrote near the bottom of this recent JWN post, and as Khaled Amayreh wrote in this piece in Al-Ahram Weekly, the humiliation that Dahlan’s (US-armed) people suffered in Gaza two weeks ago quite predictably led to an intensification of the infighting within the perennially fractious Fateh movement.
And as part of that infighting, very weighty voices inside Fateh like those of Hani al-Hassan, Farouk Al-Qaddoumi, Jebril Rajoub, Marwan Al-Barghouti, and Ahmed Hellis have criticized Dahlan and started to call for an urgent rapprochement with Hamas.
Crooke’s follow-on sentence there also seems a little puzzling. Mainly, perhaps, because all the “Western proxies” that have arisen within the Palestinian movement over the past years have not only quite evidently failed in any efforts they have made to protect the lives, dignity, and property of the Palestinians, but they have also been clearly seen by the vast majority of Palestinians (including, in lucid moments, by many of these people themselves) to have thus failed. This is, after all, one of the main causes of the massive loss of morale and the ideological and organizational collapse within Fateh. Ask a Fathawi what he or she is fighting for, and how their current leadership’s actions are getting them towards that goal, and in many cases all you’ll get is wry giggle of embarrassment. (Same with many NDP officials in Egypt, by the way.)
Anyway, as I said, these are relatively small criticisms of Crooke’s review. Otherwise, it is certainly well worth reading.