What They Are Saying
June 28, 2007 – Jonathan S. Tobin, Executive Editor
Like a Ship That Sinks? Investing in Fatah Calls to Mind the ‘Titanic’
Historian and Shalem Center fellow Michael Oren writes in The Wall Street Journal (www.opinionjournal.com) on June 20 that backing Fatah isn’t the answer:
“America and its Middle Eastern allies have every reason to panic. The green flags of Hamas are furling over Gaza, and the Fatah forces trained and financed by the United States have ignominiously fled. Fears are rife that Iranian-backed and Syrian-hosted terror will next achieve dominance over the West Bank and proceed to undermine the pro-Western governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the [Persian] Gulf.
“To avert this catastrophe, the U.S. has joined with the Israelis and the Europeans in resuming the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid to the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of its Fatah president, Mahmoud Abbas, and accelerating talks for the establishment of a West Bank Palestinian state. The goal is to provide Palestinians with an affluent, secular and peaceful alternative to Hamas, and persuade Gazans to return to the Fatah fold. But the policy ignores every lesson of the abortive peace process to date, as well as Fatah’s monumental corruption, jihadism and militancy. Indeed, any sovereign edifice built on the rotten foundations of the P.A. is doomed to implode, enhancing, rather than diminishing, Hamas’ influence.
“Since its creation by the so-called Oslo Accords of 1993, the P.A. has garnered more international aid than any entity in modern history — more, per capita, than the European states under the Marshall Plan. The lion’s share of this fortune has been siphoned into the private accounts of Fatah leaders or used to pay off the commanders of some 16 semi-autonomous militias. The P.A. also maintains an estimated 60,000 uniformed gunmen on its payroll, giving the West Bank the world’s highest percentage of policemen-to-population.
“Though Fatah originally aspired to replace Israel with a secular, democratic state in Palestine, the organization refashioned itself in the 1990s as an Islamic movement, embracing the lexicon of jihad. Hundreds of mosques were built with public funds, and imams were hired to spread the message of martyrdom and the hatred of Christians and Jews. These themes became the staple of the official P.A. media, inciting the suicide bombings that began in 2000 and poisoning an entire generation of Palestinian youth. Ironically, the Islamization of Fatah legitimized Hamas and contributed to the cadres of religious extremists who are now defying its authority.
“In addition to its fiscal malfeasance and Islamic radicalism, Fatah has never fulfilled its pledges to crack down on terror. Though Mahmoud Abbas routinely criticizes Palestinian terrorist attacks as ‘contrary to the Palestinian national interest’ — not an affront to morality and international law — he has never disavowed the Al Aksa [Martyrs] Brigade, a Fatah affiliate responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks against Israeli civilians.
“In view of its performance over the past 14 years, the P.A. under Fatah can be counted on to squander most or all of the vast sums now being given to it by the U.S. and the international community. More gunmen will be hired and better weapons procured, but in the absence of a unified command and a leadership worth fighting for, P.A. soldiers will perform no more credibly than they did in Gaza. Abbas will continue to denounce terror while ignoring the terrorist units within his own organization, while P.A. imams will persist in preaching their jihadist sermons.
“Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hamas conquest of Gaza as an opportunity for the Palestinians. This indeed may be the case, but not by resurrecting long-failed policies and imposing a state structure on a corrupt and incompetent Fatah. Doing so is tantamount to investing in the Titanic.”
Who’s Interested in ‘Palestine’? Not Any of the Arabs, That’s for Sure!
Editor-in-chief Martin Peretz writes in The New Republic (www.tnr.com) on June 25 about the end of Palestine:
“Think back two years. Ariel Sharon was not only alive but healthy, and staking his place in history on an idea he had never truly believed: that the Arabs of Palestine might be ready for peace with the Jewish state. This may have run against his deepest convictions and his basic instincts. But somehow, he carried many of his comrades with him.
“Nonetheless, he carried out the withdrawal of all 8,000 or so Israelis from Gaza unconditionally and without making explicit demands on the Palestinians — or inexplicit ones, for that matter. He also dismantled four settlements in the West Bank, from what he and his friends called Samaria.
“[U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice even persuaded a few American Jewish zillionaires to ante up roughly $15 million to buy, as a parting gift from the Jews at once symbolic and practical, for the Gaza Arabs the hothouses that had helped make local agriculture, for the first time in history, so abundant and also valuable. Ask about the hothouses of Gaza now, and people will laugh. Ask about the rest of Gaza, and people will cry.
“They cried even before Gaza was put through the trauma of civil war. For what was unraveling was the whole idea of the Palestine nation itself. Of course, some said, ‘I told you so.’
“Most of the Arabs of Palestine resented the Jews. But resentment is not a foundation for a nation.
“Palestine is the only place where the very idea of the nation is so weak that its violent eruptions seem to be dismal admissions of failure. But however impoverished the reality, it has caught the fancy of many outside Palestine. The fact is that, had these outsiders — some cynical, some hopelessly muddle-headed — not embraced the cause, the cause already would have perished from its own exhaustion.
“So what is Palestine? It is an improvisation from a series of rude facts. Palestine was never anything of especial importance to the Arabs or to the larger orbit of Muslims. Palestine was never even an integral territory of the Ottomans. When the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine was passed, envisioning a ‘Jewish’ state and an ‘Arab’ (not, mind you, Palestinian) state, even the idea of a separate Arab realm was met at best with a yawn. Though almost no Arab wanted Jewish sovereignty in any of Palestine, virtually no Arab seemed to crave Arab sovereignty, either.
“We are long past this history, and Israel had become accustomed to the idea — if not exactly the precise reality — of an independent Palestine for the Palestinians, the name of their desire. [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert gladly would have signed on the dotted line if the Palestinian Authority could bring itself to realize it would get what it could get (and perhaps even a little more) if the Palestinians would finally stop their war against the Jews. And their rage.
“Would that there were a mature national will among the Palestinians. It might even be able to temper the rage of the Arabs against one another. Not until their sense of peoplehood conquers their rage against one another will they be in the psychological position to think of peace with Israel. I doubt this will happen any time soon.
“This is the end of Palestine, the bitter end.”