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The Infamy of the Palestinian Elites: An
Imminent Split within Fat'h?
By Ramzy Baroud
|Fat'h strongman, Dahlan,
left, and PA President Abbas
The Fat'h movement is involved in a massive tug-of-war that
will ultimately define its future. Though the conflict is between current
Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, and once Gaza strongman,
Mohammed Dahlan, is in no way motivated by ending the Israeli Occupation,
their war will likely determine the future political landscape of
The issue cannot be taken lightly, nor can it be
dismissed as an internal
Fat'h conflict. The latter is one of the two largest Palestinian
factions, the largest within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
and has single-handedly pushed Palestinians into the abyss of the 'peace
process' and the great Oslo Accords gamble, which has come at great cost
and no benefits.
Moreover, Fat'h embodies Palestine's ruling
elites. True, Abbas' mandate expired in 2009 and Dahlan has been
accumulating massive wealth since he fled the West Bank in 2011 (following
his public feud with Abbas) but, sadly, both men wield substantial
authority and influence. Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah
with an iron fist and with the full consent and support of Israel and the
United States, while Dahlan is being actively groomed by various Middle
Eastern governments, and possibly Israeli and US powers, as the likely
successor of the aging Ramallah leader.
They are both
indifferent to the harsh reality experienced by their people on the
A limited uprising, known by some as the ‘Knife Intifada’
and others as ‘al-Quds Intifada’, is teetering on the brink, with no
serious efforts by the Palestinian leadership to, at least, try to harness
Palestinian energies towards a sustainable, long-term popular uprising. On
the contrary, Abbas has done his utmost to ignore the Palestinian people's
cry for help and for an astute, courageous leadership.
Abbas continues to perceive his 'security coordination' with Israel as 'holy',
while continuing to crackdown on Palestinian resistance and on his own
Fat'h opponents and their supporters.
He is yet to designate a
successor, despite the fact that he is 81-years-old and suffers from heart
This has signaled an opportunity to Dahlan, who has
been accused of involvement in various shady Arab affairs. Dahlan has been
aching for a comeback from his villa in Abu Dhabi. In
a recent New York Times article, Peter Baker, who interviewed Dahlan,
described part of his wealth:
"His spacious home here in Abu
Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, features plush sofas, vaulted ceilings
and chandeliers. The infinity pool in the back seems to spill into the
glistening waterway beyond."
Dahlan's amassing of wealth goes
back to his years in Gaza, when he was the head of the notorious
Preventive Security Service, itself formed and trained with the help
of the US, the CIA in particular, according
to various media reports. Its torture techniques were criticized
repeatedly by international human rights groups.
unrepentant: neither apologetic about his unexplained wealth, nor for the
Gaza crackdowns which ended when Hamas deposed him and his movement in
2007, resulting in a short-lived civil war.
'Two things that I
am not denying," he told the NYT. "That I'm rich. I will not deny it.
Ever. And that I am strong, I will not deny it. But I work hard to
increase my level of life."
Explaining what many perceive as a
brutal reign in Gaza, he dismissed it, saying that he "wasn't head of the
Red Cross," at the time.
Rights Watch report expounded on the extent of the crackdown that
commenced soon after the PA took charge of the Occupied Territories in
1994. For example, “during the first eight months of 1996, at least 2,000
Palestinians were arrested" by the PA police. The rate is almost as high
as arrests carried out by the Israeli army. "The arrests were arbitrary,"
according to HRW and no courts or due process was ever part of the
procedure, which, almost always, involved torture.
legacies of Abbas and Dahlan are largely predicated on such behavior, and
their current conflict is mostly concerned with personal power struggles
that involve just them and their followers.
Abbas, who is slowly
losing the traditional Arab allies who once supported him against Hamas,
and is relegated by Israel - which is trying to arrange the post-Abbas
Palestinian leadership - is trying to explore new alliances. He has
recently visited Turkey
and Qatar. In Qatar, he
met with top Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Ismael Haniyeh.
Hamas is not being courted by Abbas to end the protracted and
disconcerting Palestinian feud for many years, but rather to counterbalance
earlier moves by Dahlan to pander to Hamas.
involved in various ‘charity projects’ including financing mass weddings
in impoverished Gaza. But it is not Dahlan's money that Hamas is seeking;
rather the hope that he mediates with Egypt to ease movement on the Rafah-Egypt
With a growing clout and rising number of benefactors,
Dahlan's resurrection is assured, but imposing him on an embattled Fatah
faction in the West Bank remains uncertain.
To preclude Dahlan's
attempt at regaining his status within Fatah, Abbas’s PA forces in the
Occupied West Bank have been conducting arrests of Dahlan's supporters.
The latter’s armed men are retaliating and clashes have been reported in
various parts of the West Bank.
Moreover, Abbas has called for
the seventh Fatah conference to be held sometime later this month, where
the Abbas faction within Fatah is likely to rearrange the various
committees to ensure Dahlan's supporters are weakened, if not permanently
Considering Dahlan's strong support base, and his
ability to win followers using his access to wealth and regional allies, a
move against his followers is likely to backfire, splitting
the party, or worse, leading to an armed conflict. Despite Israel's
intentional silence, there are also reports that Israeli Defense Minister,
Avigdor Lieberman, who was tied to Dahlan repeatedly in the past, is keen
on ensuring the return of Dahlan at the helm of Fatah.
Tragically, the power struggle rarely involves ordinary Palestinian
people, who remain alone facing the Israeli military machine, the growing
illegal Jewish settlements, the suffocating siege, while persisting under
an unprecedented leadership vacuum.
This is one of the enduring
legacies of the Oslo Accords, which divides Palestinians into classes: a
powerful class that is subsidized by ‘donor countries’ and is used to
serve the interests of the US, Israel and regional powers, and the vast
majority of people, barely surviving on handouts, and resisting under
This strange contradiction has become the shameful
reality of Palestine, and regardless of what the power struggle between
Abbas and Dahlan brings, most Palestinians will find themselves facing the
same dual enemy, military occupation, on the one hand, and their
leadership’s own acquiescence and corruption, on the other.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years.
He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His
books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his
latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website
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