Honorable Mr. President,
We are shocked, speechless, alarmed. We have just learned that activists and militants from the democratic resistance organization of Fatah, the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, have proposed using violence against Hamas and have even issued a call for the assassination of the head of Hamas in Damascus, Khaled Meshaal.
The Fatah-linked “Brigades” also are threatening to kill other Hamas leaders, including Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Since this call was issued, a number of Hamas leaders have in fact been targeted by anti-Hamas terrorists. The bodyguard of a Hamas member of parliament, Yunis al-Estal, was murdered in an attempt on al-Estal’s life. Hamas leader Mohamed Odeh, 37, was killed by Fatah gunmen near Kalkiliya.
The streets of Palestine have erupted in Hamas-Fatah firefights, in which dozens have been killed and injured. The Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades say they hold Hamas leaders Meshaal, Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, and senior Interior Ministry official Youssef al-Zahar responsible for those deaths.
Meanwhile, Fatah gunmen have closed several schools in central Gaza by force. They also blocked a major intersection, shouting “Down, down with Hamas,” burning tires and garbage and shooting in the air. Mr. President, something must be done to stop this unjustified hooliganism!
We are horrified by this outbreak of violence. It seems as if nothing has been learned by the Palestinian leadership in the past decade.
First, it should be clear that the outbreak of killings in Gaza and the West Bank should not be blamed on Hamas but rather on Israel. After all, while Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, it has not yet carried out a unilateral and complete withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Hence you are playing into Israeli imperialist hands when you falsely blame the shootings and killings on Hamas.
Second, if the past 13 years have taught us anything, it is that there are no military solutions to the problems of violence and armed conflict. If Fatah and the PLO leadership have problems with Hamas, you should conduct talks and negotiations with its legitimate elected leaders and work out your differences.
Don’t you in Fatah realize that if you fail to come to terms with Hamas, it will be eclipsed by the real terrorists, and by that we do not only mean the Israeli army. Ordinary Palestinians will feel frustrated and abandon democratic groups like Hamas if those groups are prevented from pursuing their agenda. And these ordinary Palestinians will then start supporting really radical and violent organizations.
It is also anti-democratic of you to shoot Hamas leaders. Mr. President. After all, Hamas won the Palestinian elections fair and square. These people you are shooting are the legitimate leaders of the Palestinian nation. You had begun talks with Hamas to form a national unity government for Palestine. Why abandon such a promising path to peace?
When your Fatah gunmen shoot Hamas members and leaders, you are simply contributing to the cycle of violence and are thus almost as culpable as Israel. And the violence is over such unimportant matters.
Yes, Hamas militiamen use beatings and gunfire to put down protests by Palestinian Authority civil servants and members of the security forces who demand payment of their salaries. But this use of extreme measures is small potatoes when compared with the force employedby Israel to stop protests against the security fence, which we all agree must be condemned and repudiated.
The armed confrontations among Palestinians seeking liberation from occupation and Zionist oppression have escalated. Fatah militants have even torched the Cabinet building in Ramallah and trashed Hamas offices. Mr. President, do you not realize that you cannot use force to stop the people from seeking peace and prosperity? Moreover, when you fire at Hamas members, you may in fact injure some innocent civilians and bystanders.
Just as we have been demanding that Israel never ever use force if a civilian might get hurt, we urge you and your Fatah militia activists to deal in a more pacifistic manner with Hamas. Otherwise, a French TV crew might stage a scene in which Palestinian children are injured by Fatah gunfire directed against Hamas.
If you do not abandon the use of force against Hamas at once and revoke your threats against Hamas leaders, we are afraid we will have to take concrete steps to remedy the situation. We will, with much regret, petition the International Court of Justice in The Hague to indict the Fatah leadership for war crimes against Hamas, and we will organize an international boycott of the Palestinian schools and colleges still controlled by Fatah.
(On behalf of the Israeli Peace Camp)
Israeli Professors for a Just Peace
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.