Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Background of internal PA violence

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Hi all,
I just posted an analysis of the heated situation in the palestine on my blog. A reprint of the article follows:

Things are getting very heated in the palestine (I use 'the' because here 'palestine' is a geographic reference, i.e. from the River to the Sea), and particularly in territories controlled by the PA. Within the past few weeks, almost two dozen people have been killed due to violence between Arab Palestinians. The conflict is extremely complex but boils down to politics and power-struggle.

Ever since a group of influential jailed Palestinians (ALL of whom, by the way, have been linked to terrorism) proposed a document that called for a coalition "government" of the PA, things have been steadily getting more sectarian.

To provide some context to MSM news reports, I'd like to provide the following background info I have gleaned from years of following the conflict. (Upon request, I should be able to find reliable sources, almost always MSM articles, for the facts presented below)

The PA has a (very large, bigger than the entirety of the standing Canadian army in fact) number of security forces on it's official payroll. These forces are also armed by the PA, something set out in the Oslo accords agreed upon by Israel and Arafat's PLO. One of the problems is that the PA forces are divided into numerous subgroups with varying loyalties. The MSM has recently started to group all PA forces by pro-Hamas or pro-Fatah loyalties, but the reality is much more nuanced. Amongst the MSM denoted 'pro-Fatah' forces, many are de facto loyal to PA president Abbas, while others who were loyal to Arafat before his death tend to pursue independent agendas that are sometimes sharply different from Abbas'. This includes splinter groups of Al Aqsa Brigades (known for their terrorism against Israelis) and Tanzim (also known for terrorism against Israelis). As such, we have recently seen a resurgence of violent conflict between pro-Abbas pro-Fatah forces and anti-Abbas pro-Fatah forces, something the MSM has for the large part completely ignored.
There are also sometimes violent divisions amongst pro-Hamas forces, not all of whom are on the official PA payroll (more on this later). The Economist recently identified six (!) different Hamas leadership blocs, with varying agendas, sources of funding, freedoms/powers (two of the leadership blocs are in jail), loyal bases etc... The six identified blocs are
1- notional chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus, with links to Syria and Iran
2- the PA Hamas party's heavyweights, led by Haniyeh, in Gaza
3- the rest of the PA Hamas party in PA-controleld territories in Yesha
4- "convicted prisoners in Israeli civilian jails"
5- those Hamas leaders in "administrative detention" in Israeli military jails
6- the on-the-ground leaders of the supra-PA Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades

Yet another issue is that since the election of Hamas into the PA parliament, the PA has been unable to pay most owed wages to the forces on its payrolls. Certain subgroups of the forces with certain loyalties however have been getting paid steadily. This fact has contributed to the sectarianism between various groups of armed forces (read: jealousy).

In addition to the conflict internal to the armed forces on the payroll of the PA, there are also numerous Palestinian heavily-armed groups that are not on the PA payroll, including numerous small groups or militias... Prior to Hamas's election victory, practically all armed forces openly loyal to Hamas (they went and many still go by the name of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and their numbers were big... not to mention that they were repsonsible for dozens of successful terrorist attacks on Israelis) were not on the PA payroll.

As complicated as the de facto reality is, the de jure situation is very complicated as well and is consequential on the above-described reality on the ground. Legally, by PA by-laws, the official PA forces are heavily subgrouped with incoherent and cumbersome chains of command. This is due to the legal origin of the PA Prime Minister position. This position was created by PA president Arafat's orders in order to appease international pressure that he was controlling the PA dictatorially and was imposing his condemnable approach (encouraging and facilitating violence and terrorism, blatantly lying to international media, as per Forbes and others stealing BILLIONS of dollars from Palestinians, etc...) on the PA. PA president Arafat created the position grudgingly and tried as hard as he could, through sometimes blatant (giving certain powers to the PM but legally enshrining veto power for the PA president) and sometimes complex bureaucratic schemes (new commitees within the PA, that he the PA president would chair, would get certain powers) to keep as much control over the PA armed forces in the hands of the PA president (himself at the time) as possible. After intense pressure internally and externally, a bureaucratically complex compromise was reached where certain subgroups of the forces would be under his direct or (through the committess) indirect control and others under the control of the PA parliament. Wikipedia sums it up as follows: " Arafat established over ten distinct security organizations through various mechanisms in an alleged divide et impera scheme, which is claimed to have guaranteed an atmosphere of power-struggle in the Authority which enabled him to preserve overall control." Currently, Abbas is the PA president while the PA parliament is controleld by Haniyeh-led Hamas. As a result, de jure, the conflicting Haniyeh-led Hamas and Abbas-led Fatah legally control varying sub-groups of the official PA forces.

As mentionned, the sectarianism is becoming very evident due to the proposed document that Abbas wants to have a referendum on. Hamas-loyals are worried it could lead to them losing some or all power, whereas moderate Fatah supporters hope it'll be enough to appease the internationla boycott on giving financial aid to a Hamas-led PA and radical Fatah-loyals hope it'll completly topple Hamas from power.

Clearly, the situation is delicate and complex, with some loyalties spanning regionnal or family ties, and religious convictions (Fatah believes in separating Mosque from eventual State, Hamas is very much opposed).

Recently, the Israeli government has done something that I feel it should have been very careful about. Olmert had the IDF patrol convoys of weapons (several hundred all together) going from Jordan to certain PA forces loyal to Fatah. This was seen by some as aiding the sectarianism. I suspect this act will be oft-quoted by future Chomskyist historical revisionists (I mean that in the worst sense of the word) who will attempt to blame Israel for all the palestinian violence.


At 1:24 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

Excellent post Ilya. You show that you reall know what you're talking about, and have a tight grasp on the history of the problems.
Just a clarification for those people who didn't get references to 'the palestine' and to 'Arab Palestinians'.

Ilya doesn't mean a country known as "Palestine," since that evidently doesn't exist, but since this is a historical themed post, he's referring to the former British-mandate of Palestine that existed in the area prior to the creation of Israel.

That said, Arab Palestinians is meant to contrast with Jewish Palestinians, who were Jews living in the British mandate at the time. A state for Palestinians? Well, there are two already! Jordan, for the Arab Palestinians, and Israel, for Jewish Palestinians.
Nevertheless, I believe, and think I speak for the majority, that Israel and the Jewish people are ready to concede a second Arab Palestinian state for peace...

At 1:58 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Ilya said:

Thanks lecentre for the praise. Just to clarify on "the palestine", I actually meant it as a purely geographic reference, like for example "the canadian shield", "the caucasus", "the levant"...
Linguists explain that the word "the" is often used to refer to "entities of nature" including geographic areas. I have never seen the word "the" used before "palestine" in this way, and I hope I start a trend, seeing as this terminology clearly shows that "palestine" is not used as a reference to a political country or state, given that "the" is very rarely used prior to singular names of states or countries.


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