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The West widens the Fatah-Hamas split

Palestinian unity is essential for any peace deal but the US, Britain and the EU are playing a central role in preventing it
The Guardian
July 28, 2009
Seumas Milne
It should be obvious that no settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict is going to stick unless it commands broad support or acceptance on both sides. That is especially true of the Palestinians, who have shown time and again that they will never accept the denial of their national and human rights. The necessity of dealing with all representative Palestinian leaders was recognised by Britain's parliamentary foreign affairs committee yesterday, which called on the government to end its ban on contacts with Hamas.
But despite the parade of top American officials visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week to drum up business for a new peace conference, the US, Britain and European Union continue to play a central role in preventing the Palestinian national unity that is essential if any deal is going to have a chance of succeeding. Far from helping to overcome the split between Fatah and Hamas, the US, Israel and their allies in practice do everything they can to promote and widen it.
In his speech last month in Cairo, Barack Obama acknowledged Palestinian support for Hamas who won the Palestinian elections three years ago but insisted that only by accepting conditions he knows it will not accept can the Palestinians' elected representatives "play a role". The only settlement scenarios now envisaged by the US administration are based on a deal with the unpopular Mahmoud Abbas, which cannot command Palestinian national support.
Not only that, but the US, Britain and EU continue to require, fund and facilitate a security crackdown against Hamas activists in the West Bank, which makes the necessary reconciliation between the two Palestinian parties increasingly far-fetched.
A new report (pdf) for the London-based Middle East Monitor highlights the scale of detention without trial in the West Bank more than 1,000 political prisoners are reportedly held in Palestinian Authority jails and extrajudicial killings, torture and raids on Hamas-linked social institutions by security forces trained, funded and organised by the US with Israel's blessing.
The repression is justified by reference to the commitment to "end terrorism" in the 2003 road map. And the central role played in building up the security forces to carry it out (at a cost so far of $161m from congress) is played by Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton, US security co-ordinator for the Palestinian Authority, a man increasingly regarded as the real power in the West Bank, whose slogan is "peace through security" (pdf).
Dayton is advised by a team of British officials, as well as a British private security firm, Libra, closely tied to the Foreign Office. Libra has also been busy working for the occupation forces and interior ministry in Iraq, where sectarianism and human rights abuses have been rife.
Naturally, all the governments and security firms concerned say they abhor torture and human rights violations and focus their training on overcoming them. But, as Dayton himself makes clear, the priority is "to allay Israeli fears about the nature and capabilities of the Palestinian security forces".
Privately, official sources have tried to rubbish the Middle East Monitor dossier, partly on the basis of the involvment of the Muslim Council of Britain leader Daud Abdullah. But a survey compiled last month by the independent Palestinian human rights group al-Haq, as well as earlier reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, tell a similar story.
The Hamas-led administration in Gaza is also held responsible for significant human rights abuses, if on a smaller scale. But as the dispute over attendance at next week's long-awaited Fatah conference in Bethlehem has shown, the Islamist movement is prepared to release its Fatah prisoners if the PA frees Hamas detainees in the West Bank. And that needs an American and Israeli green light.
Which only underlines the fact that until the US and its followers stop trying to divide-and-rule the Palestinians, allow them to choose their own leaders and negotiate their own differences, hopes of serious progress in the Middle East under Obama are bound to be unfulfilled.
Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
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| Ander Nieuws week 32 / nieuwe oorlog 2009 |