Hamas v. Fateh : round 1 (or as my friend says, "Beirut, baby"
I’m writing this and in pitch darkness. Not due to artillery shells, from which we’ve been spared for a whole of 24 hours. But because the friendly folks of al-Aqsa Martrys (or as I like to call them, my friendly neighborhood gunmen) shot our neighborhood’s electricity cables by accident this evening, after hoisting their flag on the now Hamas-dominated Legislative Council in front of my house in protest of recent Hamas statements (someone needs target practice. Then again, better the cable than me.
Last night, they also decide to hold a pre-dawn bash, smack dab in the middle of the city (deciding to "avoid areas populated by Hamas), which continued until the wee hours of the morning.
Of course the protests were dumb, but even dumber perhaps were Khalid Mishal’s statements-no matter how true they rang- to which the “protests” were a response.
The Hamas political head in Syria, known for his inflammatory rhetoric, made verbal jabs at Fateh and Mahmud Abbas, blaming them for the state of financial ruin that the PA is currently in, among other things, and said Hamas would not stand for Abbas’s decisions to annul the new security branch created by the Ministry of Interior yesterday.
Meshal said, roughly:
“We can understand Israel and America persecuting us, and seeking ways to besiege and starve us, but not the sons of our people who are plotting against us, who are following a carefully laid out plan to make us fail. Today is not the time to expose them, but the day will come soon when we will reveal to all the truth in detail about all they have done.”
Meshal also noted that is was not long ago when Abbas himself resigned over this very issue-when Arafat would not cede his control over the most important security branches to a then PM Abbas.
As he was speaking on Aljazeera, and as people cheered him on in the audience, Mahmud Zahar, who was in attendance, remained quiet, as if to say-“no, no Meshal! Not the time or place!”
Fateh of course wouldn’t have it, immediately issuing a condemnatory statement through their revolutionary council accusing Meshal of “igniting a civil war” by calling Abbas a traitor (Meshal never mentioned Abbas by name, but made veiled references. He later apologized and said he was misunderstood, calling for dialogue).
But it wasn’t long before young Fateh cadres, Fateh shabeeba as they are called here-hardcore supporters of Mohammad Dahalan (who helped found the movement as in 1981) took to the streets in wild protest, along with hooligans looking for “fun” and any chance to lash out at Hamas, shooting belt after belt with automatic weapons, and keeping me awake a good part of the night (not to mention disrupting a really good chapter in the book I was reading).
As my cousin noted, “young people here are so bored, you have no idea. These are a bunch of young shabab with nothing better to do. They are a small contingent of Fateh looking for any opportunity to lash out at Hamas” -whom they hate more, some have confessed to me, “more than the Israeli occupation itself”.
Today, the clashes spilled over into the rival universities of Al-Azhar (Fateh run) and al-Islamiya (Islamic University, run by Hamas). Apparently, the Fateh student council in al-Islamiya, and later, Al-Azhar students, both plastered the pristine walls of al-Islamiya with condemnatory and accusatory flyers. Push came to shove (quite literally), and though it did not get fatal and weapons were not involved, around 15 people were injured in fistfights, stone throwing, and firebombs.
Amidst the madness, a lone vendor roamed around the angry crowds selling licorice juice to thirsty stone-throwers (honestly, only in Palestine...). All that was missing, joked my cousin, was a kiosk selling souvenirs-perhaps t-shirts and hats stating “anti-Hamas protests 2006-I was there!” I’m sure the local PLO flag shop could make some big bucks.
According to my cousin, it’s not all bad. The university (she attends al-Azhar, the only university at the time of her enrollment that taught IT) is now on strike for 3 days-which means time-off to study for exam. “Catastrophes for some, benefit for others” she smiled.
We argued about where this could lead to, theoretically
“They would never be able to plan a civil war, they aren’t up to it.” She says we’ve gotten accustomed to living without law and order-that we don’t like anyone to rule us, whether its Israel, Mahmud Abbas or Hamas. “People take it very personally, they just don’t like anyone telling them what to do. Everybody wants to rule themselves.” She thinks a third-party needs to intervene to keep the order at this time, like the Egyptians.
I tend to agree that this would not spill over into civil war for a variety of reasons-(though sometimes it’s not difficult to how it could when there is as much negative energy as I saw today, with so much anger and emotion in such a confined space...think: hamsters crowded in a cage.) I think the one thing stopping this from happening is even when Hamas-supporters do engage Fateh shabeeba, thing usually are stopped from escalating by the higher echelons of Hamas-who instruct their supporters to stay quiet and indoors and not all prey to “Fateh provocations”, as they have tonight. As they say, it takes two to tango.
For now, the streets are calm once again, Yousuf is sound asleep....and looks like the electricty just came back on. So I think I'll continue reading my book while its quiet...