JONATHAN SHANZER'S HAMAS VS. FATAH:
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
This simplistic and ahistorical understanding largely dominates how outsiders see the Palestinians, to the near exclusion of other, more nuanced analyses, and the party line afflicts the whole history of the conflict — the period before 1948,  the heyday of pan-Arabism, the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and especially the 20-year period, 1987 to 2007, that Schanzer studies in the following pages. As he puts it, "While the mainstream American media overreported the violence between the Palestinians and Israelis, the ‘other struggle for Palestine,' which began to play out between Fatah and Hamas, received little to no coverage in America."
Many differences divide Palestinians — Muslim and Christian, urban and rural, sedentary and nomadic, rich and poor, regional — but Schanzer, a highly talented historian of the modern Middle East, establishes here the nature, extent, and significance of two specific intra-Palestinian tensions: primarily that fight between Fatah and Hamas, for this has the most acute and immediate political importance, and secondarily the dichotomy between the West Bank and Gaza.
Hamas versus Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine traces the history of the two groups' relations from the emergence of Hamas in late 1987 to the Hamas conquest of Gaza in June, 2007, then surveys the implications of this hostile but subtle relationship. In summary, Schanzer traces the simultaneous weakening of Fatah and strengthening of Hamas over this period. By 2008, Fatah's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is enfeebled, "no more than the president of the Muqata compound in Ramallah," while Hamas rules the roost in Gaza, threatens to seize power on the West Bank, sends hundreds of rockets into Israel,  and even challenges the government of Egypt. 
This dramatic shift in fortunes can be attributed to many factors, but perhaps most of all to the fact that whereas Yasir Arafat's Fatah was all things to all Palestinians, Hamas represents a coherent movement, with a fixed outlook and specific goals. Time and again Schanzer demonstrates how the discipline and purpose of Hamas has given it the edge over the corrupt and amorphous Fatah.
Palestinian self-destruction, neglected or not, ranks as a major U.S. foreign policy concern, especially since 1993, when Washington cast its lot with Yasir Arafat, Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Palestinian Authority, hoping against hope that Western backing would transform a revolutionary movement long allied with the Soviet Union into an agency of good government and status quo aspirations.
Among its many conceptual mistakes, this hope implied devoting too little attention to the competition raging between Fatah and Hamas since 1987 for the backing of the Palestinian street, a competition that impelled Fatah not be seen as going easy on Israel, but as aggressively anti-Zionist as Hamas. Given that Fatah was in negotiations with successive Israeli governments and it had to make gentle noises to the Israeli and Western media, the organization had to take a particularly ferocious stance on the ground. What American (and Israeli) policy makers tended to dismiss as incidental turned out to have deep and abiding consequences; suffice it to say that the Palestinian constituency for accepting Israel as a Jewish state has steadily lowered since the heady days of late 1993, to the point that it now represents only about a fifth of the body politic.
Schanzer also documents the cost for U.S. foreign policy of inattention to the Fatah-Hamas fitna (Arabic for "internal strife"). For one thing, it led to a misreading of the Palestinian mood in the period leading up to the January, 2006, elections, causing Washington to keep promoting them in the happy expectation that its favorite, Fatah, would win; when elections came, the crushing victory by Hamas over Fatah came as a shock. For another, in early 2007, what Schanzer calls "relatively weak mainstream media coverage" of Fatah-Hamas fighting meant that the June conquest of Gaza by Hamas came as another surprise to the Bush administration. In brief, those responsible for American interests neither anticipated nor prepared for the two climatic events in Hamas's rise to power, a situation as embarrassing as it is revealing. So limited an understanding of the issues almost guarantees severe policy mistakes.
Why, given the extent of intra-Palestinian differences and their importance, has this subject been so rudely ignored? Schanzer prudently stays away from this sensitive topic, but what keeps researchers away in droves should at least be mentioned. I believe it reflects the fact that few academics have a genuine interest in the Palestinians. Rather, they devote outsized attention to this otherwise small and obscure population because it represents a convenient and potent tool with which to malign Israel.
Organizations intent on criticizing Israel's every move  by default become masters of tiny Palestinian grievances. They document in loving detail residential and transportation patterns in the West Bank, water and electricity grids in Gaza, and impediments to reaching holy places in Jerusalem. Those intent on showing Israel in a bad light must champion the Palestinians with allegations of mass executions, torture, denial of hospital services — but this should not be confused with genuine concern for the Palestinians. Nor does it lead to an understanding of Palestinian life.
It particularly pleases me that the author undertook some of his initial research for this study while at the Middle East Forum, the research institute I direct, notably his studies on Fatah versus Hamas,  on comparative Palestinian uprisings,  and on the Gaza–West Bank split.  This last discussion, elaborated here in chapter 11, offers a particularly valuable review of the many and growing differences between the "two Palestines," a subject on which there is hardly anything in English, but the writings by Jonathan Schanzer.
Most books on the Arab-Israeli conflict tread well-worn ground. Hamas versus Fatah offers an original analysis of a key topic.
. For a recent and notable exception, see Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008).
. Izz al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades Web site, "In January 2008 Al Qassam Brigades fired 540 rocket and missile and killed two Zionists," February 2, 2008.
. Cable News Network, "'Dozens Hurt' in Gaza Border Clashes," January 27, 2008.
. An excellent case study of this phenomenon can be found in Erik R. Nelson and Alan F. H. Wisdom, Human Rights Advocacy in the Mainline Protestant Churches (2000–2003) (Washington, DC: Institute on Religion & Democracy, 2004).
. Jonathan Schanzer, "The Challenge of Hamas to Fatah," Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003).
. Jonathan Schanzer, "Palestinian Uprisings Compared," Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2002).
. Jonathan Schanzer, "A Gaza-West Bank Split? Why the Palestinian Territories Might Become Two Separate States," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (July 2001).
Originally Published as the Foreword to Jonathan Schanzer,
Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine,
(Palgrave-Macmillan, November, 2008)
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, November 11, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/6016
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East
Islamism & Jihadism -- Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
LINKS TO PARTICULAR ISSUES & SUBJECT MATTER CATEGORIES
TREATED IN THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, U.S.A.:
American Government 2 * American Government 3 * American Government 4
American Government 5 * American Politics * Anglosphere * Arabs
Arms Control & WMD * Aztlan Separatists * Big Government
Black Africa * Bureaucracy * Canada * China * Civil Liberties * Communism
Congress, U.S. * Conservative Groups * Conservative vs. Liberal
Constitutional Law * Counterterrorism * Criminal Justice * Disloyalty * Economy
Education * Elections, U.S. * Eminent Domain * Energy & Environment
English-Speaking World * Ethnicity & Race * Europe * Europe: Jews
Family Values * Far East * Fiscal Policy, U.S. * Foreign Aid, U.S. * Foreign Policy, U.S.
France * Hispanic Separatism * Hispanic Treason * Human Health * Immigration
Infrastructure, U.S. * Intelligence, U.S. * Iran * Iraq * Islamic North Africa
Islamic Threat * Islamism * Israeli vs. Arabs * Jews & Anti-Semitism
Jihad & Jihadism * Jihad Manifesto I * Jihad Manifesto II * Judges, U.S. Federal
Judicial Appointments * Judiciary, American * Latin America * Latino Separatism
Latino Treason * Lebanon * Leftists/Liberals * Legal Issues
Local Government, U.S. * Marriage & Family * Media Political Bias
Middle East: Arabs * Middle East: Iran * Middle East: Iraq * Middle East: Israel
Middle East: Lebanon * Middle East: Syria * Middle East: Tunisia
Middle East: Turkey * Militant Islam * Military Defense * Military Justice
Military Weaponry * Modern Welfare State * Morality & Decency
National Identity * National Security * Natural Resources * News Media Bias
North Africa * Patriot Act, USA * Patriotism * Political Culture * Political Ideologies
Political Parties * Political Philosophy * Politics, American * Presidency, U.S.
Private Property * Property Rights * Public Assistance * Radical Islam
Religion & America * Rogue States & WMD * Russia * Science & Ethics
Sedition & Treason * Senate, U.S. * Social Welfare Policy * South Africa
State Government, U.S. * Subsaharan Africa * Subversion * Syria * Terrorism 1
Terrorism 2 * Treason & Sedition * Tunisia * Turkey * Ukraine
UnAmerican Activity * UN & Its Agencies * USA Patriot Act * U.S. Foreign Aid
U.S. Infrastructure * U.S. Intelligence * U.S. Senate * War & Peace
Welfare Policy * WMD & Arms Control
Africa: Black Africa *
Africa: North Africa *
American Government 1
POLITICAL EDUCATION, CONSERVATIVE ANALYSIS
POLITICS, SOCIETY, & THE SOVEREIGN STATE
Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor