LOOKING BACK AT THE ‘COUP’ IN GAZA

February 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

OPINION PIECE

THE “COUP” IN GAZA
By Dr. Ellen Rosser, President
Friendship and Peace Society

From September 2006 to June 2007, I had an office in Gaza and was
witness to some of the events that led to Hamas’ takeover of Gaza.   Did
Hamas stage  a coup, a planned overthrow of the Palestinian Authority
in Gaza?  The answer is definitely  no.  What then did happen?


My first experience of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza
occurred the first day that  I arrived in Gaza City  by taxi from the
Erez border crossing,  I needed to use an ATM to get shekels, and the
driver took me to a bank next to the central park.  But  people were
running away from the area and at the bank the men  waiting to use the
ATM were flat against the wall.  Bullets were flying a little farther
down the street.  I  ran from the taxi to the ATM, where the men
politely put me at the front of the line, as they always do for
women,.  I  took the shekels, and ran back to the taxi, looking down
the street to see where the bullets were coming from that I should
dodge.


Some months later, the next events that I personally  was aware of
in the tragic series occurred when the  Hamas minister of the
Interior, Siam Siyad, wanted a video tape showing who had killed a
Palestinian Authority soldier and wounded two others. It had been in
the possession of  Jad, who was killed, and then in the possession of
Major  Baha Balouja of Fatah, who  refused to give it up.


Subsequently, Major Baha was threatened, and a few days later his two
young sons were  killed when gunmen opened fire on the car with dark
windows in which the children were being driven to school.

I went with a Fatah friend to offer condolences to
Major Baha, and while we were there,  a man  came from Prime Minister
Haniyeh, who was waiting at the  Rafah border to return from Egypt,
 and said that the Prime Minister wanted to come to offer his
condolences and wanted to know if that would be alright. Major Baha
said “yes.”    In other words,  Prime Minister Haniyeh knew nothing
about  who killed  the two little boys and wished to express his sorrow
at the tragedy.   A few days later, however, he may have heard
Indications that Hamas members were involved,  for on television he
said that if  “we,” i.e. Hamas,  have done anything wrong, we will pay
“diwa,” (blood money, a traditional Palestinian way of resolving such
an issue)..


However, that night when Haniyeh was entering Gaza after being
held at the border for eight hours  while Egypt decided what to do
about the millions of dollars he was bringing with him,   there was an
assassination attempt on his life by some men who guarded the border,
Mohammed Dahlan’s men.   Haniyeh  was not hit by the bullets shot from
the roof of the border crossing terminal, but his son and Ahmed Yusef
, who were next to him, were wounded.     Haniyeh did not dwell
extensively on the attempt, saying merely on television that he was
willing to be a martyr.  President Mahmoud Abbas,  I am sure,  was not
aware of the attempted assassination of Haniyeh any more than Haniyeh
was aware of  who killed the two boys.    Indeed, after the Fatah and
Hamas men began attacking each other in the city every day, the two
leaders both called for peace and an end of the fighting several
times, and after a joint call for peace, the fighting would stop for a
day or two,  but then it would resume.


A number of  times I  had to wait in my office/apartment until
the shooting moved away from my area,  then  hurry down to the street
to go to the nearby bakery and vegetable  stores to stock up on food
for a few days.  Usually an armed man on the corner–I  never knew
whether he would be Hamas or Fatah–would look up and down the street
for me and then wave me across.   Both sides were courteous and
helpful to the  old, American woman.


At one point, while the  bullets were volleying back and forth
down the main streets in Gaza City and elsewhere, the US or more
precisely, I’m  sure,  Gen. Keith Dayton, tried to intervene on behalf
of Fatah, by  sending in a truckload or more of weapons.   Hamas
learned of the shipment, however,  seized it and used it.


But it is important to note that the anger of the Hamas men on
the street was not directed against the Palestinian Authority nor
President Abbas but rather against the Fatah leader who had
arrested—and tortured—Hamas men during the second intifada: Mohammed
Dahlan.     One night I heard from my office window someone reciting
through a very loud speaker what sounded like a poem.   But in the
middle of it I heard  “Mohammed Dahlan,  Israelian, Americaniya”   In
other words,  Dahlan because of his previous actions was considered to
be an Israeli and an American—not a Palestinian nationalist.  One
wonders what would have happened if Dahlan had not been the Head of
Security for the P.A.; would the conflict in Gaza  have happened?


The people of Gaza and all the other political parties were very angry
at Fatah nad Hamas for fighting and disrupting the lives of all the
people.  However, I must emphasize again that it was not the
leaders—Abbas and Haniyeh—who were responsible.   Indeed, one day the
Gaza director of the Friendship and Peace Society, who is neither Fatah
nor Hamas,  and I organized a children’s demonstration against the
fighting.   Forty children in white shirts and white caps with signs
saying in Arabic:: “ Peace Fatah and Hamas”; “Stop the Fighting”;  and
a quotation from
the Koran—“If Muslim kills Muslim of set intent,  he has eternal
punishment.”   When the bus full of children drove up to Haniyeh’s
office,  his office director welcomed us and thanked us, saying he
agreed with us.  And when the bus drove up to Abbas’ office, his office
manager welcomed us and thanked us, saying he agreed with us.


Then we went to the central park to join the other political parties and civil societies who were protesting the fighting.


Since the leaders were unable to prevent the fighting on the street and
gunmen were shooting down the boulevards and from the tops of tall
buildings,  it was a relief for the people of Gaza when one party won,
the fighting stopped and people could resume their lives without fear
of becoming a civilian casualty.


Was there a “coup” in Gaza?   I don’t think that is the proper word for
what happened.There were some people on both sides who wanted to
overthrow some individuals on the other side.   Mohammed Dahlan was
hated by Hamas, though he was not present in Gaza then,  and there was
an attempt on the life of Haniyeh by  Dahlan’s men.  However,  I think
one might call what happened more a  vendetta than a coup.   And  I
think everyone should emphasize that the leaders—Haniyeh and Abbas—were
 not responsible for the fighting and indeed tried to stop
it several times.


In other words,  it would be appropriate for  Abbas and Haniyeh
to continue their peacemaking roles.    Abbas could emphasize to the
world, especially to Gen. Keith Dayton, that Hamas is not a
“terrorist” organization, it should not be on the “terrorist” list,
and its members should not be in prison for belonging to Hamas.
Moreover, Abbas could encourage the EU and US to talk to Hamas, which
is currently being unjustly  boycotted just as the PLO was boycotted
from l987-1991, during which time Arafat was calling for peace just as
Hamas is calling for the two state solution now.   And Haniyeh could
reciprocate by becoming part of the peace-loving unity government and
by calling for elections so that the Palestinian people can exercise
their right to freely choose a new government.

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