Hamas vs. Fatah: More Than Meets the Eye

An Introduction to the very important Palestine section
of this issue of Socialist Viewpoint.

In this issue of Socialist Viewpoint, we print a cross section of articles on the June events in that tiny piece of Palestine, Gaza. There, on the days of June 14-15, militants under the command of Hamas, meeting very little resistance, stormed and quickly controlled all the facilities of the armed bodies of the Palestinian Authority (PA): the offices of the police, the jails, the headquarters, stations, armories, and so forth.

For the past 18 months, the media has informed the public that Hamas had won a free and open election and consequently was the majority party in the government. But now we were seeing a paramilitary wing of the majority engaged in a shooting war with a section of its own government. On the face of it, it didn’t make any sense.

But it made sense for Gaza this June and soon enough it may make sense in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority is a governing organization established by the Oslo Agreement of 1993 between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. In 2002, Yasser Arafat, as head of both the PLO and the PA, with considerable prodding from the U.S., signed the Basic Law, making it its provisional constitution and the PA a multi party parliamentary institution.

The current dispute between Hamas and the Abbas gang can be seen in one section of the Basic Law: Article (69), “The Jurisdictions of the Council of Ministers.” Article 69 says, “ The Council of Ministers shall [have] the responsibility to maintain public order and internal security.” It must be pointed out that the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is the head of the Council of Ministers; they are his men; he has presented them to the Legislative Council for its approval and received it. Prime Minister Haniyeh is therefore responsible for public order and public security. This is what the Basic Law requires.

But, Abbas and his gang of policemen and intelligence units have refused, point blank, to turn over their facilities and the men under their command to the elected government’s Council of Ministers. This act of defiance has left Palestine with no effective police force, and no means to see that the laws are obeyed.

In this manner, the Old Guard has attempted to neuter the legal, elected government. And they would have succeeded were it not for the disciplined paramilitary force under the command of the leaders of Hamas.

(For further information see the Journal of Palestinian Studies, “A New ‘Hamas’ Through Its New Documents,” by Khaled Hroub, Summer 2006. The Journal also published an excellent analysis of the elections showing carefully who voted for whom: “Hamas’s Rise as Charted in the Polls: 1994-2005” by Jamid Hilal, Spring 2006).


—The Editors