Palestine labyrinth

 Keeping up with the Palestinians is getting more difficult. Once there was just the PLO run by Yasir Arafat and then it was easy. But, then in the wake of the defeat of the Arab armies by the IDF in 1967 and 1973 many Arab nationalists became disillusioned and retreated back into Islam. Then Hamas was established in 1987 and there were two versions of Palestinian destiny, the Islamist one in Gaza, that would never deal with Israel and would destroy it, and the Palestine Authority controlled by Fatah-PLO on the West Bank, that would make a deal with Israel and then destroy it. Not much difference one might think, but enough to have Palestinians killing each other.

Then just as the much vaunted unification deal between Fatah and Hamas was being negotiated, first by Egypt, then Saudi Arabia and latterly Qatar, the splits got worse. Hamas has been supported to the tune of millions of dollars by Shi’ite Iran, but it is in fact a Sunni Muslim terrorist organization, that in principle is an enemy of the Shi’ites. Both have been united by their common hatred of Israel. One might say, cynically, that Iran is using the Palestinians in order to gain traction in the Arab world by being the most extreme anti-Israel element in the Middle East. That’s partly because the Arab countries tried to destroy Israel and got clobbered themselves, although Iran itself has never actually fought with Israel and so has illusions.

Now Hamas in turn is split, between those who want to remain friends with Iran and its ally Syria, and those who see that as a losing proposition and want to switch their allegiance to the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, who won the recent elections in Egypt. Khaled Mashaal, Head of Hamas, has moved the international HQ of Hamas out of Damascus and into Cairo. So when Mashall was visiting Sunni Qatar, Jordan and Egypt, PM Haniyeh of Hamas visited Iran to hob-nob with Pres. Ahmedinejad. Thus there is a split within Hamas between the pro-Shia and the pro-Sunni elements. 

In Gaza, under Hamas control, there are many splinter groups, one of which is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is a wholly owned and controlled proxy of Iran. One interpretation of the recent upsurge of rocket firings from Gaza into Israel, by the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad, was that this was Iran flexing its muscles in Gaza and putting Hamas on the spot. However, the level of damage that the IAF inflicted on IJ and the PRC caused them to quickly agree to a ceasefire, with Egypt as the intermediary. So even though Hamas is a self-declared implacable enemy of Israel, nevertheless it wants to hold on to power in Gaza, and is happy to stand by while its rivals IJ and PRC get clobbered. How long will it be before the pro-Iran and anti-Iran elements in Hamas are at each others throats? If you happen to come across a pro-Palestinian in the West ask them which faction of the Palestinians they support.

About the Author
Jack Cohen was born in London and has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University. He moved to the US and worked at the National Cancer Inst. and then Georgetown Medical School. In 1996, he Moved to Israel and became Chief Scientist of the Sheba Medical Center. He retired in 2001 and worked as a Visiting Professor at Hebrew University Medical School for 5 years.