June 15, 2007

The Middle East now faces a disaster that goes far wider than Gaza. Above it all stands the disaster of Iraq. The real significance of the Gaza debacle is that America and Britain have lost all influence in the Middle East and both the American and British leaders are totally discredited. Now the West’s worst fears are about to be realized. A militant Islamic mini-state will emerge from the chaos in the Gaza Strip. Let’s take it from the top.    

Fatah, a secular party, was founded in the 1950’s. Now led by president Abbas, it accepted Israel’s right to exist in 1990. Hamas emerged 20 years ago. It was more or less a reaction to the corruption of Fatah’s leadership, Arafat and company, who pocketed hundreds of millions while poor Palestinians starved in camps. Hamas’s hardliners pioneered suicide bombing, and Israel, in turn, assassinated most of its charismatic leaders. But unlike Arafat and Fatah, Hamas cleverly won support by providing food, education and medical services to the poor and needy. Hence in 2006, Hamas won a majority in democratically conducted elections. That is when Bush and the Israeli hardliners showed their mettle. Having first demanded free elections, they now decided to isolate the winner, Hamas, and withdrew of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the U.S and the West. Needless to say, growing poverty fed the tensions between Hamas and Fatah, ending most recently in the takeover of Gaza by Hamas. The blind are indeed leading the blind in American foreign policy. Or, rather, Aipac policy.

The big winner, of course, is Israel’s right wing. Watching thousands of Palestinians slaughter each other is manna from heaven for the Likudniks. The Bush administration continues to classify Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization, which means that hardliners of Hamas are encouraged to act as if they have nothing to lose. The result is a descent into insanity. Both Israel and the Bush administration have a lot to answer for.  


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