The 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas (which swept democratically-held Palestinian legislative elections one year earlier) is inevitably described by the Zionist-controlled media as the “bloody” or “violent” seizure of the coastal enclave from forces loyal to the US-backed Palestinian Authority (PA).
Such media reports, however, leave Hamas’ motivations for capturing the strip entirely unexplained. For example, few readers of ‘mainstream’ media will have heard of the so-called “Dayton Plan,” the failed Israeli/US plot (quarterbacked by PA strongman Mohamed Dahlan) to annihilate the Hamas leadership in Gaza — a scheme that precipitated the resistance group’s preemptive takeover of the territory.
Lest these facts, which are essential to understanding the current situation in Gaza, be forgotten, the following news reports from 2007/08 should shed some light on the reasoning behind Hamas’ lightning capture of the strip — a move swiftly followed by the internationally-sanctioned embargo of the territory by Israel and Egypt.
‘This bombshell took a year falling’
Inter Press Service (IPS); April 2, 2008
CAIRO — A recent article in Vanity Fair magazine “exposing” a US-planned coup attempt against Palestinian resistance movement Hamas last year has ignited a storm of debate about Washington’s Middle East policies. Yet for more than nine months, details of the plot were reported in the independent Arabic press — and elsewhere — leading some observers to ask: where was the mainstream media?
“From the very beginning, Hamas has publicly insisted that what happened in Gaza last year came in reaction to plans being hatched against it,” Tarek Abd al-Gaber, former news correspondent for Egyptian state television covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, told IPS.
Hamas has been widely blamed in much of the mainstream media for carrying out a “violent coup” against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Gaza Strip last summer. After six days of heavy fighting, Hamas wrested control of the territory from the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the US-backed Fatah movement, in mid-June.
Hamas fighters quickly seized all official institutions and symbols of governance in the Gaza Strip, including the presidential residence in Gaza City.
Declaring a state of emergency from the Fatah-ruled West Bank, Abbas announced the dissolution of the previous national unity government, led by Hamas-affiliated Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh. Hamas leaders in Gaza, however, refused to recognize the declaration, and have remained in control of the territory.
Most western capitals, led by Washington, quickly condemned the takeover, placing blame for the dangerous turn of events squarely on Hamas. The refrain was taken up by much of the western media, which consistently portrayed the dispute as one between “extremist” Hamas in the Gaza Strip and “moderate” Fatah in the West Bank.
Many Arab capitals, too, denounced Hamas’s seizure of the volatile territory. The day after the upset, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted in the state press as describing what happened as “the overthrow of Palestinian legitimacy.”
“What happened in the Gaza Strip was nothing less than a military coup d’etat,” Mohamed Basyouni, former Egyptian ambassador to Israel and current head of the Shura (upper parliamentary) Council’s committee for Arab affairs, told IPS at the time. “It was totally illegitimate.”
Yet in its April issue, the US leisure magazine Vanity Fair makes a startling claim: that Hamas’s takeover of the territory was prompted by a secret US plan aimed at extirpating the Islamist group’s leadership in Gaza.
In an article entitled “The Gaza Bombshell,” the magazine purports to “lay bare a covert initiative” approved by the White House and implemented by the US State Department “to provoke a Palestinian civil war.”
[For the full text of the Vanity Fair article, see ‘Why Hamas took Gaza, Pt. 2’]
Relying on confidential documents and former administration officials, author David Rose writes that after Hamas’s unexpected victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the US administration drew up a plan to arm Fatah cadres with the aim of forcefully removing Hamas from power in Gaza. Under the terms of the arrangement, Rose writes, Fatah received arms and financing through a handful of Washington’s Arab allies, including Egypt and Jordan.
According to sources cited in the article, the plan was to be jointly coordinated by US Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton and long-time Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan.
But the conspiracy was stillborn. After a Jordanian newspaper leaked details of the plot, Hamas pre-emptively seized control of Gaza on 14 June and arrested much of Fatah’s leadership throughout the territory.
Instead of driving the Islamist group from power, Vanity Fair writes, “US-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.”
White House and State Department officials have strenuously denied the article’s claims. Nevertheless, the Gaza “bombshell” has received wide coverage in the western news media, with several commentators comparing the magazine’s “revelations” to the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, which also involved the covert — and illegal — supply of arms to the Middle East.
Yet according to many local observers, the existence of the so-called “Dayton Plan” has been fairly well known since the upset in Gaza more than nine months ago.
“Hamas has consistently and publicly stated that what happened in June came in reaction to the Dayton Plan, which aimed at the group’s destruction,” said Ibrahim Eissa, editor-in-chief of independent daily al-Dustour, which published Hamas’s allegations last summer.
“But the group’s claims received little coverage in the mainstream Arab media — even [Arabic language news channel] al-Jazeera didn’t give the issue much attention,” Eissa told IPS. “The plot allegations were only covered in a handful of independent newspapers and on websites sympathetic to Hamas.”
Abd al-Gaber agreed that Egyptian state media wholly neglected to convey Hamas’s point of view regarding the reasons for the Gaza seizure.
“The official press took the US line and simply blamed Hamas for everything,” he said. “The White House insisted on calling Hamas’s actions a ‘coup’ regardless of the circumstances, and official media — in the west and in the Arab world — repeated this mantra.”
One notable exception to this was the Egyptian English-language state broadsheet Al-Ahram Weekly. In its 21 June edition, only one week after the Gaza upset, the newspaper quoted Hamas leader Yehia Moussa at length about the failed plot [see below].
“[US-backed Fatah fighters] were planning to carry out a bloody coup against Hamas involving the murder of hundreds of people, including Hamas’s political and religious leaders,” Moussa was quoted as saying. “But we managed to thwart their plans before they could carry them out.”
Nor did IPS miss the story. In August of last year, in an article devoted to Fatah’s decling popularity [see below], IPS explicitly cited the Dayton Plan as a chief reason for Fatah’s deteriorating image on the Arab Street.
“Fatah’s image has also been tarnished by revelations that emerged in the immediate wake of the Gaza upset regarding a failed plan to extirpate the Hamas leadership,” IPS reported from Cairo on 21 August. “According to Hamas officials, the ‘Dayton Plan’ — named after US General Keith Dayton — had been scheduled to take place on 13 July.”
Citing Hamas spokesmen, the article noted that that the operation “was to be led by Fatah-affiliated strongman Mohammed Dahlan with logistical support from the US Central Intelligence Agency.”
The article went on to quote Essam al-Arian, a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement — which controls a fifth of the Egyptian parliament and is ideologically close to Hamas — as saying: “The so-called Dayton Plan aimed to manipulate the Palestinians into waging war against each other.”
So why, then — if details of the US plan were so readily accessible for the last nine months — are Vanity Fair’s disclosures being treated by the mainstream media as new information?
Mohamed Mansour, professor of media at Cairo University, says the belated reporting proves the overwhelming bias against Hamas in much, if not all, of the western media.
“Western media institutions do everything in their power to tarnish the image of the Palestinian quest for statehood,” Mansour told IPS. “This can only be attributed to the Zionist influence on western, particularly American, media — a fact that can no longer be debated.”
Although the Vanity Fair article serves to vindicate Hamas’s Gaza takeover, Mansour went on to question the timing of its publication.
“Why did the media take so long to break the story?” he asked. “I suspect the article was only published now to further aggravate the rift between Hamas and Fatah and divert attention from developments elsewhere.”
According to Eissa, Egypt‘s official press has yet to mention the contentious Vanity Fair report.
“Even now, the state press hasn’t reported on the Vanity Fair story,” he said, noting that al-Dustour, by contrast, had published translated selections from the article in the first week of March.
Eissa added: “Like much of the western media, the official Arab press would rather ignore Hamas than publish stories that might serve to justify the resistance group’s actions.”
The above article can be found here: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9434.shtml
‘Bush could have given Fatah that kiss of death’
Inter Press Service (IPS); August 21, 2007
CAIRO — Ever since the takeover of Gaza two months ago by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, Washington and its allies have steadfastly supported the rival Fatah movement headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. But public support for Fatah, which has come to be seen by many as a stooge of Washington and Tel Aviv, has dropped off markedly.
“Popular support for Abbas and his Fatah party has fallen for several reasons,” Essam al-Arian, a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, told IPS. “For one, Abbas seems prepared to give Israel all the concessions it wants without getting anything in return.”
In mid-June, Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the US-backed Abbas government, essentially splitting the Palestinian body politic into two distinct geographical entities. Since then, the US Bush Administration — along with most of the western media — has consistently portrayed the dispute as one between an “extremist” Hamas in the Gaza Strip and a “moderate” Fatah in the West Bank.
“The conflict in Gaza and the West Bank today is a struggle between extremists and moderates,” US President George W. Bush declared in the immediate wake of the upset.
Israel too rushed to embrace Abbas and his Fatah movement as a “moderate” counterweight to Hamas. In an effort to isolate the resistance faction, which Tel Aviv calls a “terrorist organization,” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has promised to ease conditions in the West Bank while maintaining a crushing economic embargo on the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.
“Abbas is hoping that economic improvements in the West Bank, in tandem with the difficulties suffered in Gaza, will boost his public support base,” Emad Gad, analyst at the semi-official al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and expert in Israeli affairs, told IPS.
In a further bid to strengthen Abbas’ hand vis-à-vis Hamas, Olmert announced the release of some 250 Fatah-affiliated prisoners from Israeli jails late last month.
Meanwhile, Washington’s “moderate” Arab allies in the region — led by Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States — have followed the US lead in expressing support for Abbas and his emergency government, headed by Salam Fayyad.
While in Washington last month to confer with senior US administration officials, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit again referred to Abbas as the only “legitimate” representative of the Palestinian people. He went on to reiterate the official mantra that the Hamas takeover of Gaza constituted an illegal “military coup.”
But while most Arab capitals have declared support for Abbas and his government, much of the wider Arab public has been disturbed by certain aspects of the PA president’s post-Gaza political trajectory.
For one, Israel’s obvious support for Abbas has served to reinforce his image as a de facto ally of the Jewish state against Hamas.
“Abbas now appears to move entirely according to the US and Israeli agenda,” Abdel-Halim Kandil, former editor-in-chief of opposition weekly al-Karama told IPS. “The so-called PA has become little more than a security manager for the Israeli occupation.”
“Israel may soon reoccupy the Gaza Strip with the aim of permanently removing Hamas from power,” Kandil added. “In this case, Abbas will be seen by many as little more than a soldier in the Israeli army.”
Further belying the Fatah camp’s designation as “moderate,” Abbas, following the lead of Washington and Tel Aviv, has staunchly refused to talk to Hamas since the Gaza takeover. “There will be no dialogue with the instigators of the coup,” Abbas has declared.
Hamas, by contrast, has consistently called for negotiations with its Fatah rivals. In a statement late last month, the resistance faction reiterated its call for dialogue, “despite the PA president’s repeated emphasis on his total refusal to hold talks.”
Abbas’ steadfast refusal to negotiate, however, has only reinforced the perception of Hamas as the more reasonable party to the conflict.
“It’s remarkable that Abbas will run to hold talks with Israeli officials, who demand impossible concessions of him, while simultaneously rejecting dialogue with Hamas,” said al-Arian.
According to Kandil, Abbas’ intransigence can be attributed directly to the PA president’s close relationship with his patrons in Washington. “Abbas can’t hold talks with Hamas because the US and Israel won’t let him,” he said.
Indeed, on 8 August, US house majority leader Steny Hoyer openly warned Abbas against making any contacts, overtly or covertly, with the resistance faction. “Dealing with Hamas … would be something which we would look on with opposition and suspicion,” Hoyer was quoted as saying in the Israeli press.
Fatah’s image has also been tarnished by revelations that emerged in the immediate wake of the Gaza upset regarding a failed plan to extirpate the Hamas leadership. According to Hamas officials, the “Datyton Plan” — named after US General Keith Dayton — had been scheduled to take place on 13 July.
The operation was to be led by Fatah-affiliated strongman Mohammad Dahlan with logistical support from the US Central Intelligence Agency, say Hamas officials.
“They were planning to carry out a bloody coup against Hamas, involving the murder of hundreds of people, including Hamas’ political and religious leaders,” leading Hamas member Yehia Moussa was quoted as saying in the state press on 21 June [see below]. “But we managed to thwart their plans before they could carry them out.”
Moussa went on to say that Dayton had supplied Dahlan and Fatah-affiliated security agencies with heavy weapons and ammunition with the aim of permanently eradicating the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
“The so-called Dayton Plan aimed to manipulate the Palestinians into waging war against each other,” said al-Arian.
Ibrahim Eissa, political analyst and editor-in-chief of independent daily al-Dustour, said he believed that Hamas’ takeover of the territory on 14 June had been of a “pre-emptive” nature.
“The conflict isn’t between secularists and Islamists,” Eissa told IPS. “It’s between the corrupt agents of the US within Fatah and those who are looking out for the interests of the Palestinian people.”
Notably, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement with Fayyad in Ramallah on 3 August committing Washington to spend some 80 million dollars on the “development” of Fatah-controlled Palestinian security agencies. Instructors from the US State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security will reportedly begin training units from Abbas’ presidential guard early next year.
“Rice didn’t come to help us establish a Palestinian state,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abuzahri was quoted as saying in flagship government daily al-Ahram. “She came to support one Palestinian faction at the expense of another.”
According to Kandil, the apparent erosion of Fatah’s popular standing hardly represents a recent phenomenon.
“The declining popularity of Abbas and Fatah on the Arab — and Palestinian — street is nothing new,” he said. “It has been entirely evident since January of last year, when Hamas surprised everyone by winning a wide majority in democratically-held parliamentary elections.”
The above article can be found here: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article8956.shtml
‘Opinions from both sides of the fence’
Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt); June 21, 2007
Yehia Moussa is a leading Hamas politician and deputy head of the movement’s parliamentary bloc in the Gaza Strip. He accuses what he calls the “treacherous trend” within Fatah, an allusion to former Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahlan, of having planned to carry out a “bloody coup” against the [Hamas-run] government of Ismail Haniyeh.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other Fatah leaders recently accused Hamas of carrying out a coup against the symbols of Palestinian legitimacy. Moussa countered saying that the real coup was being hatched and planned by Dahlan, in concert with the CIA and Israel.
“They were planning to carry out a bloody coup against Hamas, involving the murder of hundreds of people, including Hamas’s political and religious leaders. The coup was to take place on 13 July, three weeks from today. They were planning to dig mass graves in Gaza for Hamas and its supporters. But we managed to thwart their heinous plans before they could carry them out,” said Moussa.
When asked to substantiate the claims so that they wouldn’t be regarded as part of the continuing propaganda war between Hamas and Fatah, the Hamas politician explained that US General Keith Dayton had supplied Dahlan, and the security agencies affiliated with Fatah, with arms and weapons which included heavy machineguns, anti-armor missiles, sniper fitted rifles and millions of bullets.
“Now, let me ask you, why do you think America gave Dahlan and his men all these weapons? To fight Israel or fight Hamas?”
Furthermore, Moussa explained that his movement had confiscated thousands of damning documents incriminating Dahlan. He further stated that he believed Dahlan was a CIA agent whose primary objective was to destroy Hamas even if that meant an all-out civil war in Gaza.
Dahlan was simply carrying out orders given by Elliot Abrams, the American Zionist official in charge of the Hamas file, who admitted recently that the US was arming and financing Dahlan in a bid to destroy Hamas and undo the Mecca Agreement which had been the precursor of the government of national unity, he said.
When Al-Ahram Weekly questioned the Hamas official as to whether former Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh had notified President Abbas of what was happening, and if so what was Abbas’s response, he replied in the affirmative.
“Prime Minister Haniyeh provided President Abbas with every bit of relevant information. As early as six months ago, the prime minister informed Abbas that large consignments of weapons were being shipped by the US and Israel to the Dahlan-controlled presidential guard. Haniyeh also informed Abbas that Dahlan was building up a new security force, encamped at the Ansar Base, in preparation for a military confrontation with Hamas’s Executive Force.
Furthermore, the new force was being equipped with armored cars, armored personnel carriers and lethal weaponry. Haniyeh also informed Abbas about several highly-sensitive meetings that were held between American officers and preventive security officers in Israel,” explained Moussa.
Abbas failed to respond, according to Moussa. On the contrary, Abbas actually expressed his disappointment that Israel had not permitted a larger supply of weapons into the Strip, to allow Fatah to fight Hamas more efficiently.
In response to claims by Fatah that there was no room for talks with Hamas if they refused to relinquish power in Gaza, Moussa responded by asking if the readers were aware what returning to the previous situation entailed.
“Do you know what reverting to the former situation would mean in real terms? It would mean returning to hell. It would mean returning to lawlessness, chaos, daily killings, theft, assassinations, clan feuds, arson and total insecurity. Today, we have succeeded in re-establishing the rule of law. There is almost total quiet here. Peoples and families are walking in the streets without being shot at, without being terrorized by armed thugs,” he said.
However, some people have argued that despite the calm, the situation fails to serve the cause of Palestinian national unity. The Hamas politician refuted claims that his organization was trying to oust Fatah from Gaza. He said Fatah was an integral part of Palestinian society and negating it was, therefore, unthinkable.
“We are not against Fatah. Fatah and Hamas are brothers. We are only against American and Israeli agents who are carrying out their treachery under the rubric of Fatah. In short, the problem lies not with Fatah, but with a small faction within it that is answerable to our enemies.”
The solution was very simple, according to Moussa. The respect for the rule of law, including the basic law, was paramount and it was vital that the Palestinians didn’t allow their enemies to undermine their common cause, he explained.
Moussa also appeared unperturbed by US and Israel claims that they would seek to isolate and starve the Gaza Strip.
“First of all, our lives are not in the hands of America and Israel, but in the hands of God. Second, starving 1.4 million people could have grave and unpredictable repercussions. I think the world community will think twice before allowing such a thing to happen,” he said. [Alas, the “world community,” as it turns out, was all too prepared to allow such a thing to happen, and to continue to happen up until the present day — 800]
As to whether the status quo of two governments and two premiers would continue, Moussa explained unequivocally that Haniyeh was elected by the Palestinians with a large majority. On the other hand, Salam Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas in order to appease and please the United States and Israel. So which government is legitimate, the elected one or the appointed one, he asked.
The complete text of the above article can be found here: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/850/re3.htm