If we look at where the debate is today between Hamas and Fatah then it symbolises what is wrong in this struggle. I will focus on these two because they represent the two big (not the only) tendencies in the Palestinian community. It always is a zero-sum fight between the two and seldom between Palestinians and their dispossessors and occupiers. With the turmoil in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region it is even more critical to move away from the distractions and concentrate on the core issues.
The developments in Egypt are a serious blow to the strategy, or lack of it, on the part of Hamas. It is a definite gain for the Fatah faction. The social forces that led to the downfall of Morsi are alive and well in the Palestinian context as well. Many tendencies that have collaborated with the SCAF in Egypt have their reflections in occupied Palestine. That is what Fatah hopes to and has always exploited. They can do that because Hamas allows them room to do it.
At a time, despite the bleak prospects for a deal, when peace talks are resuming after three years, the issues at stake are not being highlighted. Side issues take the stage. Hamas should be organising people from inside Israel, for example from Hebron where there are roads that Palestinians can only walk, others which they can drive on only at certain times, other where they are able to access only with permits and others from which they are completely banned. This is the condition of Arab Israeli citizens in Hebron with 200 000 Arabs and 700 Jewish settlers. Yet it is a crime to call this an Apartheid state. They should be organising Arab members of the Knesset to speak on a common platform about Israeli Apartheid and the priorities for the struggles inside the country. At the same time they should be organising prisoners committees who would show that pre-Oslo prisoners were supposed to have been released ten years ago. This makes the latest release seem like a generous gesture given that Fatah was not going to resume talks unless settlements stop.
They should be organising refugees to ensure that they speak with one voice that their right of return is individual and inalienable.
As for Jerusalem they should be organising people from there, to show how the facts on the ground make it impossible to unscramble the occupation omelette. How western governments have funded the theft of Jerusalem. The two state solution is buried on the West Bank. The men in suits from Ramallah benefit from being quislings and collaborators in the dispossession of their people.
They should be arguing that it is not Israel that needs security but the Palestinians who require protection from being driven into oblivion by Israel.
This however is not about organising press releases but about organising people in every location where Palestinians are to be found. That means inside the Israeli state, the Knesset, the occupied territories, the diaspora. Moreover they should overcome their reluctance to work more openly with the broader solidarity (BDS) movement. That these people have different ideological positions might challenge some of the conservative, if not Salafi, elements within Hamas but that is what is needed to build a popular movement.
That means that Hamas should be using the platform of Day of Al-Quds to build this movement to meet in Gaza. Gaza should be a liberated zone for freedom and organisation. It should push the envelopes of tolerance for the Zionists entity, the military dictatorship in Egypt and the collaborationist Fatah faction in Ramallah and the West Bank. This poses big challenges for Hamas because unless they learn from what as happened to Morsi they will also be left cast aside. Importantly, they should know that every state takes political decisions based on its strategic calculations. Virtually every Arab state has sold the Palestinians down the tubes. They have no interest in Palestinian freedom and dignity. However, you cannot fight with them because in some countries they host refugees. But stay out of their internal fights. Do not do what Yasser Arafat had done in Kuwait. You were right to leave Damascus but you are wrong to take sides in the fight. Now you are strategically wounded. Stop gazing at your political navels and organise the base in all the theatres of struggle.
The day that you are prepared to have people like Ilan Pappe on your platforms as a comrade and brother that day you will be ready to lead the struggle for freedom. You have to split the political consensus inside Israel. There are people who are conscientious objectors. They are looking for a political home. You are failing to provide a place for them. They could organise inside Israel in the ways that the Prophet did before the fall of Mecca. Look at the Battle of Al-Ahzab. The Prophet thought of ways to split Banu Ghatafan from the Ahzab (axis of evil). He had a plan to offer them part of the date harvest. He was preparing a package of economic and political incentives for Banu Ghatafan. Learn from the example of the Prophet when Nu’aym ibn Masud became a Muslim during the Battle of al-Ahzab. He was used as a double agent on the opposition side to split their ranks. He went to Banu Qurayzah and sowed confusion and split them from Quraysh. Then he went to Quraysh and informed them of the latest Banu Qurayzah plans and sowed confusion there. He also did the same with Banu Ghatafan. In this way, yes there was the command and support from Allah, they split their opposition and won. Unless the Palestinians have a similar plan for the Jewish Israelis then they will struggle to get anywhere. You cannot fight a struggle with your forces on one side of the line and your opposition on the other side. That was the case until World War 1. The Israelis have a plan and they have infiltrated virtually every Palestinians structure and neighbourhood. Unless Palestinians have a similar structure and plan then they are stuffed. Struggles (war) are nothing but trickery says the hadith. To Hamas I ask, who are your Nu’aym ibn Masuds today. If you do not have them operating then you are not ready to take on Fatah let alone the Zionist occupiers. Read your Seerah and translate it into a dynamic pluralist programme for social justice, dignity and bread. Asha’ab yureed yes the nation demands. That nation is built in struggle. That nation includes all Palestinians of whatever ideological persuasion. It is the message of the Meccan stage of the Seerah. The seeds of fiqh were sown after the fall of Mecca. Do not bother with piety police who enforce the wearing of hijab and closing of shops during the times of prayer. It is about social justice, dignity and bread. Do that and your people, even atheists and agnostics will love you.
The victory of Mecca had to be organised. Hamas, if not you might go the way of Morsi. Then you deserve to drift into oblivion as your people settle down in reserves and Bantustans. Hamas, the challenge is for you to face and you can chicken out. But you will bear the consequences of the crossroads that you are facing today. And I hope that you will be able to live with the decisions you make or fail to make.
Moosa Arnedt ia a grassroots activist.