70 Race & Class 51(3)
And then we had Hamas suddenly starting to participate in the Palestinian Authority in 2006. When the Oslo agreement was signed, Hamas was against it and refused to participate in the Palestinian Authority and the elections the first time. Then, after the death of Arafat and the second election, they decided to go in and participate without explaining why. What changed? They never gave us an explanation. And, more surprising for them, they won. They didn’t expect that. And actually it is important to note that the voting method changed. We had two papers; on one paper you voted for the name of a political party and on the other you voted for individual names. So on the first list Hamas and Fatah got around the same number of seats. But on the list of individuals, because people already knew Fatah people in positions to be corrupt, they didn’t elect them. Hamas people were new. Another reason was that for the same seat, Fatah had some five or six candidates and the vote got split, whereas Hamas has only one candidate for each seat. The third reason for Hamas’ success was that people were angry with the Americans and the Israelis who had given nothing to Arafat who was a liberal and wanted peace and wanted to end the conflict, so people wanted to punish the Israelis by electing Hamas.
From the time that Hamas became part of the Palestinian Authority, it wanted to force change, and this was not possible because the Authority was established on the basis of the Oslo agreement. It reminds me of a joke we have about an Arab country which asks its secret service to go to the woods and catch a lion. They go and after two days are not back. So others go to see what’s going on, and they find them torturing a rabbit to convince it it’s a lion. The Palestinian Authority is like a rabbit and Hamas wanted us to believe it can be a lion and fight Israel, when it cannot.
We used to say we need a third way in Palestine – neither national nor purely religious. Unfortunately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, our left-wing, Marxist and socialist parties declined. And now we have Fatah splitting, and Hamas in Gaza not letting others do anything. All of which makes everyone see the need for a third way. And because we are a people with two religions, it has to be secular. And there are numerous meetings going on with political and human rights activists, trying to formulate something, but unfortunately it will take time. And it will need money. If you want to make a political party you need funds, and at present all the support goes to Hamas (Iran, Syria and others) or to Fatah (America and Europe). Even the NGOs which might support a third way party don’t get the same support as the others. And a huge stumbling block is that Israel can, whenever it feels like it, take people to jail and stop the process. The Israelis think strategically and know what to promote and what to defeat.
The other huge problem we have is that the PLO believed that the Americans really wanted a deal and wanted peace between us and the Israelis. The US never wanted peace in the Middle East. Israel for the US is a tool to control the whole Middle East. And if we have peace with the Israelis in the Middle East, US corporations would lose billions of dollars. Every year, the US government gives Israel around six billion dollars. And Israel is forced to buy weapons from the