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PMW WSJ op-ed: Don’t Give Gaza to the Palestinian Authority

Itamar Marcus  |

Don’t Give Gaza to the Palestinian Authority

Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party is no better than Hamas. It has celebrated the Oct. 7 attacks

By Eugene Kontorovich and Itamar Marcus | Published on November 26, 2023

The Biden administration wants Israel to bring in Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party to rule Gaza when the war is over. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority, which governs much of the West Bank. Uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a common government is a necessary step in the Biden administration’s seemingly unshakable goal of creating a Palestinian state sandwiching Israel.

The idea behind the strategy has a long history. Fatah is a secular, Arab nationalist party that occasionally claims to want peace with Israel, albeit on terms that would make Israel’s existence as a Jewish state untenable. Yet for many diplomats this makes it an attractive alternative to the terrorists who perpetrated the Oct. 7 attacks. But Fatah is a junior-varsity version of Hamas. Both have lethal policies when it comes to Israel. The Palestinian Authority sponsors the “pay to slay” salary program that provides financial rewards to terrorists, who get more lavish payouts for crimes that result in longer imprisonment. As recently as Oct. 2, an official Palestinian Authority TV broadcast showed Mr. Abbas saying: “Our martyrs, prisoners and wounded are the most sanctified that we have. . . . Our martyrs have a right to this money.”

Fatah has celebrated and glorified the Oct. 7 orgy of torture and murder. The party has boasted that its members directly participated in the invasion, crossing into Israel and brutalizing civilians. A video shown on a West Bank-based Telegram channel that has been repeatedly cited by official Fatah sources shows terrorists with the yellow headbands of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade firing Kalashnikovs while assaulting an Israeli kibbutz. One terrorist proclaims, “Today we broke in the military post Nahal Oz [a civilian kibbutz] and we hit what we hit.” The terrorists brag that they “stepped on their heads,” and shows footage of them stomping a dead Israeli.

Other videos on Fatah channels boast of their participation, proclaiming that Fatah is “fighting with the rest of the resistance groups in ‘the Al Aqsa Flood’ battle,” using Hamas’s operational name for the massacre. On Oct. 7, death notices appeared on Telegram announcing the funerals (or “weddings,” as they put it) of Fatah members who died that morning in the attack on Israel.

One such post shows a coffin draped with the yellow Fatah flag adorned with the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades logo, which includes crossed rifles and a grenade above Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. The photo’s caption says the deceased had “ascended” to heaven as a martyr “during his armed confrontation together with his brothers against the Zionist occupation soldiers in our occupied lands.”

These death notices also reveal the involvement of other Palestinian factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Fatah and the other factions didn’t plan or lead the operation, since they lack the resources in Gaza to do so. But, based on their own claims, they piggybacked on the atrocity. Reports began circling on Nov. 19 that the Al Aqsa Brigade had taken and held hostages from Israel but transferred them to Hamas.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah hasn’t responded the way a government might when armed gangs under its ruling party’s banner cross a border, kill civilians and boast about doing so. Fatah officials haven’t disavowed the terrorists. Instead they’ve celebrated their dirty work. The official Palestinian Authority news agency described the attack as a “heroic battle” and called on Palestinians to escalate “confrontation in all arenas.” A senior Fatah official proclaimed on Palestinian television on Oct. 10 that “our brothers in the Gaza Strip . . . are a source of pride, heroism, and honor.” Mr. Abbas responded immediately on Oct. 7 by declaring Palestinian “right to self-defense.”

Mr. Abbas hasn’t even denounced the holding of innocent hostages by members of his faction. His adviser Mahmoud Al-Habbash made this clear: “Has anyone heard from President Mahmoud Abbas . . . one word against the Hamas Movement?” Many see senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein Al-Sheikh as a possible successor to Mr. Abbas. Mr. Al-Sheikh went further, announcing that now is the time for Palestinian unity with the terrorists.

The evidence of actual participation by Fatah members, combined with the endorsement by official Fatah organs, should disqualify Fatah and any government of which it is a part from any leadership role in Gaza. The difference between Fatah and Hamas is one of degree, not kind. They are both evil.

One of Hamas’s top leaders, Khalil al-Hayya, has said the broader goal of the attack was “putting the Palestinian issue back on the table.” When his terrorists invaded on Oct. 7, the plan was to race across the narrow waist of Israel and hook up with their comrades in the West Bank. Hamas wanted to cut the Jewish state in two. The Biden administration’s vision is a diplomatic version of this, connecting Gaza administratively to the West Bank.

Israel will win this war. Hamas will be defeated. The international community can’t expect a victorious Israel to implement any version of its adversaries’ aims. Handing Gaza to the Palestinian Authority would do just that.

Mr. Kontorovich is a professor at George Mason University Scalia Law School and a scholar at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum. Mr. Marcus is director of Palestinian Media Watch.


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