Monday, December 25, 2006

Der Spiegel: "Fatah By Day, Hamas By Night"

Here's a valiant attempt at a sympathetic treatment of the Palestinian spiral of thuggery:
By day, he's a member of Fatah security forces. By night, he wages holy war with Hamas. With the two Palestinian groups fighting against each other these days, Abu Khaled's life has become a dangerous balance. If need be, he says, he would even kill his friends.

The private car heads north out of Gaza City. A rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire echoes through the side streets, belying what remains a fragile cease-fire between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian Territories.

Both the driver and the guide are talking nervously into their mobile phones. Instructions are delivered, detours ordered, until finally the vehicle arrives in an empty street and pulls up next to one of Gaza's typical yellow taxi limousines with two rows of back seats. Motors running, the bulletproof vests are quickly loaded from the car into the taxi. The journey then continues in the Mercedes limousine -- until it reaches the end of the road, marked by the wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

It's cold and the sun is about to set into the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, sweat is running from under Abu Khaled's beard when he jumps into the taxi. Hardly surprising really. If the other soldiers he stands guard with at the gate of an abandoned military base knew his story, the lives of everyone in the taxi would be in danger.

By day, the 23-year-old serves in the Palestinian security forces, which are controlled by Fatah. When Abu Khaled's workday ends, though, he goes home, changes his uniform, pulls out his weapons and transforms himself into a fighter with the Qassam Brigades -- the military arm of Hamas. If his fellow Fatah security officers knew what he did at night, he says, "they would open fire on us immediately."
The next paragraph, following the caption "No wonder the situation in Gaza is so confusing," is pretty incredible:
"We are not a rarity," says the fighter. He estimates that about 30 percent of the men who officially serve with the Palestinian security forces are secretly active members of militia groups with ties to Hamas -- armed men who change sides depending on the time of day. No wonder the situation in Gaza is so confusing. In most of the gun battles between Hamas and Fatah in recent days, it was almost impossible to tell who was shooting at whom, when they were shooting, and why. After each new incident, the barrage of back-and-forth accusations merely triggered the next shoot-out -- a spiral of violence that is difficult to stop.
Waiting for the anti-Israel propaganda to start? The author, the aptly-named Ulrike Putz, never disappoints:
As the taxi drives slowly through abandoned streets, Abu Khaled tells his story -- the story of a young man who sees no other choice but to fight the enemy any way he can. "The official forces are poorly trained and armed," he says. "They could never do much harm to the Israelis."

He's likely right. A visit to a Fatah training camp that morning was unconvincing. Although the camp's 50 recruits were able to perfectly recite Fatah's various slogans after three months of training, most were incapable of performing even the most rudimentary of combat maneuvers.

But Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has recognized Israel and is no longer interested in doing damage to the country. Indeed, it is the party's moderation which has made it a negotiating partner for the West and Israel. Hamas, on the other hand, remains dedicated to eliminating Israel and has yet to renounce violence. Over the years, it has been responsible for numerous suicide attacks on Israeli citizens and is considered a terrorist organization in the West. [...]

He tells the driver to drive up and down a few more streets. Israeli cameras mounted on balloons hang over the wall and monitor their progress. It wouldn't be the first time a taxi was mistaken for a rocket launcher. "We expect the Israelis to attack at any time," says Abu Khaled. "They have broken cease-fires many times before." [...]
In some ways you have to hand it to U-Putz. There is some pretty stunning information in this article no matter how it's spun.

No comments: