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Hamas and Fatah - Why the Two Groups are Failing

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"Gradually Hamas has adopted the two-state formula, plus, in its case, a long-term truce with Israel," Buttu said.

'Critical gap'

In an indication of Hamas' growing desire to compromise, Israeli media reported this month that "unprecedented strategic distress" had led the movement to offer Israel a truce in return for easing the blockade and allowing it to rebuild Gaza's infrastructure.

What was evident, said Khatib, was a "critical gap" between the national leaderships and Palestinian public opinion, especially among the youth.

The latter was increasingly interested in popular, non-violent struggle as a way to break out of the Palestinians' isolation.

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"But there are strong vested interests that will try to maintain the current situation," he said, pointing to the Palestinians' dependence on foreign donors, Israel's control over the transfer of income to the PA, and, in turn, the vast number of families relying on PA salaries.

"Neither Fatah nor Hamas are in a position to advance popular struggle. They are bureaucratic governments, with structures, leaders and ideologies that militate against non-violence as a tactic."

But Khatib and others admit that change is likely to happen - some think rapidly - once 82-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas departs the scene.

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Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University, said ending the factionalism was a precondition for turning the different parties into an effective vehicle of national struggle.

"There must be a unified national movement," he told Al Jazeera.

"The PA has to stop being the security contractor for Israel. Then we can solve the real problems. We must demand an elected and unified leadership with a single platform."

The biggest problem currently facing the Palestinian national movement, said Buttu, was that, despite its various institutions, it was dominated by one person in the figure of Abbas.

"Abbas has made all these institutions irrelevant, and they have allowed themselves to become irrelevant," she said.

"That has entirely marginalised other approaches, like boycotts and the one-state solution. It has ensured the alternatives can't be effective."

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She noted that Abbas had all but ignored imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti during the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike last summer.

Barghouti is widely reported to be a student of non-violent strategies of resistance like those of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He is said to have found support among the jailed leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"Look at the difference between the way the ANC [in South Africa] kept attention on Nelson Mandela while he was in jail," said Buttu.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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