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Hamas and Fatah - Why the Two Groups are Failing

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The emphasis has been on direct non-violent mass action spurning the high-level diplomacy of Fatah and Hamas' traditional commitment to armed resistance
The emphasis has been on direct non-violent mass action spurning the high-level diplomacy of Fatah and Hamas' traditional commitment to armed resistance
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The Palestinian national movement, which has led the decades-long struggle against Israel's takeover of Palestine, has reached the lowest ebb in its history, according to analysts.

But as Palestinians mark this week the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the "Catastrophe" that followed the dispossession of their homeland and the creation of Israel in its place, there are signs of possible change.

For more than a quarter of a century, the Palestinian movement has been split into two increasingly irreconcilable ideological factions, Fatah and Hamas - now reflected in a profound geographical division between their respective strongholds of the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

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Both camps have not only failed to bring about any significant achievements, say analysts, but illegal Jewish settlements have steadily spread across the West Bank and a 12-year blockade, bolstered by Israeli military attacks, has choked Gaza into a humanitarian disaster.

There is no tangible regional or international support for the Palestinian cause, and the Trump administration barely bothers to conceal its role now as a cheerleader for Israel.

That includes a decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem this week, effectively recognising Israel's claim on a city Palestinians regard as their future capital.

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"The Palestinian national movement has moved beyond crisis to the point of bankruptcy," said Ghassan Khatib, a former cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and now a lecturer at Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah.

"Neither the armed resistance of Hamas nor the diplomacy of Fatah has made any gains," he told Al Jazeera. "They are failed governments, and the public is deeply dissatisfied."

The dire situation has left observers wondering whether the Palestinian national movement can reinvent itself and find more successful strategies over the coming years and decades.

Both Fatah and Hamas are preparing for major demonstrations, hoping to bring attention to decades of oppressive Israeli rule.

But the events are also likely to underscore how much ground they have lost to Israel - and how the pressure for new thinking is coming from the ground up, not from the leadership.

Recent weeks have seen regular protests at Gaza's perimeter fence attracting tens of thousands of Palestinians and dominated by young people. The emphasis has been on direct, non-violent mass action, spurning the high-level diplomacy of Fatah and Hamas' traditional commitment to armed resistance.

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Although the Gaza protests - under the banner of the Great March of Return -were not initiated by Hamas, it had shown a willingness to support them, noted Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

"Hamas has recognised the utility of the marches," she told Al Jazeera. "It adopted them rather than crushed them. The hope must be that Fatah will soon realise this too - that they understand there is utility to people resisting."

Ahmed Al-Naouq, a youth activist in Gaza, pointed out that the focus of the protests was the demand that the refugees - a large majority of Gaza's population - be allowed to return to the lands, now in Israel, they were expelled from in 1948.

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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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