Walid Salem explains the process of Islamization in Gaza has come. Its confrontation with the Palestinian Nationalism. The future of life in Gaza. The security, the political map and the Economy in the first section of his two part article.

IN RESPONSE TO WHAT HAPPENED IN GAZA LAST WEEK, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat the Head of the PLO Negotiations Department, said on 14/6/2007 “This is the worst event Palestine witnessed since 1967 war defeat”.

In the opposite, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesmen of Hamas in Gaza, declared cheerfully in a Hamas Radio broadcast in Gaza last Friday (15/6/2007) that what happened is the second liberation of the Gaza Strip; “The first liberation was from the herds of Israeli settlers, and this second is from the herds of the collaborators with Israel” as he said. Other Hamas leaders used to call those who were defeated to be the “Lahdis” (referring to Antoin Lahd the head of the Previous South Lebanon Army that was connected to Israel). They even differentiated between those “Lahdis” and Fateh, saying that the clashes took place only with the “Lahdis”, and not with Fateh in anyway.

The question in this regard is: Why Erekat and all the PLO factions released very pessimistic reactions towards what happened in Gaza? Also, why is it that Hamas is cheerful of it, and even organized marches and public meetings in order to celebrate the second liberation of Gaza?

The only answer for that is that the PLO and the Palestinian National program era are in the process of declining, while the new era of Islamization is growing. This new era began with the Hamas Victory in the 2006 elections and got more momentum with Hamas´ unilateral control of Gaza beginning from Friday (15/6/2007). The question now is if this will be the first step to take over West Bank (or probably Egypt) by Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhoods? The new future events will give the answers for such a question.

In the times of Palestinian nationalism, the Palestinian national agenda was the priority, the work for that agenda in order to get to a Palestinian state was almost everything PLO and its factions were busy with.

Today it is another story. The Palestinian national issue is one point in the Hamas agenda. As part of the Muslim Brotherhoods their main issue is the creation of an Islamic Caliphate system. Therefore, what might follow their taking over Gaza is not necessarily to take over West Bank; in case that the situation in it will not be ripe, but it might be Egypt for instance if it will be ripe before West Bank for that Islamization. Put it differently: The Muslim brotherhoods, including Hamas will work for Islamization, upon where it is possible first, without restricting themselves to a certain national agenda that they already believe that their agenda transcends it. This is why Hamas is not frightened from issues such as the separation of Gaza from West Bank and the prevention of the establishment of a Palestinian state, as the PLO factions accused them of doing. Simply these issues are not their major agenda. Moreover, Hamas as a Muslim Brotherhoods branch in Gaza and also West Bank will work also to take over West Bank after Gaza in order to avoid separating them from each other.

With all of that said, one should add that the Muslim Brotherhoods were found in 1928 in order to regain the Islamic caliphate system, since that time they were unable to achieve that in any of the Islamic countries. Therefore they will not hesitate to do it in Gaza, by establishing a semi caliphate in the shape of Islamic Emirate there; the destruction of the Yasser Arafat (and Abu Mazen) houses in Gaza as the biggest symbol of the Palestinian nationalism is, but a signal on that direction, while what will follow will be bigger.

How the Islamization process of the Gaza Strip will happen? This is something important to follow because this is the first time where Muslim Brotherhoods are ruling, and it will be a rehearsal of what they will do in other countries when they take them over later on.

No full answer for such a question exists yet, but the few statements made by some Hamas leaders in Gaza are giving signals about the willingness of Hamas leadership to impose the Islamic rules in Gaza. On Fridays (15/6/2007) speech of Sheikh Ismail Hannieh, he asked Al-Qassam Brigades to deal with the hostages from the PA defeated security forces according to the Islamic tolerance rules, which obviously tolerate those who did not kill previous Hamas members, while ruling at the same time of executing those who killed or attacked Hamas members.

In another example, Shiekh Nizar Rayyan, one of Hamas leaders, said on Thursday (14/6/2007) that what happened in Gaza was a conflict between Islam and apostasy and that it is finished by the closing of the era of secularism and atheism in Gaza. He added that he will transform the PA security forces headquarters in Gaza to a mosque and that he will make a Friday pray speech in the Muntada (The President Abu Mazan Headquarters in Gaza).

If one add to these statements the growing activities of several Salafi groups in Gaza that are supported by some Hamas wings and act against the internet cafes and the women that do not put scarves on theirs heads and against Christians, then the trend towards imposing Islam on all Gazan’s including on those who do not believe on it, will become more clearer. What will take place after are the range and the type of Islamization that will be implemented on the basis of the differences of the positions of different Hamas wings, but this is a detail and it will not influence the main direction which is a direction towards Islamization.

The direct response to that process of Islamization was not that some Fateh people were trying to leave Gaza, but also the seculars, the intellectuals, the private sector businessmen, the NGO leaders, and most of the liberal democrats who all are leaving because of the threats on their lives. Unfortunately on the other hand, this will accelerate the process of Hamas imposing it roles in Gaza.

Beyond the Islamization process that will be accelerated in Gaza the other question is: How the people will live in Gaza from now on?

First: Security
The irony here is that the man in the street will feel better security now with unilateral control of Gaza by Hamas, but in the same time violence will continue, including extra judiciary killings for revenge and counter revenge, and executions of those who are considered to be apostates or collaborators

Other issue that will influence security will be the contradiction between the security forces of Hamas and those who will receive the orders from Ramallah. This is a future contradiction because in the short run Hamas will be the full authority in Gaza.

Second: The internal political map
Hamas itself will witness a growing influence of its extremist and ideological wings who want to Islamize the society, while Fateh in Gaza already lost (at least temporarily) its trend that wanted to crush Hamas down (this trend was defeated in last week events). Alternatively other two Fateh trends will now grow in Gaza, one led by Ahmad Hilles, the Previous general secretary of Fateh in Gaza, whom prevented his supporters to fight against Hamas in the last week events, supported in that by Mr. Ibrahim Abu Naja, the head of the factions national follow-up committee, and whom will now try to get a comprise with Hamas on daily life matters taking the new context in consideration, while another trend from Fateh will comply completely with the new structure of power in Gaza trying to find solutions for personal and individualistic problems within that new power structure.

The new opposition to Hamas in Gaza will now be the Islamic Jihad, with their national agenda for continuous resistance for the Israeli occupation without stoppage through ceasefire as Hamas proposed several times. But more dangerously the new Al-Qa’eda type organizations of Suyuf Al-Alhaq (The Swords of the Right), Jaish Al-Islam (the Army of Islam) and the Kata’eb Al-Jihad Al-Muqaddas (The Brigades of Holy Jihad), who are also supported by the extreme ideological wings in Hamas.

Hamas by itself will be divided between those who are more ideological (Mohammad Zahhar and Nizar Rayyan) and those who are more political and less ideological (such as Ghazi Hamad the spokesman of the Government who was silent all around the previous weeks of attacks). Hannieh is leading, while taking the middle position between the more political and the more ideological because he needs both: He needs the ideological in order to Islamize the society and also in order to continue crushing the Fateh resistance enclaves in Gaza, and needs the political in order to speak with the wider world.

Finally the Fateh wing that was defeated might continue the attempts to fight back, but this will be reflected in minor incidents here and there, after they lost their premises and also their weapons that were all confiscated by Hamas.

Third: Economy and living
In the absence of an economy in Gaza after the election of Hamas in January 2006 and the international sanctions that followed, smuggling became the economy and the way to make living for many people there. Now after the closure of all the crossing borders with Gaza after Hamas taking over, smuggling will increase including weapons and all goods unless the Egyptian side will be allowed by Israel (opposite to Camp David agreement) to deploy massive forces in the Egyptian side in order to stop that smuggling.

On the other hand, the employees of the PA in Gaza will continue getting their salaries either from the new Emergency Government of Salam Fayyad (the Prime Minster) composed on 17/6/2007. or (if appointed by Hanieh after Abu Mazen decision to fire him from his position, which he refused to comply with), from Hamas who will continue to get funding from the Muslim Brotherhood Branches all around the Islamic countries and also from Iran and probably indirectly from some Arab countries, like Qatar.

Still the serious problems will be those that are related to the people living. And if Israel will continue closing the crossing borders, which will not mean only disconnecting Gaza from West Bank completely, but also will mean the prevention of the humanitarian assistance of the UN organizations and others to reach the needy people in Gaza. Moreover, Israel will prevent importing goods to Gaza through the Israeli ports.

V. Timing and motivation
About timing, there are two issues: One of them is that the coup detat in Gaza was well prepared through a long period of time that created a very effective plan led to the defeat of the PA security forces in only three days of real fighting.

The second issue about timing is why now, the answer is that Hamas felt that there is something prepared to crush them, they felt that with the declaration of the American Benchmarks plan in the end of last April, aiming as one of its aims to support the presidential guards in order to take the responsibility of security in the seemliness with Israel in Gaza. They considered this (linked also with the training of more security agents supportive to Abu Mazen in Egypt) as the preparation to crush them, while Abu Mazen was not ready at the same time to make a progress on the two issues that Hamas was looking for as a fulfillment of previous agreements between Abu Mazen and Hamas. These two issues are; the issue of security partnership and the re-composition of the security departments in order to include Hamas members, and the issue of political partnership in the PLO and also in the PA through increasing the number of Hamas employees in the Ministers in order to balance those of Fateh.

Abu Mazen from his side was not able to fulfill his promises in these two issues due to strategic differentiations with Hamas. For instance, how can he bring them in PLO while they reject the PLO previous agreements with Israel? If he brings them with these rejection positions, the PLO then will be delegitimized regionally and internationally and it will become a non-partner. On the other hand, Abu Mazen did achieve an agreement with Hamas on the creation of a central joint security force to be led by Said Fannounch, but a few days after Hamas initiated the war against the PA security forces aiming to get a unilateral control of the security in Gaza.

What does that all mean? On one hand, Hamas felt threaded by the American Benchmark plan and the training of new agents in Egypt simply because it does not want to change its policies and also simply because it wants a full unilateral control over Gaza in order to promote Islamism. They claimed that what they did was an obligatory step in order to stop the security chaos. But the question still: Why they did what they did few days after Abu Mazen- Hannieh’s agreement to have a joint security force in Gaza, and also a few days before the meeting of all the Palestinian factions that Cairo decided to invite all of them to, after it finished its unilateral meetings with all the factions?

To sum up of this point, the timing and the motivation are both connected to Hamas to take over Gaza unilaterally, in order to serve the Muslim brotherhoods agenda and maybe also the Iranian agenda in its conflict with the West.

VI. Why the fast collapse of the PA security forces?
In three days of fighting the security forces of PA collapsed like a cartoon in Gaza. Ten reasons are behind this very shocking collapse:

Hamas had new very good weapons that they smuggled from outside, while the PA security forces had only the 1994 old weapons that they were not allowed by Israel to renew, while on the other hand, they avoided smuggling weapons in order not to violate the agreements with Israel. Moreover, they were trained to be forces for internal order preservation and not for fighting.

The fighting strategy: Hamas was free from stable positions and therefore free to attack and to withdraw without high causalities; while the PA security forces were located in fixed places, which caused a lot of causalities, damage, and then surrender.

Hamas was well prepared, but the PA security forces as it was proved were not prepared for such a war, opposite to Hamas claims that they were preparing to crush Hamas later on.

Part of Fateh did not fight besides the PA security forces, considering what going on as a condemned fight, while occupation continued.

The absences of the leaders: The Fateh leaders: Mohammed Dahlan, Rashid Abu Shback, and Samir Mashharawai, were in Cairo when the fight began, and instead of coming immediately to Gaza in order to lead their members, they continued their existence there. Also, other PA security force leaders escaped a few months ago from Gaza to West Bank.

Hamas was able to recruit supporters from inside the PA security forces. Those supporters helped Hamas finish the coup detat quickly and effectively.

The repeated declarations in the last few months by The United States Government and The Israeli Government, one about possible security support to President Abbas´ security forces, was harmful to these forces that presented them to be part of the Palestinians (including part of Fateh) as collaborators with the US and Israel against their people. The irony on the other hand was that no support at all was given to Abu Mazen forces after all these declarations.

Abu Mazen did not give early orders to his forces in Gaza to fight against Hamas and to leave their stable locations in order to win the battle.

The history of the security forces on Gaza from 1994, which made part of the people hate them, including the clashes between them, their participation in corrupted activities, the torture and humiliation they practiced against prisoners including Hamas ones from 1994 to 1999, and their participation as an initiator of security chaos there.

Hamas fighters were young dynamic fighters, while PA security forces were old and middle aged previous fighters who were looking for rewards and not new fighting.

This all left them without fighting spirit and gave Hamas the capability to defeat them.

Adding to all of this, these security forces suffered from the absence of salaries beginnings from January 2006 and from low salaries prior to that.