Tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have escalated in recent weeks, against the backdrop of the P.A. leadership’s December 2018 decision to disband the Palestinian Legislative Council that has been controlled by Hamas since 2006,[1] and the P.A.’s and Fatah’s preparations for assembling a new Palestinian government in the near future with PLO factions but without Hamas. Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad even stated that this government’s main aim was likely to be bringing down Hamas in the Gaza Strip.[2]

The London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily reported that Hamas is planning to revive the Administrative Committee in the Gaza Strip, to operate as a parallel government headed by Hamas with the participation of the factions that will refuse to join the new Fatah-led P.A. government.[3] The escalation and the polarization between the sides also caused the Feb. 10-12, 2019 Moscow talks with the Palestinian factions, which included an attempt by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to encourage the Egypt-brokered intra-Palestinian reconciliation,[4] to conclude with no agreement on a joint statement but plenty of mutual recriminations.[5] The escalation was manifested also in action on the ground: About a week ago, it was reported that Hamas activists had taken over the Kerem Shalom crossing and expelled P.A. officials from there.[6]

As a result of this escalation of tensions, the P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published a number of articles harshly critical of Hamas. The articles depict Hamas as a tumor that threatens the Palestinian national project and therefore must be removed, and also as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and as promoting an agenda inimical to Arab, and particularly Palestinian, nationalism; they also likened Hamas to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).[7] Other articles accused the Hamas leaders of endangering the lives of Palestinian children and cynically exploiting their blood for media purposes in order to promote their agenda.

The following are translated excerpts from several of these articles:

‘Hamas charged needy families for water, electricity … and put [the money] in its pockets’

In Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, columnist Sultan Al-Hattab described the efforts to form a new P.A. government as “an operation to remove the Hamas tumor from the Palestinian body.” He wrote: “The idea to establish Hamas was first and foremost an attempt to harm the [Palestinian] national project, to present an alternative to it and to destroy it. To that end, Hamas adopted means of resistance which tarnished the image of the [Palestinian National] project, such as killing civilians and bombing marketplaces and buses. This created a distorted image of the Palestinians that took root in the global consciousness, and President [Mahmoud] Abbas is still working to erase it and to present in its place a clean image of nonviolent resistance that the world accepts, approves of and defends, and which enjoys consensus among the Palestinian people …

“Hamas wanted to take over the Palestinian national project so as to kill it and to insinuate in its place another project that is not a national one. It also promoted the [intra-Palestinian] schism  so as to destroy this project. Its central mission was and still is to prevent the development and improvement of the national project, and to prevent the establishment of its institutions, mechanisms and pillars of support. … Hamas began striving to deepen the rift, while transforming the people of Gaza into human shields …

“Today Hamas continues to oppose the national project, and that is why it opposes [parliamentary] elections  and reconciliation and adheres to the schism. It justifies its relationship with the occupation by citing [the need] to bring in the Qatari money via [Israel’s] Ben Gurion Airport.[8] It arrests every resistance fighter in Gaza who embarrasses the government and its administrative committees, holds secret talks [with Israel] and agrees to [the establishment of a [Palestinian] state with temporary [borders]. … The legitimate Palestinian leadership realizes that Hamas opposes the Palestinian [national] project just as much as it opposes Israel … and therefore decided to perform surgery to excise the tumor [i.e. Hamas] that threatens the national project by calling for a government comprising only the factions of the PLO. … This operation to remove the Hamas tumor from the national project is the only way to preserve this project’s national Palestinian identity and its ability to implement the Palestinian decisions and defend the [national] cause of the Palestinian people in light of the occupation’s efforts to wipe out the [Palestinian] identity …

“The Hamas coup [regime] drained the Palestinian capabilities and the P.A. budget, half of which went to Gaza but was not wholly transferred to the citizens of the Strip. The P.A. paid the cost of [Gaza’s] water, electricity, fuel and salaries, yet the Hamas gang … [nevertheless] charged needy families for water, electricity and services, and put [the money] in its pockets and the pockets of its supporters and their families. Hamas [members] became a social sector that lives differently from the rest of the Gazans …

“Our people are aware of what has happened, and one day it will settle the score with this gang, which has kidnapped Gaza and its people. We are not calling on our enemy [Israel] to do this. We are calling on our own people to remove this gang which sees a need to destroy our national project and meets with the architects of the Deal of the Century [to discuss] this matter and serves them … ”[9]

Full article at MEMRI.