We need an honest commission of inquiry to establish the truth

We need an honest commission of inquiry to establish the truth

The recent visit to the Gaza Strip by Fatah leader Nabil Sha’ath should be a welcome first step toward Palestinian national reconciliation.

Unlike many Fatah fanatics, who openly advocate an unending war on Hamas,   Sha’ath has repeatedly displayed a great deal of moderation vis-à-vis Hamas, refusing to view the Islamic liberation movement as “the enemy” as many of the anti-Islamist elements within Fatah have been insisting.

To his credit, the veteran Fatah leader never harbored any illusions as to boundaries between inter-Palestinian troubles, such as the rift between Fatah and Hamas, and the fundamental conflict between the Palestinian people and Israel .

Unfortunately, it is these boundaries that some high-ranking Palestinian Authority (PA) operatives have sought to blur and obliterate in the service of Israel.

For example, one high ranking military official in the PA security apparatus was quoted as telling his Israeli “colleagues” over two years ago that “we are allies and have a common enemy, and the name of that common enemy is Hamas).

This is why Sha’ath’s  visit and the series of meetings he held with Gazan leaders, including the elected Prime Minister Ismael Haniya, should be lauded and welcomed by all sincere Palestinians keen on seeing an early end to the 30-month strife between Hamas and Fatah.

The Gaza Strip doesn’t belong solely to Hamas any more than the West Bank belongs solely to Fatah. But both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the rest of occupied Palestine, belong to the Palestinian people, including the followers of Fatah and Hamas.

Having said that, it is imperative for the sake of genuine national reconciliation that the two sides stop mutual recriminations. Fatah, in particular, should stop its often poisoned propaganda discourse, which claims that Hamas carried out a coup and killed hundreds of Fatah militiamen and supporters.

Fostering obscene lies will not serve the dear cause of national reconciliation. Eventually, Fatah, like Hamas, is a party to the contention, and as such can’t be foe and judge at the same time.

But if Fatah is truly and sincerely interested in knowing the truth, Hamas should show no objections to the creation of a genuine Inquiry Commission consisting of judges and jurists of implacable credentials.
Such a commission might be necessary for effecting a durable national reconciliation as it would be based on truth and honesty.

Many sensitive questions would have to be answered satisfactorily. These would include the following:
1-     What was the nature of the relation between the CIA, e.g. Gen. Keith Dayton and Fatah-dominated PA militias in Gaza prior to the events of July 2007?
2-     Did the PA security agencies in Gaza collude with the Americans and possibly the Israelis against the democratically elected government of Hamas?
3-     Did the PA security agencies, especially the Preventive Security Force, plan to carry out a coup against Hamas prior to the July, 2007 events?
4-     Did the security agencies receive American-funded truckloads of weapons via Israel in order to topple the Hamas government?
5-     Did the security agencies try knowingly and deliberately to foster insecurity and instability in Gaza in order to embarrass and undermine the government of national unity?
6-     Who murdered the three children of Baha’a Balusha?
7-     Who murdered Professor Hussein abu Ajwa?
8-     Who broke the ceasefire every time one was reached through Egyptian mediation?
9-     Was Fatah planning to crush the Hamas government, aided by the Americans and Israel and probably some Arab regimes?
10- Who are the culprits in the assassination attempt on the life of Prime Minister Haniya on his way back to Gaza from Egypt in December, 2007?
11-  Finally, when Israel launched its Nazi-like onslaught against Gaza last year,  in which thousands of innocent Palestinians were killed, maimed or seriously incinerated, there were reports that certain circles with the Fatah organization (and also within the PLO) colluded and connived with the Israelis, with some figures reportedly begging the Israelis to destroy entire Palestinian population centers “because they deserved it since they voted for Hamas.” Hence, these serious accusations and allegations must also be thoroughly investigated in order to establish the truth.
More to the point, Fatah can suggest any set of issues it thinks warrant serious investigation, such as the claim that Hamas fighters killed a Fatah operative by throwing him off the rooftop of a multi-story building. I am revisiting this particular issue because a meticulous investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident showed that the victim, Husam abu Gneis, was actually pushed to his death mistakenly by a Fatah operative who had mistaken him for a Hamas operative as the victim grew a beard.

I am not suggesting that Fatah is guilty until proven innocent. However, both Fatah and Hamas should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, which necessitates the creation of an authentic commission of inquiry.

The establishment of justice and truth, by honest, neutral and professional judges, should put an end to all the bickering and mutual incriminations between Fatah and Hamas. More over, lessons would be learned from such a daring and wise act as truth would finally be laid out naked to all those interested in it.

As to the more immediate issues pertaining to the so-called Egyptian document, it is amply clear that this document has lost much if not most of its appeal following the manifestly hostile action by the Egyptian regime against Hamas, namely the construction of the Israeli-envisaged wall of shame along the borders between Gaza and Sinai.

This colossal shame has effectively placed the Mubarak regime firmly in the circle of hostility to Hamas. Hence, a neutral third party ought to be found in order to ensure that any reconciliation agreement would be genuine and durable.

Finally, in order to organize elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, security and other guarantees would have to be given in order to avoid the repetition of the scandalous violations which took place prior and after the 2006-elections.  Then  Israel rounded up the bulk of Islamist candidates who won or were poised to win  the elections while the West and its Arab puppet regimes, probably with the acquiescence and tacit encouragement of leading  elements within Fatah, imposed a deadly blockade against the new Palestinian government on the ground that they didn’t like the outcome of the elections.

Indeed, organizing elections under the present circumstances is tantamount to telling voters that they will be starved and blockaded if they voted for Hamas and that only by voting for Fatah will they be able to receive salaries at the end of the month.

The same thing applies to the current political situation in the occupied territories, especially the West Bank where an aggressive, even rabid, inquisition against Hamas has been going on unabated since the summer of 2007.

In this context, as many as 10,000 people have been arrested, hundreds of Islamic institutions seized and handed over to Fatah, and thousands of innocent people fired from their jobs because of suspected affiliation or association with Hamas.

Moreover,   over a dozen Hamas supporters have been tortured to death, while others suffered lifelong handicaps as a result of the harsh physical torture to which they were  subjected to at the hands of Fatah interrogators.

Hence, it is really difficult to even imagine that true and transparent elections can be organized under the prevailing conditions in the West Bank.

True elections require a healthy atmosphere where citizens can exercise freedom of expression and speech and hold rallies in support for their respective political party. This essential requirement doesn’t exist now in the West Bank and to a lesser extent in the Gaza Strip as well.

This means that the current police state apparatus in the West Bank must be immediately dismantled.

Otherwise, holding elections under the present circumstances, when people are arrested and tortured even for holding the green Islamic flag, will be a prescription for disaster.