Pressure is mounting on Mahmoud Abbas to resign after the call by the Palestinian Authority to delay a vote in the UN Human Rights Council on the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Gaza. The report, which accuses both the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters of committing war crimes in the conflict earlier this year in which Israel invaded and destroyed a large portion of Gaza, was an investigation launched by the UN and headed Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge.
The condemnation of Abbas has been widespread among Palestinians both abroad and in the Occupied Territories. Members of Hamas and other groups in Gaza have gone as far as to say Abbas committed a crime against the Palestinian people in delaying the vote. Even members of Abbas’ own Fatah party have been divided over the decision. There have been fears expressed that it could set the party back many years. It could in fact precipitate the general decline of the Fatah party or at least signal a major shake up. Once again, as in the invasion of Gaza earlier this year, the crisis is increasing the prestige of Hamas and those leaders of the resistance who dare take a stand against imperialism. Once again Fatah is increasingly being seen as impotent to protect the Palestinian people and advance their interests at best. At worst they are seen to be a complacent servant of imperialism and collaborators with Zionism.
The delay of the vote at the UN Human Rights Council is significant because an adoption of the findings by the council would be an important first step in bringing war crimes charges against Israeli officials in the international criminal court. Obviously this would represent a major moral and political victory for the Palestinians and their cause. So what is Abbas thinking in opposing the vote? Pressure by the US and Israeli threats to end peace talks certainly played a part in his thinking, though it is hard to imagine he ever expected such a backlash from whole of Palestinian society. Even as I write this I find out that Abbas has realized the gravity of his error. The PA representative to the UN in Geneva has requested an emergency session to discuss the report. If Abbas wasn’t discredited before, he must certainly be now after his belated and infirm actions.
The PA and its whole structure are in a shaky state, not to mention Fatah. Abbas is discredited and widely loathed. Hamas is thus left with an opportunity. Its denunciations of Abbas have escalated with the growing crisis. This places Hamas in an awkward position. They are currently in the process of national reconciliation talks with Fatah and hosted by Egypt. Hamas aims in this process is to gain a place in the PA and thus an international recognition and a chance to engage in peace talks with Israel, something top Hamas members have expressed the willingness to do several times. After this latest debacle with the PA though, it might not be worth it for Hamas to join the structure. The option they are left with is to raise and lead a national resistance to Fatah and hence continue their current path of isolation. They seem to be wavering right now in between the two paths, but they will forced to be chose soon. As Ali Abunimah writes Hamas will have to drop its trappings of a government in Gaza and go back to its roots a social movement. It is difficult for an organization to give up control and power once it has it, but Hamas might be capable of doing it in essence if not in form. It appears that this event will form the point around which the next phase of the struggle will take. Hamas must evaluate events, the mood of the masses, and the possibility of reaction. Simple opportunism will likely only result in continued suffering for the Palestinian people.