- - Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Since March 30, Hamas‘ violent protests on the Gaza-Israel border have garnered intense media coverage.

Rallying tens of thousands of Gazans in a “March of Return” to claim all of Israel for Islam, Hamas leader Yahya Al-Sinwar proclaimed, “We will uproot the borders, we will pluck out their (Israelis’) hearts, and we will pray in Jerusalem.”

Responding to his call, Palestinians, led by Hamas operatives, are rioting, throwing Molotov cocktails at the Israel Defense Forces and planting IEDs to kill Israelis. They cynically send women and children to the fence hoping for photographs of Israeli soldiers shooting them. Burning thousands of tires to create a smoke screen, Hamas terrorists armed with grenades, suicide vests and weapons attempt to infiltrate the Jewish state to terrorize, kidnap and kill Israeli civilians.

Media coverage of the riots has been excessive, biased, misleading and outright false. In its eagerness to portray Israel in a negative light, the press has largely ignored a story they should be covering: The power struggle between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the terror group Hamas.

Mr. Abbas’ reaction to the Hamas border campaign has been lukewarm at best. In a recent press conference, he didn’t even mention the protests, but instead demanded that Hamas cede control over the entire Gaza Strip. “The Gaza Strip has been hijacked by Hamas,” Mr. Abbas said. “They must immediately hand over everything, first and foremost security, to the Palestinian national consensus government.”

Prior to the current border rioting and following the assassination attempt on the life of his prime minister in Gaza, Mr. Abbas threatened legal and financial measures against Gaza in addition to the painful sanctions he had already imposed. Those included halting payment for electricity, suspending social services, cutting salaries of thousands of local civil servants and reducing health care funding by 90 percent — all to create desperation and civil unrest in the hope of encouraging Gazans to overthrow Hamas.

Mr. Abbas and his Fatah political party and Hamas in Gaza, currently led by Mr. Al-Sinwar, are battling for control over the Palestinians. This conflict, essentially a civil war, began in 2007 when Palestinians in the Gaza Strip rejected the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in favor of Hamas. The border riots have escalated the chess game, with each side trying to position itself as the more effective and legitimate leadership.

Mr. Al-Sinwar has succeeded in putting Gaza back on the international stage and Mr. Abbas is worried he may lose the political advantage if Hamas‘ border campaign bolsters its popularity with the Palestinian public.

In an attempt to gain international credibility for Hamas and to gather domestic support in its conflict with Mr. Abbas, one of Hamas‘ top leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, gave a speech in front of a billboard displaying pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, implying that Hamas was engaged in a peaceful struggle for freedom.

A Palestinian Authorty (PA) government spokesman, speaking from Ramallah, said that Hamas‘ use of the pictures and quotes of the three famous pacifists was intended to cover up its crimes and insisted that Hamas is sabotaging efforts to achieve “national reconciliation” and continues to issue “hostile statements” against Fatah and the PA government. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat criticized Hamas, saying that these icons would be “astonished” by Hamas‘ claim about the “peacefulness” of the demonstrations.

Unhappy with Hamas‘ massive press coverage and eager to show that it too is capable of mobilizing the masses, Fatah has launched a series of rallies in the territories in support of Mr. Abbas, jailed leader Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli prisons.

The Palestinians’ leadership is bifurcated, each side bent on destroying the other. They willingly sacrifice their people on the altar of self-interest. We are witnessing an internecine war between a third-world Palestinian kleptocracy and a Palestinian terror group, neither capable of responsible governance. But the mainstream media is happy to ignore this reality to sell you a fiction about the peaceful Palestinian march for freedom at the Gaza border. “It is a tale told by [idiots], full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Ziva Dahl is a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.

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