Until a few days ago, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leaders were strongly denouncing Hamas for its brutal crackdown on Palestinians protesting economic hardship in the Gaza Strip.
Now, the PA is condemning Israel for launching military strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli strikes, however, were provoked; they came hours after a long-range rocket fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip hit a house in the Kfar Saba region of Israel and injured seven people.
The PA and its leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas, have yet to condemn the launching of rockets at Israel. Instead of condemning those responsible for firing the first rocket, which miraculously did not result in any deaths when it hit a home in the early hours of the morning, the PA leaders are lashing out at Israel for launching a “new aggression” against the Gaza Strip.
According to the logic of the PA, the conflict started when Israel fired back. The leaders of the PA seem especially careful not to blame Hamas or any other Palestinian group for the latest tensions in the Gaza Strip. In a series of statements in the past few days, PA officials sought, as usual, to put all the blame on Israel. These are the same officials who, until a few days ago, were attacking Hamas for breaking the bones of Palestinian protesters who took to the streets of the Gaza Strip to demand improved living conditions and a solution to the soaring unemployment there.
Abbas and his officials have apparently not heard of the arson kites and booby-trapped balloons that have been launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli towns on nearly a daily basis over the past few months. They also apparently have not heard of the rockets and mortars that are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel almost every day.
The PA further appears unaware that Hamas has been sending thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, to demonstrate near the border with Israel and attack Israeli soldiers with explosive devices, firebombs and rocks. These demonstrations, which began exactly a year ago under the banner of the “March of Return,” have resulted in the deaths and injury of thousands of Palestinians.
Rather than demanding that Hamas cease and desist from endangering the lives of Palestinians by sending them to clash with Israeli soldiers and breach the Gaza-Israel border, the PA and its leaders are condemning Israel for perpetrating “crimes” against Palestinians.
The PA envoy to the United Nations, Riad Mansour, said this week that the current tensions in the Gaza Strip were the result of the “silence of the international community towards Israeli crimes.” Another reason for the escalation, he claimed, was the “blockade” — which Israel established at its border of the Gaza Strip to prevent weapons being brought in — and the use of force against Palestinian demonstrators.
Mansour was echoing the official PA position of holding Israel — and Israel alone — responsible for the violence and suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
This is the same PA that has been imposing severe economic and financial sanctions on the Gaza Strip since 2017. Those sanctions include, among other things, cutting salaries and welfare payments to thousands of Palestinian employees and families in the Gaza Strip. The PA is even considering additional sanctions against the Gaza Strip as part of its effort to undermine the Hamas regime.
On the one hand, the PA is accusing Israel of imposing restrictions on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is the PA itself that is punishing the people there by cutting their salaries and firing thousands of civil servants. When Palestinians in the West Bank took to the streets to protest the PA sanctions against the Gaza Strip, the PA sent its security forces to break up the protests and arrest many of the demonstrators. This is the same PA that is now accusing Israel of using force to disperse Palestinian protesters at the Gaza-Israel border.
Until a few days ago, the PA was accusing Hamas of committing crimes against unarmed Palestinians protesting the high cost of living and increased taxation by Hamas. Now, the PA is denouncing Israel for targeting Hamas after Hamas fired rockets into Israeli towns.
One PLO official, Tayseer Khaled, went as far as likening Hamas’s repressive measures to those of Nazi Germany’s secret police, the Gestapo. Another Palestinian official, Jamal Muheissen, said that Hamas was like a terrorist group that has hijacked an airplane.
Last week, Abbas himself denounced Hamas as “dogs” and said that it will end up in the dustbin of history. “They [Hamas] can go to hell; those dogs,” Abbas said while he was visiting in hospital a senior Fatah official who was reportedly badly beaten by Hamas members in the Gaza Strip. The official, Atef Abu Seif, was transferred from the Gaza Strip to a hospital in Ramallah.
Abbas and the PA are furious because Hamas militiamen and security officers have been breaking the arms and legs of protesters in the Gaza Strip. They do not seem overly concerned, however, when Hamas or other groups in the Gaza Strip indiscriminately fire rockets and booby-trapped balloons at Israeli civilians.
Abbas says he would like to see Hamas “go to hell” and “end up in the dustbin of history,” but when Israel responds to Hamas’s rocket attacks, he and his officials rush to condemn Israel. Clearly, the PA leaders are afraid to condemn the rocket attacks on Israel. They evidently do not want to be accused by their people of betraying the Palestinian “resistance” against Israel. The PA’s anti-Israel incitement makes it impossible for Abbas and his PA officials to speak out against terror attacks on Israel.
Without a doubt, Abbas despises Hamas and would indeed see it buried and gone. Deep down, he and his officials also likely hope that Israel will one day do that job for them. The PA leaders, however, do not hate Hamas because it launches rockets at Israel. They hate Hamas because the Islamist movement humiliated them and expelled them from the Gaza Strip in 2007. They hate Hamas because since then, Hamas has been arresting, beating and torturing Abbas loyalists in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and the PA are simply doing the one thing they are good at: trying to frame Israel for Palestinian crimes against their own people. Only when Hamas beats the brains out of PA supporters do Abbas and his associates respond. As far as they are concerned, rockets and mortars can explode to their hearts’ content — as long as they land on Israeli homes. Thanks to this double game, which the PA has been playing for a long time, Abbas and his senior officials appear increasingly to be losing credibility among their people.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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