I'm thinking: Arabs criticizing Arabs


By Micah D. Halpern

Issue of August 21, 2009 / 1 Elul 5769

“Radicalism begets radicalism.”

That quote does not come from a Western source. It is from an editorial in al-Sharq al-Awsat, a London Arabic newspaper. It is a reflection on murderous events that took place in Gaza, conflicts that left twenty-four Palestinians dead and over eighty injured.

Hamas was attacked by an al Qaeda cell in Gaza. That situation was unheard of — until now. It is a serious sign of the times.

An al Qaeda affiliated group called Jund Andar Al Allah executed an attack outside a Gaza mosque. A suicide bomber blew himself up while milling about in the midst of a group of Hamas members. Hamas responded by sending in reinforcements. An extensive firefight ensued and the number of dead and injured rose before Hamas prevailed and put down the al Qaeda forces.

Despite the recent denial by Palestinian President Abbas, al Qaeda has made inroads in Gaza. Op-eds and editorials in Arab papers around the world are asking “what did they expect” and saying “it serves them right.” The editorials are referring to Hamas, not to al Qaeda. What did Hamas expect if not violence?

The Arab press is accusing Hamas of fostering a Taliban-type environment in Gaza. Hamas has created an environment that rejects all contrary views. The result is that extremists are now killing extremists.  Hamas is not only killing political opponent Fatah, Hamas is killing radical extremist al Qaeda.

The big losers are the Palestinian people. This inter-Palestinian conflict and intra-Islamic/extremist conflict denies any hope of positive movement within the Palestinian world. Palestinian leadership in Gaza is precarious — yet, it is still able to challenge Fatah leadership. Al Qaeda is struggling for a stronger foothold in Gaza, yet they too, will be a formidable challenge to Fatah.

The streets of Gaza are a mess and no help will come from the greater Arab world. Both Hamas and al Qaeda are despised by the greater Arab world.

Al-Ahram, arguably the most important Arabic media in Egypt and maybe even in the entire Arabic world, has taken the Islamist movement to task. The lead editorial wrote that these Hamas/al Qaeda conflicts “were renewed proof that the chaos the Palestinians have had to endure since Hamas took over Gaza can only lead to more disasters for the Palestinian people.”

Until Palestinians put down extremism and unite they will never be able to self govern. And yet, the wise men of the Western world are bent on allowing these extremists in Gaza to expand their foothold. They are asking Israel to negotiate with them and asking the rest of the Palestinians to incorporate them into the decision making process of negotiations.

When Palestinians kill Palestinians it does not usually make our evening news, not even on cable stations. Arabs criticizing Arabs doesn’t make our news either. If the Arab media considers it important enough not only to cover the story but to editorialize about the event, it should be a sure signal to Western decision makers that what is happening is important.

I hope they are paying attention.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.