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Thursday, February 7, 2008

BULLETIN: Isreal launches new attacks into Gaza.

As Israel renews assaults into Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Hamas militants, it might do to recall the forbears of Hamas and the early intifadas before World War Two. Under the Ottoman Empire, northern Palestine, essentially ruled by landlords from Beirut and Damascus, was more cosmopolitan; while the south, poorer and drier, was a realm of migrant Bedouin tribes. In the late nineteenth century, the south was organized by landlords of the Husayni clan. After the fall of Ottoman Empire, the Husaynis were seen by the British Mandate which ruled Palestine, as the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs. However, it was the Husaynis who also led the increasingly violent protest against the Jewish presence and the waves of Jewish immigration in the 1920s and 1930s. The British, meanwhile, continued to empower the Husaynis in hopes of defusing their radicalism. But the Husaynis came to agitate for an all-Arab Palestine associated with Syria, with which Muslim Palestine had traditionally identified itself. At the same time Palestine's second Arab clan, the Nashishibis (like today's Fatah-PNA) fought for the more moderate two-state solution for Arabs and Jews. Though there were general Palestinian rebellions against the Jewish presence in the 1920s and 1930s, the Palestinian cause was almost always undermined and the rebellions ended by bloody factional fighting between the Nashishibis and the Husaynis.
In 1949, after the Jewish-Arab Palestine War ended with confirmation of the state of Israel, the veteran leader of the Palestinians, Haajj Mohammed Husayni attempted to set up a Palestinian state from inside Gaza. However, he needed Cairo's backing and Cairo refused to help. Eclipsed by the PLO in 1964, Husayni retired to Beirut in obscurity. In some sense, his dream of a Palestinian state founded from Gaza came closer to realization with the victory of Hamas in the 2006 elections and Hamas's seizure of de-facto rule in Gaza in 2007.

The foundation of Hamas in 1987 revived the Husayni tradition of a radical, Islamist mission against the Jewish presence in Palestine.
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