Vanity Fair's 'Gaza bombshell'

An article in the April edition of Vanity Fair, "The Gaza Bombshell," details a covert plan by the White House to overthrow the Hamas government shortly after it was elected in the summer of 2006. "Baseless and unfounded," says Fatah; "A scandal for Bush, Fatah and Abbas," says Hamas.
VF's Gaza bombshell
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GAZA/BEIRUT, Mar. 5, 2008 (MENASSAT) – In an article in Vanity Fair's April issue, contributing editor David Rose claims to have obtained "confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials" that allegedly show how president George W. Bush helped arm Hamas' main rival, Fatah, and tapped the much-feared former Fatah security chief in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, to lead the ousting of the newly elected Hamas government, "touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever."

The article further contends that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National-Security adviser Elliot Abrams signed off on and implemented the plan.

Mohamed Al-Hourani, a member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah told MENASSAT on Wednesday that Vanity Fair's claims that Fatah was complicit in trying to orchestrate a coup against Hamas are "baseless and unfounded."

'An attempted coup by Fatah'

Further damaging claims in the Vanity Fair article come in the form of testimony from David Wurmser, an "avowed neoconservative" and former Middle East adviser to vice-president Dick Cheney, who believes that "Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza" until Fatah, under the orders of Dahlan, "forced its hand."

“It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser is quoted as saying in the article.

Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman, told MENASSAT on Wednesday that, "The article confirms that Hamas' security plan actually prevented a civil war planned by the United States and Mohammed Dahlan, in order to consolidate the American vision of democracy."

Dahlan, who had established close ties with the CIA in the 1990's, says in the Vanity Fair article that he warned the Bush administration not to push for early elections in the Palestinian territories in early 2006, because, he said, "Fatah still wasn't ready for elections."

Rose contends that was mainly due to the general Palestinian perception of Fatah being "corrupt and inefficient" following Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004 – after decades of what Rose refers to as Arafat's "self-preservationist rule."

Hamas went on to win some 74 seats in the 132 seat Legislative Council, and Rice was quoted as saying, "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing."

'Rebellion and bloodshed'

Although Dahlan and other Fatah insiders apparently weren't surprised.

The Vanity Fair article also claims to be in possession of an official memo showing that Jake Walles, the consul general in Jerusalem at the time, under orders from the U.S. State Department essentially coerced Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas into demanding that the newly elected Hamas government accept the demands of the Quartet [the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations]: renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and accept the terms of all previous agreements.

According to Vanity Fair, "Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already working to strengthen Fatah's security forces. "If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically," the script said, "We will be there to support you."

Support in this case meant relying on an equally disorganized and fractured Fatah-controlled security apparatus that Arafat had built up, roughly 70,000 men that were not being paid because of the international blockade after Hamas' election victory.

And in Gaza, where Hamas was strongest, that meant that "Fatah could not control Gaza's streets," even though the actual number of fighters loyal to Hamas was significantly lower.

Torture of Hamas members

Prior to Hamas' Gaza takeover in June of 2007, the Vanity Fair article also contends that Secretary of State Rice attempted to persuade Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to further train Fatah's fighting force, and a U.S. State Department memo allegedly estimates the cost for training, weapons and salaries of these Fatah fighters at some $1.27 billion.

Some of the more shocking moments in the article are descriptions of kidnap and torture of Hamas members by those Fatah members loyal to U.S. darling Dahlan.

Men like Abdul Karim al-Jassar, who was beaten with wooden poles and plastic pipes and then forced into confessing that he was a collaborator with Israel after the Fatah men pressed a flaming hot iron bar over much of his thighs and torso.

Another Hamas member, Mazen Asad abu Dan lost all the skin on his back from the wounds he received with a "black iron rod," in which his Fatah captors allegedly "poured perfume." In this case, David Rose witnessed the torture because some members of this Fatah group had apparently been thoughtful enough to videotape the proceedings.

Predictably, the Bush administration has gone on record denying the claims made by the article – a tactic all too familiar when invoking such ghosts like the C.I.A.'s 1953 ousting off the Shah of Iran, or the Iran-contra scandal (in which Eliot Abrams was convicted, and later pardoned, for withholding information from Congress).

Vanity Fair's "bombshell" article comes at a time when the Bush administration is facing increasing difficulty in trying to broker a cease-fire in the Middle East, especially after the latest Israeli incursion in the Hamas-controlled territory saw some 120 people killed over the weekend, including dozens of civilians and at least 22 children.

'A scandal for Bush, Fatah and Abbas'

As far as Fatah is concerned, Al-Hourani told MENASSAT, "Vanity Fair is trying to shift the focus of attention away from a movement that has a nationalist agenda with echoes in the Arab world and with solid international support, to one legitimizing a religious force that can easily be isolated by the international community and easily linked to the so-called terrorist world."

Hamas spokesperson Barhoum said, "The Vanity Fair article is a scandal for the Bush administration, the Fatah movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who assigned Mohammed Dahlan to steward these American plans."

"The American administration is very much involved in the violence in the region," Barhoum added, "specifically in what is happening to the Palestinian people. The state of internal division is the result of this [American] plan and not the result of any differences between Fatah and Hamas."

What David Rose's article in Vanity Fair certainly reveals are the difficulties in credibility the United States is having in light of what he contends is "President Bush's last great ambition of his presidency: to broker a deal that would create a viable Palestinian state and bring peace to the Holy Land."