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Home > English > Website archives > Rainbow of Crisis > Suicide Bombers Without a Cause: Fatah al-Islam


Suicide Bombers Without a Cause: Fatah al-Islam

Sunday 17 June 2007, by Nahla Chahal for the Alternative Information Center

Despite the complete political silence of Fatah al-Islam indicating its purpose or vision of the world—save for a few empty and hastily composed statements—its fighters’ willingness to die so readily has become well known. Hence, they can be described as those affiliated to a jihadi movement a la al-Qaeda.

Their fighters fought to the end during the Lebanese military attack on those holed up in apartments in Tripoli—some even blew themselves up in the face of the attacking forces. Furthermore, in order to confirm this jihadi characteristic, they have hinted at their multinational forces, which include Palestinians, Lebanese and various other Arabs, some who have ended up here, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon, after they were rejected from joining the fighting in Iraq. This claim has been specifically corroborated by statements made by Washington officials about supporting the government of Fouad Siniora in its “vicious war on terror” to which this group belongs—this world of terror, which seemingly can absorb just about anything. This is in addition to the American statements that grant Mr. Siniora testimony after testimony regarding his belonging to the circle of the war on terror.

Still, there is more to the reality than meets the eye. It reeks of the stench of intelligence intervention from various sources. It also prefigures the result of the accumulation of misery; materially, in terms of the living conditions and psychologically, whereby misery becomes part of any behavior. Today, we should point out to the overall collapse, represented in the loss of standards and meanings and a lack of any structured reference. Politics is no longer politics and religion has not remained religion. A dubious group was able, almost overnight, to take hold of a Palestinian refugee camp in which 40,000 people live and in which, historically all the Palestinian political factions are present. This went on for many months and no one did anything. Neither did the Lebanese government pay it any heed in terms of trying to come to understandings with the Palestinian organizations, until the terrible events took place and the real situation was exposed.

This scenario is completely different from the situation in the Ein al-Hilwa Camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, which is located on the outskirts of Sidon. In that case, the situation built up slowly over many years and resulted from the splits in the Palestinian situation in Lebanon after the exit of the PLO leadership following the Israeli invasion of 1982, and because of the events and changes in Lebanon in terms of the Palestinian question. In this sense, regardless of the current chaos in Ein-al Hilwa, the situation there is understandable and explainable. As for what went on in Nahr al-Bared, this is not the case.

In any case, this situation necessitates probing the issue of authority over the camps. The Cairo agreement of 1969 took away this authority from the sponsorship of the Lebanese government and put it under the authority of the PLO. This was a result of the balance in powers that took form after 1982. However, it remained in effect because of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The situation was never discussed, except in narrow circles known for their hostility and near-racist attitude towards the Palestinians. Moreover, this exception was in one way or another, an expression of the desire to maintain the Palestinians’ “outside-ness” and a record of them being outside the framework of the Lebanese entity, which is plagued by the threat of nationalization. A review of the efficacy of the Cairo Agreement was—and still is—a goal that remains difficult for the Lebanese authority to achieve given how divided and in crisis it is.

However, the explosion of the last few weeks—the high causalities among the Lebanese military and the alleged methods of eliminating some by abducting them from public roads and massacring them, in addition to the fact that this group is using the camp as a backdrop for the spread of arms in various regions, which means there could be killings and explosions carried out in various parts of the country, which would be affiliated to this group—this all raises the question of the conditions in the camps, something which cannot be overstepped by any legitimate justification, except through the Palestinian organizations’ push towards taking responsibility for the camps and arranging mechanisms to administrate them seriously and transparently. Acquired rights diminish if they are not used. And what is more dangerous than this is the arrogant mentality which will quickly lead to a Lebanese/Palestinian split, the characteristics of which have surfaced strongly in this latest crisis. This is not just in the many statements by Lebanese politicians who have joined the ranks of outright hostility towards the Palestinians, calling them “ungrateful” or “the root of all of Lebanon’s problems” and other extremely racist statements in addition to twisting the truth of their behavior. This is also because gunfire was shot from positions in Lebanese areas (villages with a Sunni Muslim population and not “isolators”) at caravans of medical and humanitarian relief headed towards the besieged Nahr al-Bared Camp, and because the displaced from this camp—thousands of them—did not find anyone save other Palestinian camps to receive them.

Still, any Palestinian confrontation of the problem of running the camps presupposes a high capability from the Palestinian leadership to find mutual understanding, arrangements and a system and mode of implementation. This is not easy at all given the accumulated problems that exist and given the absence of a framework of a harmonious Palestinian leadership. It is also due to the absence of a clear political will and because of the muddled relationship with the Lebanese relationship. This means that this file will continue to be a quandary throughout this lengthy and open-ended transitional period, headed towards the unknown. Thus, the Palestinians, both people and cause, will continue to pay the highest prices.

At the Lebanese level of this explosive problem, this has given the government a golden opportunity to behave according to an undeclared state of emergency. The leaderships of the military, security and police have been summoned to ongoing meetings and have been given firm orders, as if they have been given the task of saving the country from a major crisis. It then rallied a huge amount of support and mobilization from the Lebanese people around the military, support which was clear during the battles of Tripoli and then the camp. This may have contributed to motivating them in terms of losses in the ranks of their soldiers. But this is not the only thing. There was an overall rejection that developed to the danger of falling into chaos and the unknown, represented by Fatah al-Islam.

This is in addition to a strong general conviction (to the extent to which no one has actually corroborated the validity of its significance) about the fear that this group is connected to Syrian plans to manipulate the Lebanese situation in order to extort regional and international players that are planning general arrangements for the region. Examples of this are approving the international tribunal and other moves regarding Iraq. Have we forgotten that on 28 May, there is an Iranian-American meeting in Baghdad and that is most likely an introduction to a series of negotiations that will challenge the definition of the current balance of power and the ramifications of this balance?

Still, what has been lost on the Lebanese government is that it cannot solve such complicated and complex problems through security measures, regardless of how firm or effective they may be. Furthermore, these arrangements cannot compensate for the current vertical split in the country. Also, in confronting the problem, the government cannot disregard it as if it were secondary. If the government will not form a national salvation government under such conditions, when else would it be appropriate? If a national conciliation government is not formed under such conditions, then will Fatah al-Islam remain the only party who can manipulate the security and fate of the country?

This article was originally published in Arabic in al-Hayat, and translated into English by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) by request of the author.