Factions to Abbas: Disarming not an Option

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Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas during his recent visit to Lebanon (Photo: REUTERS - Sharif Karim)

Published Friday, August 19, 2011

Palestinian fighters belonging to different factions in Ain al-Helweh camp in South Lebanon were critical of statements by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas calling for the surrendering of arms in Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon.

In the wake of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas’s trip to Lebanon last week, visitors of the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp are likely to conclude that the Palestinian factions are prepared to surrender their arms to the Lebanese authorities. Abbas’s statements come on the heels of recent clashes between ‘friends’ inside the camp.

Mohammad Farhoud, a pawn shop owner, is opposed to surrendering the arms. Although he is tired of the chaos of arms and their misuse, he still fears the alternative: “Who knows what might happen to us, Palestinians?” he asks.

Fighters belonging to various Palestinian factions unanimously agree that the arms should stay. In their opinion, Abbas was not serious in his proposal. Moreover, Abbas did not specify a mechanism for disarmament. Fatah and the PFLP-GC members are united in their positions. “We will not surrender our arms, for our arms are necessary to defend our camps from Israel and others,” they say.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) official Fouad Othman links the presence of arms in the camps to the ongoing struggle with Israel. “Our arms of resistance are symbolic and have a goal. They are dialectically linked to refugees and the right of return and cannot be surrendered until we achieve that return.”

Othman indicates that “the arms have sanctity which we will not sacrifice.” Nevertheless, he distinguishes between disciplined arms and those that need to be regulated and controlled by security forces. He asserts that he is ready to reign in any arms that are seen as a burden for Lebanese security. “We have confidence in the [Lebanese] army and the resistance, but who will protect the camps in light of talk of Zionist aggression? And who will guarantee that [another] Sabra and Shatila [massacre] will not be perpetrated?”

Abu-Mohammad al-Ali, who sells Ramadan refreshments, mocks Abbas’s statement as a free concession to the enemy. He wonders, “Isn’t Abu Mazen (Abbas) the head of Fatah? Isn’t his movement the biggest Palestinian organization that possesses arms in the Palestinian camps? Is Fatah willing to surrender its arms?”

Sheikh Jamal Khattab, a prominent Islamist in Ain al-Helweh, rejects the surrender of Palestinian arms in Lebanon, adding: “They are arms of resistance so long as Palestine is their cause. The arms have a role to play, especially since the negotiations with the enemy have failed. They are necessary to defend our camps which remain vulnerable to repeated Zionist assaults. It is important to have our weapons ready to counter the enemy”.

Khattab adds that Abu Mazen statement did not represent a considerable departure from previous positions. “His position is old. He has always been against a military approach.” He indicates that “Lebanon’s southern front is at risk of being open and Palestinians are concerned with countering any Zionist assault on Lebanon and supporting our allies in the resistance”.

“We are dismayed at Abu Mazen,” says a Fatah fighter on guard duty with others at Fatah’s headquarters in the camp. “I will not surrender my arms. When I return to Palestine, I will give it to the Lebanese army as a gift. Until that comes about and we return to our homeland, we will keep our arms alert.” But the fighter and his comrades still try to justify Abu Mazen’s statement. “He was not referring to the arms of honorable Palestinians, but those of out-bidders and hired guns who work for non-Palestinian groups.”

“If Fatah decides to surrender its arms, we will abide [by that decision],” state Fatah members.

According to a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Genreal Command (PFLP-GC), fighters belonging to factions opposed to the PLO believe this message shows Abu Mazen’s unprincipled positions towards resistance. They view him as a “president who condemned the militarization of the intifada. He also bragged about never having carried arms in his life, when all Palestinians bare arms to fight Zionists. Thus, he has no right to talk about arms and disarmament.” The member sarcastically asks, “Why would you offer a free service, Abu Mazen? And to whom are you reading your psalms?”

However, not all Palestinians living in the camps are against such calls. Camp Resident Maryam Mousa supports Abu Mazen’s position since “Palestinian arms are no longer directed towards fighting Israel. Instead, they are used in internal fights and battles within the camp’s alleys and among Palestinians themselves.” Mousa does not pay much attention to her husband’s request that she tones down her criticism of arms and the armed. “Yes, I support the surrender of arms” she says before uttering the Arab uprisings slogan “the people want to bring down the arms.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition

Comments

The second that arms are surrendered will be the same day the Zionists unrestrictedly without fear proceed to build even more expansions in the West Bank (This time without fear of mass reprisal from the resisting factions). It's unsurprising though that Zionism's main collaborator in Palestine who has turned the PLO from the Palestinian Liberation Organization into the Palestinian Liquidation Organization has called for this though. If anything, it will drive the appeal of Fatah within PLO politics even lower than it already is.

This is tragic, someone not willing to stick his neck out for the refugees tells them to put down their guns

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