The internal power struggles and tensions that led to Moussa Arafat’s assassination have been simmering for years. After the death of Yasser Arafat many analysts predicted they would boil over, and may even lead to civil war. Last summer, before the old guerrilla leader passed away, his Fatah movement was under fire from its former supporters.
Hundreds took part in demonstrations to denounce corruption in the Palestinian Authority and demand urgent reform. The trigger for such anger had been the appointment of Moussa Arafat as security chief in the West Bank and Gaza. For many Palestinians, his rise to power and ruthless approach to militant groups symbolised the nepotism and favouritism of his cousin’s regime. The conflict has its roots in the rift that developed over time between the old guard and the younger generation.
One drew its legitimacy from the founding of the PLO, the other from fighting the daily battles of life under Israeli occupation. The man who many saw as representing this new force in Palestinian life was Mohamed Dahlan. The current civil affairs minister was the first to denounce Yasser Arafat’s system and demand reform. Observer’s say it would be a mistake, however, to blame the malaise in which the Palestinian Authority now finds itself entirely on Fatah. The splits and rivalries run deep in a population that has endured years of repression and that yearns for greater democracy.
It is fertile ground for militants like the Popular Resistance Committees, which killed Moussa Arafat. Hamas too has grown in popularity, as was shown by its strong result in recent local elections. The Islamist group has also denounced Fatah as corrupt. It hopes to further consolidate its position in legislative elections planned for January.