Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shortly after Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called on Palestinian factions to unite, already strained relations between Hamas and Fatah reached new heights. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of Hamas' political bureau, insulted Yasser Arafat, the forefather of the Palestinian resistance movement and Fatah's founder.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Zahar accused Arafat of cowardice during the battle of Karameh, a major skirmish between Fatah militants and IDF forces that took place in the Jordanian town of Karameh in 1968.
"When he saw the Israeli tanks heading toward Karameh, Abu Ammar (Arafat's moniker) fled on his Vespa and did not participate in the fighting. Arafat went to Amman and held a press conference only after the victory in the battle," Zahar claimed.
Zahar's criticism of the late leader is noteworthy because of the importance Palestinians attribute to this battle. The victory claimed by Fatah in Karameh was a turning point in the history of the Palestinian national resistance movement, since it drew the Arab world's attention to the Palestinian issue, and turned Fatah and its leader Yasser Arafat into champions of Palestinian resistance.
The senior Hamas leader further smeared Arafat, stating: "Abu Ammar fought against us, confiscated our weapons, jailed us, tortured us and had security coordination with Israel."
"Arafat is the one who started the security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and he is the one who renounced 80% of Palestinian land," Zahar added.
Zahar's allegations enraged many Fatah supporters, who launched a social media campaign calling on Palestinian Authority President and current Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to put Zahar on trial for "attacking Palestine's martyrs and their forefather, Yasser Arafat."
Initially, members of Hamas in Gaza dismissed Zahar's criticism of Arafat, alleging that the latter did not mean to hurt Palestinian symbols or cast doubt on the narrative of the battle of Karameh.
However, increased attacks on Zahar by Fatah members prompted Hamas to respond. On Saturday, the terror group issued a statement condemning Fatah's campaign against Zahar, calling on the Fatah to "stop the security coordination with Israel instead of smearing Arafat."