GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas is working on cementing its ties with the Democratic Reformist Current led by dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, by granting him more leeway for the work of relief and charity organizations affiliated with Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
Dahlan’s wife, Jalila, established Fata in 1999 with Belgian support operating in the Palestinian territories and refugee camps in host countries. Fata offers financial and moral support for thousands of Palestinian families by providing food baskets and funding small community projects and hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
Fata’s work in Gaza came to a halt when Hamas took control in 2006, but it resumed its activities after relations between Fata and the Hamas government were restored in 2014. When relations between Hamas and the Reformist Current developed, Jalila started entering and exiting the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has banned the work of the foundation and Jalila’s entry from Jordan to the West Bank. The PA also asked Israel in October 2018 to ban Jalila’s entry to Gaza through the Erez crossing. So far, Fata does not operate in the West Bank due to the PA’s crackdown against Dahlan and his movement.
In 2014, Lebanese authorities banned Jalila from entering the country, upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to conduct Fata activities in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Lebanon feared an expansion of Dahlan’s movement in its Palestinian camps.
Relations between Abbas and Dahlan have been severed since 2011, after Abbas accused Dahlan of pitting Fatah members against him and expanding his influence among the Palestinian security bodies. In 2011, Abbas dismissed Dahlan from Fatah and the Palestinian judiciary accused Dahlan of embezzling funds and escaping justice.
Imad Mohsen, spokesman for Dahlan’s Democratic Reformist Current in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Fata is an organization with no ties to Dahlan’s current. Its role is humanitarian and it has no military or organizational role.”
Al-Monitor tried to contact Fata CEO Wissam Jarghoun, but he refused to talk about the foundation’s ties to Dahlan’s current or to Hamas.
A Hamas-affiliated internal security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Hamas follows up on Fata’s work and Gazans are well-aware that the organization led by Jalila is affiliated with Dahlan’s current and receives support from it. Fata is a relief organization that does not play any political role and its activities are completely monitored by Hamas.”
Fata’s projects receive direct funding from the Emirates Red Crescent and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, and it operates in the Gaza Strip directly or through intermediaries such as the Gaza Association Social Development and the Youth Vision Society.
Political analyst and writer Ibrahim al-Madhoun, director of Hamas' youth media wing, told Al-Monitor that he believes the movement has given ample opportunities for humanitarian organizations, including Fata, to tackle poverty and unemployment in Gaza.
Hamas had prohibited the activities of associations affiliated with Dahlan in the Gaza Strip after taking over Gaza, due to armed conflicts that Reformist Current members were part of. After relations were restored, Hamas gradually allowed the Reformist Current to work in Gaza again.
Madhoun said, “Fatah’s Reformist Current is capitalizing on the freedom granted by Hamas. It has continued its work through the Fata foundation and through the National Islamic Commission for Development and Social Solidarity to seep into Gaza’s social life, and it has succeeded. Given Hamas’ needs and its financial crisis, it does not mind any relief efforts — not to mention the rapprochement between Hamas and Dahlan.”
Due to its financial crisis ongoing since 2014, Hamas had to work with Dahlan given his good relations with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help overcome the crisis.
Madhoun noted, “Hamas is impeding security and military work, and Fata has not done any such work or committed any unlawful activities. On the contrary, the foundation is helping the underprivileged and marginalized and is alleviating public pressure on Hamas. The movement is also trying to overcome the PA sanctions.”
The associations affiliated with Fata in the Gaza Strip include the Fata Medical and Rehabilitation Hospital, which was founded in 2006 to improve the medical services offered to people with special needs, and the Fata Student Development Center, which offers student services at most universities in the Gaza Strip such as the Hamas-affiliated Islamic University. The center's activities focus on helping poor students pay their tuition and buy books, and organizing administrative and academic training sessions for students.
The affiliated associations also include the Women and Child Development Center in the marginalized Meghraka area in central Gaza, which offers psychological support and entertainment for children between the ages of 4 and 6 and their mothers.
Madhoun noted, “Hamas is monitoring all of Fata’s projects so that they do not stray from their relief track.”
Fata’s key projects in the Gaza Strip have included a collective wedding for 400 brides and grooms in 2015, financial support for newly enrolled university students, a project to treat impotence that included 600 cases and the Zahrat Fata project at the organization's centers for classes to memorize the Quran.
Also operating in the Gaza Strip is the National Islamic Commission for Development and Social Solidarity. Dahlan’s Reformist Current sends funds to Gaza’s inhabitants through the commission that was founded in 2011 during a meeting between various factions that included Dahlan’s current, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The commission is led by Majed Abu Shamala, Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and leader of the Reformist Current in Gaza, Deputy Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad Khaled al-Batsh and Secretary of Hamas’ political bureau in Gaza Salah al-Bardawil.
The commission mainly offers compensation for the families of those killed in the clashes in 2007 between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. The funding comes from the UAE, through Dahlan.
The National Islamic Commission receives funding from the same source as Fata, through the Emirates Red Crescent.
Youssef al-Nairab, spokesman for the National Islamic Commission for Development and Social Solidarity, told Al-Monitor, “The commission is [also] funded by the Emirati-Egyptian Relief Commission and we have implemented several projects since 2011. The main areas funded have been in relief and development such as paying tuition fees for university students in exchange for volunteering to help the sick and those in need as well as providing the poor with food baskets and paying compensation to the victims of the Palestinian rift.”
Nairab added, “It is not Hamas alone that decides the commission’s projects. The decision is collective and all founding factions participate in it. We believe this platform is excelling where politics fails as our achievements reflect real partnership among Palestinian society components.”