Hamas, Fatah using TV screens in power struggle over image, credibility
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- First, Hamas militiamen were filmed beating guests at a bachelor party. Then, the deposed Hamas prime minister claimed Fatah forces had tortured a Hamas activist to death, only to have the prisoner, very much alive, presented in a TV broadcast.
The power struggle between the Palestinian rivals over image and credibility is increasingly playing out on TV screens. The two clips, broadcast repeatedly on Fatah-affiliated Palestine TV, were the talk of the Palestinian territories Saturday.
In the case of the erroneous death claim, Hamas might have been set up by the Fatah-allied intelligence service -- a measure of how desperate both sides are to discredit each other and how deep the animosity runs between them after Hamas seized Gaza by force in June.
Even though polls indicate Palestinians are becoming more and more disillusioned with their two main parties after months of infighting, public opinion still has its weight.
"It brought Hamas to power and it can bring Fatah back," said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib.
One tug-of-war was over Muayad Bani Odeh, 25, a Hamas supporter from the West Bank who was arrested by Abbas' intelligence service last month and was being held in the city of Nablus.
After Hamas seized Gaza, Fatah formed a moderate government that rules the West Bank.
Bani Odeh's family and independent legislator Khaleda Jarrar said they were told by intelligence officials Thursday that the prisoner was in serious condition in an Israeli hospital. Jarrar said she checked again later with the intelligence chief, Tawfiq Tirawi, and was told Bani Odeh was clinically dead.
The information reached Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, deposed as prime minister by Abbas after the Gaza takeover. In a speech after Muslim prayers Friday, Haniyeh accused Fatah-allied forces in the West Bank of persecuting and torturing Hamas supporters.
"The latest of these is Muayad Bani Odeh, a holy warrior, a son of Islam in the West Bank, who was tortured to death," Haniyeh said. Later, thousands of Hamas supporters in Gaza staged marches to protest the purported death.
On Saturday, Palestine TV broadcast footage from what appears to be an interrogation of Bani Odeh, in which he confessed to collaborating with Israel.