Popular can mean a lot of things, but one thing it does not mean is “peaceful.” Therein lies the confusion for correspondent Karl Vick.
You can imagine him wearing rose colored glasses as he wrote up this assessment of Hamas/Fatah unity talks for Time.
Afterwards both met the cameras smiling. “There are no differences between us now,” Abbas said. Mashaal went with: “We have opened a new page of partnership.” And on whose terms? Hamas stands for resistance, its formal name being the Islamic Resistance Movement. But in the Gaza Strip where it governs, Hamas has largely enforced a truce with Israel since January 2009. And in Cairo it signed a paper committing itself to “popular resistance” against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. That’s “popular” in contrast to “violent” or “military” resistance. We’re talking marches here. Chanting and signs, not booby traps or suicide bombs.
“Every people has the right to fight against occupation in every way, with weapons or otherwise. But at the moment, we want to cooperate with the popular resistance,” Meshaal told AFP. “We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a program which is common to all the factions.”
The disconnect is simple. When Palestinians say “popular” Vick hears “non-violent.” But what they mean is grassroots.
In the Palestinian dictionary, kids throwing stones at Israelis is grassroots “popular” resistance no less than adults holding a grassroots “popular” candlelight vigil.
Gilad Shalit wasn’t kidnapped by any old resistance committees. He was snatched and held captive by the Popular Resistance Committees. Their popularity comes from promising to kidnap more soldiers, not holding marches, witty chants, or clever signs.
Whatever Hamas signed onto in Cairo doesn’t represent Hamas moderation but Fatah extremism.
(Image of rose glasses via Flickr/derekGavey)