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Fatah controls the West Bank, Hamas controls Gaza. Is there a dominant voice?


With war in the Middle East raging, thousands of people took to the streets of D.C. this weekend for a pro-Palestinian march. They're unhappy with President Biden's reluctance to call for a cease-fire.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Biden, Biden, you can't hide.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Biden, Biden, you can't hide.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We charge you with genocide.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: We charge you with genocide.


MARTÍNEZ: His secretary of state, Antony Blinken, met with the head of the Palestinian Authority yesterday. Mahmoud Abbas is also the chair of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO. Dominated by Fatah party, the PLO was given U.N. observer status in 1974 but only controls the West Bank. Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, has ruled Gaza since a violent takeover in 2007. So, yeah, it's definitely complicated.

JAMES GELVIN: It's like a couple that's about to get a divorce. Half the time, they talk about reuniting, and half the time, they talk about killing each other.

MARTÍNEZ: James Gelvin is a professor of modern Middle East history at UCLA. When we talked, I asked if any faction is a dominant voice for the Palestinians.

GELVIN: At the present time, no. There are two governments of Palestine - one in the West Bank and the other one in Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: What is the Palestinian Authority and the PLO's relationship to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad?

GELVIN: The Palestinian Authority and the PLO and Hamas do not get along together. The - Hamas was never part of the PLO, had never been unified with the PLO. And Hamas actually won elections for parliament running against various PLO functionaries and managed to break off in 2007. The PLO was attempting to put down Hamas because they viewed Hamas as an obstacle to negotiations which they had staked their reputations on. And Hamas, in a short but bloody civil war, was able to knock out the forces of the PLO from Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: And the Islamic Jihad?

GELVIN: Islamic Jihad is a movement that actually started before Hamas. The difference between the two, mainly, is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is just a militant organization that has got no political ramifications whatsoever. It's not a governing organization like Hamas has turned out to be. Hamas is a big umbrella. Hamas includes not only a military wing, but also charities, also services for the population in Gaza, also international bureau and so on and so forth. The PIJ, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, got none of those attributes. It is just a organization of fighters, basically.

MARTÍNEZ: Professor, considering that Israel has said and appears and sounds resolute that they want to root out Hamas completely from Gaza - first off, do you think that's even possible? And how would we know if they did?

GELVIN: Those are good questions. We wouldn't particularly know if they did. And the idea of rooting out Hamas is - well, there's two problems with that. Number one, first of all, it's a popular organization. You, knock out Hamas and very likely some other organization is just going to take its place. The second problem that they're going to have is, what happens the day after? If you do knock out Hamas, who is going to rule Gaza? Is it going to be the Israelis directly reoccupying Gaza? They don't want to. Is it going to be the PLO? A PLO government put in by the Israelis is not going to have any legitimacy. So this is a question that I don't even think the Israelis have really figured out yet.

MARTÍNEZ: James Gelvin is a Middle East scholar, historian and author who teaches at UCLA. Professor, thanks.

GELVIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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