Cliff May

Palestinian civilians continue to be murdered in cold blood - several dozen just last weekend. Many of the victims were gunned down inside hospitals and schools.

If you've been following the latest Middle East conflict, this will not surprise you. What might: The fact that the assailants were Palestinians -- Hamas members targeting those affiliated with the rival Fatah organization.

Only scattered and buried mentions of these attacks have appeared in such newspapers as The New York Times and the Washington Post. There's been little or nothing on television.

But Khaled Abu Toameh - the brave and distinguished correspondent for The Jerusalem Post (and, incidentally, an Arab) - has reported that 35 Fatah activists have been summarily executed, while more than twice that number have been shot in the legs or had their hands broken.

This is the other war, the war ignored by most media, academics, diplomats and human rights groups, the war between Hamas - a militant Islamist terrorist group strongly backed by Iran - and Fatah, an organization that is difficult to describe accurately in few words.

Founded by Yasir Arafat, Fatah is not so much moderate as sporadically pragmatic. It disavows terrorism but hasn't kicked the habit completely. It has a reputation for corruption but its defenders claim it's cleaning up its act. Fatah - Arabic for "conquest," an ideal not much celebrated in Western circles these days -- is secular, though it has a decidedly Islamist faction, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Three years ago, Hamas won a surprise victory over Fatah in legislative elections. But for Hamas leaders, this initiation into the democratic experience was not life-changing. So, in June 2007, they launched a military coup against Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

Within four days, "Hamas gunmen clad in black ski masks controlled the dusty streets," writes Jonathan Schanzer in his new book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine. "It would not be long before the fall of the [Palestinian Authority's] fortress-like security compound, al-Suraya. Indeed, Hamas fighters had burrowed a tunnel beneath the building, detonated deadly explosives, and breached it." Hamas fighters also threw several of their Fatah opponents off the roofs of high-rise buildings. In European and Arab capitals, demonstrations did not break out.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.