JUST when it seemed things couldn't get much worse in the Gaza Strip, they have. This week, US-based Human Rights Watch accused both Hamas and Fatah of war crimes, including throwing men bound hand and foot from 15-storey buildings. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle marked "TV" to attack and try to abduct Israeli soldiers, a war crime that puts journalists in conflict zones in great danger.
As the bloodshed in Gaza grows, fears are mounting that a Hamas victory would lead to the creation of Hamastan, a failed state and an Islamist safe haven for terrorists. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Hamas of trying to stage a coup and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed stationing international forces along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants.
Hamas and Fatah have waged a power struggle in the Palestinian territories since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006, ending four decades of Fatah rule.
The tragedy of Gaza is that it was meant to be the first opportunity for Palestinians to demonstrate their readiness for self-government when Israel withdrew in August 2005. Sadly, it has simply descended into a ruthless power struggle in which hundreds of Palestinian have lost their lives. At the same time, the Strip has been used as a launching pad for thousands of Qassam rockets that have targeted Israel's civilian population.
The majority of Israelis were impatient to see a Palestinian state co-existing side by side with Israel, but developments in Gaza have made it impossible for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, which would doubtless descend into the same murderous anarchy and become a far more lethal launch pad for Palestinian rockets, which would be in striking range of 70 per cent of the Israeli population.
And you don't have to look far to see why Gaza is awash with violence. Last week, as reported in The Weekend Australian, Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch visited Australia revealing that both Hamas and Fatah create video clips that they repeatedly broadcast on Palestinian television encouraging children to become suicide bombers. One showed a four-year-old girl picking up a stick of dynamite and vowing to become a suicide bomber like her mother. Palestinian school books promote the same message glorifying martyrdom and denying Israel the right to exist.
Against this background, Marrickville Council in Sydney is seeking to become a sister city of Bethlehem and is preparing for a visit by Mayor Victor Batarseh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group based in Syria and recognised as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Australian Government. The PFLP was responsible for the assassination of Israel's then minister for tourism Rehavam Zeevi, in 2001, as well as at least half a dozen suicide bombings since 2000. On the Bethlehem Council, the PFLP is in an alliance with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, all proscribed terrorist organisations that call for the violent destruction of the state of Israel. Indeed, Hamas calls for the murder of all Jews and for global Islamic rule. It remains to be seen whether members of such organisations would be issued visas to enter Australia but it is a sorry indictment of an Australian council dominated by Greens and leftists that it seeks to pursue a relationship with terrorists.