The New Hamas: Challenges of Resistance
Originally posted on Al-Akhbar English November 23, 2012
The great praise being voiced for the steadfastness of the people and resistance in Gaza cannot blind us to some facts and questions related to the latest developments. The cease-fire announced yesterday – though necessary to halt the Israeli killing-machine – has only added to these complex questions.
There is a dense layer of smoke in the air concealing signs that are cause for concern for the future of the Palestinian cause. At best, they invite vigilance and raise questions about the resistance’s strategy in the aftermath of this victory.
In yesterday’s edition of Yedioth Ahronoth, senior commentator Nahum Barnea had the following to say about the cease-fire: “The US administration is trying to use the understanding to strengthen the Sunni axis in the Arab world against the Shia axis. The enemy is Shia Iran and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah and Syria. The Sunni alliance consists of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority, and the Gulf emirates, with Jordan on the margins. Hamas will have to choose between Iran and Egypt. If Iran could offer missiles and money, Egypt will offer immunity from Israeli attack, sovereignty over Gaza, and an open door to the world.”
The Israelis speak excitedly of their confidence that Egypt can be enlisted in such a scheme. They are counting heavily on financial assistance from the Egyptian government being linked to its pursuit of policies that serve the pro-accommodation camp. In the US, there is also concern to win over what it calls the “moderates” in the Sunni majority countries’ Islamist movements.
There is also impatience in the US and Israel to push things further – to get the resistance in Palestine to break off its relationship with Iran and, by extension, Syria and Hezbollah. The aim would be to employ Hamas’ popular legitimacy and record of struggle in the confrontation with the opposing camp, seeing as it is the involvement of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis in resisting US and Israeli occupation that gives it sway in the wider Arab and Islamic worlds.
Are forecasts like these well-founded?
The harsh truth is that there are growing indications that such prospects need to be taken seriously. We need to take into account that Arab attitudes to the Palestinian cause and resistance are changing. It must be noted by the pro-resistance camp, for example, that not one Arab capital witnessed a serious demonstration in solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
Also, the coverage of the most powerful and wide-reaching Arab media outlets did not match either the scale of the Israeli aggression or their own previous standards of coverage.
There was also the accompanying spiteful row between supporters of the two camps, with the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis seeking a public expression of gratitude from the Palestinian resistance, and Hamas leaders deliberately avoiding such mention.
This all points to an impasse. Anyone who believed the battle with Israel would unite everyone is mistaken – just like those who thought Israel’s wars might take the shine off the clashes in Syria.
No easy conclusions can be reached here, as the calculations entailed are complex.
The resistance current wants Hamas’ agreement to a long truce to mean that Hamas is announcing a halt to resistance operations for an unspecified period of time, but only in order to be spared the evils of foes and supposed friends alike. It would meanwhile work to strengthen the resistance’s infrastructure in readiness for future confrontation in the course of securing total liberation from occupation. For this strategy to succeed it would require genuine accord with all, or at least the main Palestinian resistance factions.
There are also other options. These, regrettably, have been placed on the table for all concerned, and they include:
First, that Hamas’ agreement to a cease-fire is in line with a broader region-wide policy. This would mean that Hamas has agreed not only to belong to the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organization, albeit under its own name, but also to commit to its theories and tactics.
The MB’s current priority is to solidify its hold on power, deferring all other issues. The resistance’s discourse since the victory has centered on its continued commitment to the cause of resistance in all respects, but this priority is not shared by Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, who seek to consolidate their power.
A second option is that the members of the Turkey-Egypt-Gulf axis quickly inundate Hamas and the people of Gaza with love and affection in the form of reconstruction aid. The support would be linked, however, to guarantees that everything wouldn’t just be destroyed again. Hamas would not be expected to secure a guarantee from Israel in this regard. Rather, it would be required to make a commitment with which we in Lebanon are all too familiar: to avoid taking any steps that Israel might use as a pretext to attack again.
Third, if Hamas were to go along with this, it would face an internal problem. Efforts would have to be made to clip the wings of the movement’s “jihadi current,” which wants no priority to override that of resistance. Hamas would also find itself confronting Islamic Jihad and the other less effective resistance factions, including Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and others.
In the event of such a confrontation, Hamas would have to resort to harsh measures to assert its control and fulfill its obligations to the MB. This, regrettably, would put us on the verge of a new Palestinian civil war.
Fourth, Hamas joining this axis would entail a toughening of its line on the Syrian crisis. Rather than suffice with criticizing the policies of the regime and calling for dialogue, we could expect to hear loud denunciations of the Syrian regime. We might also hear Hamas leaders mouth off against Iran and Hezbollah as some of its senior officials have done.
The danger here – which must be averted – is that this is precisely the service the US wants from this axis. It will put pressure on Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states to press Hamas to assume the task of delegitimizing any non-Palestinian involvement in the resistance. This would be aimed at forcing the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis to retreat, casting it as a narrow confessional alliance, the “Shia front.”
The problem is not only that there are people supporting these options. But that the problem will grow if mainstream opinion in Palestine and Egypt is not given the support it needs to affirm that an independent national identity necessitates not joining a US-sponsored axis.
And incidentally, thank you Sami Shehab.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.