Hamas at 20
I am writing this piece as 300,000-500,000 people (according to Reuters) are converging at the Katiba Square in Central Gaza to mark the 20th anniversary of Hamas’s foundation.
Undoubtedly, the huge turn-out ( nearly one-third of the Gaza Strip’s total population) is an unmistakable proof that Hamas is still very popular among Palestinians despite the rabid American-led efforts to scuttle the movement, possibly in order to facilitate the appearance of a quisling-like Palestinian leadership that would succumb to Israeli hegemony and colonialist aspirations.
The massive attendance is also an eloquent refutation of a plethora of tendentious Fatah-financed or Fatah-inspired opinion survey which have suggested that Hamas’s popular standing has seriously plummeted especially since the mind-June events in Gaza .
These opinion polls are actually reminiscent of the numerous opinion polls preceding the 2006-legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which had predicted a massive victory by the Fatah organization over Hamas.
At 20, Hamas seems a young, viable, and aspiring movement, with hundreds of thousands of mostly young Palestinians indoctrinated in the moderate political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This moderation, needless to say, will ensures Hamas’s continuity, growth and prosperity.
Hamas is not and will not be an al-Qaida-like organization, it will not wage Jihad on the whole world and will not classify the world into two camps- those who are with us, and those who are against us, as the al-Qaida organization.
Moreover, Hamas will not judge people’s religions and ideologies, and will continue to seek friendship on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interests. Indeed, despite erratic and stupid utterances by some ignoramuses who are members of Hamas, Hamas doesn’t actually consider Jews as enemies. In fact, Jews who support justice and true peace and who stand against oppression and occupation are Hamas’ partners for a better future for both Jews and Muslims in this tormented land.
More to the point, Hamas will continue to make a clear distinction between hostile states and citizens of these states and will never seek to target the urban centers of countries whose governments are hostile to the Palestinian cause, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
And Hamas will continue to confine its legitimate struggle and resistance against the Israeli occupation to the Palestinian-Israeli theatre. This has always been Hamas’s policy, and it will continue to be.
At 20, Hamas has been through it all, from creation to destruction. The movement endured every conceivable act of savagery and criminality on the hands of the Nazi-like Israeli regime.
The leaders of the movement, and in many cases their families as well, were deported, imprisoned, assassinated and massacred. Today, as many as 4000 Hamas leaders and activists languish in Israeli concentration camps, many of them without charge or trial. Even Hamas’s democratically-elected MPs and cabinet ministers have been summarily abducted from their homes and offices for no reason other than “the Hamas mantra,” a mantra whose invocations justify every Israeli savagery, brutality and atrocity.
Indeed, the vindictiveness with which Israel treats these innocent people has a few parallels in the history of mankind. The recent bloody repression by crack Israeli army units of the Kitziot prison inmates in the heart of the Negev desert is a clarion testimony, if one were needed, to the blatant barbarianism of the occupation.
Twenty years are not a long period in the history of nations and their struggle for freedom and independence. However, looking back at what Hamas has achieved, one can safely claim that Hamas has been a valuable asset for the enduring Palestinian struggle.
To begin with, from the very inception, Hamas offered an authentic alternative to the corrupt of the PLO which par excellance encapsulated and continues to encapsulate the meaning of corruption, despotism, dictatorship, nepotism, favoritism and even treason.
It is true, Hamas has not succeeded in liberating Palestine from the colonialist Israeli occupation.
However, Hamas has succeeded in reinstituting and prominently featuring the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees as the most paramount cause that can be neither compromised nor ignored nor circumvented.
The same can be said about other Palestinian national constants and red lines which the often happy-go-lucky Fatah negotiators viewed as “unsacred” and even “expendable.”
Actually, thanks to the political culture that Hamas helped foster and consolidate among Palestinians, there is no dignified Palestinian politician, even from Fatah, who would publicly express a readiness to give in on such red- lines like East Jerusalem, the refugees and the totality of any prospective Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.
It is actually because of its consistent refusal to succumb to Israeli hegemony and bullying that Israel and her guardian ally, the United States, and their poodles, and puppets and allies have been boycotting and blockading Hamas in the hope that another Palestinian entity, e.g. Fatah, would do Israel’s and the West’s bidding by finally surrendering to Israeli colonialism, probably through a “peace settlement” that has all the marks of a capitulation .
Non the less, Hamas not only has assets, has liabilities as well. Following the death of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, who was brutally assassinated by Israel in 2004, a new generation of Hamas leaders didn’t really understand the timeless golden adage that “it is not enough to be right, one has to be wise, as well.”
Yasin and his lieutenants understood and translated this golden maxim into tangible political wisdom that helped Hamas overcome or at least circumvent the treacherous minefields of the Oslo years.
It is perfectly true that most of the blame for the mid-June events in Gaza falls on Fatah, not on Hamas. After all, it was clear to all and sundry that Fatah leaders, especially in the Gaza Strip, accepted willingly to play the role of quislings on behalf of the US and Israel, thus forcing Hamas to take a preemptive action to prevent the occurrence of a longer and bloodier civil war that would have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians.
We all remember how Israel reacted to the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in 1982, when then Prime Minister Menachem Begin remarked that “we have nothing to do with what happened …It is Arabs killing Arabs.”
Had Keith Dayton and Muhammed Dahlan and their cohorts succeeded in their conspiracy, God forbid, we would have had Ehud Olmert make the same argument, saying “we have nothing to do with what happened in Gaza ; it is Palestinians killing Palestinians.!”
Non the less Hamas is not completely blameless.
In these difficult days, when our people in Gaza are facing a brutal and merciless blockade at the hands of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the holocaust, and when most nations prefer to play blind, deaf and dumb and look the other way, we need to utilize every shred of wisdom at our disposal.
Yes, we must do the right thing, but it is also true that we must choose the right time for doing the right thing. Doing the right thing at the wrong time causes disaster and unnecessary bloodshed. It also undermines our ability to withstand the brutality of our enemy.
Hamas is undoubtedly right in refusing to recognize Israel ’s right to exist. Israel, a country whose very existence was made possible only thanks to the destruction and near obliteration of another people, the Palestinian people, has no moral legitimacy and has no moral right to exist.
Non the less, Israel does exist and has moral and international legitimacy, and Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian people should be able to relate to this existence in pragmatic terms, but without giving it any moral legitimacy, because then we would all embrace the Zionist narrative and become de facto Zionists.
Hence, it is advisable that Hamas should reformulate the Hudna concept, at least in order to show the world that the movement is not nihilistic, e.g. like al-Qaida.
Similarly, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations should be able and willing to stop the firing of al-Qassam projectiles onto Israeli territory if and when Israel shows a genuine willingness to lift the criminal blockade and terminate its aggression against the people of Gaza .
Yes, resistance to a sinister and wicked military occupation is a legitimate and secret right that no one can deny.
However, how to exercise this right in a way that would limit one’s losses is always a matter of discretion and reasoning.
In short, Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups should start thinking with their brains, not with their hearts.