Hamas on Its 20th Anniversary
Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas has recently marked its twentieth anniversary. It was founded on Dec, 14th, 2007. Historically speaking, the movement was founded decades before this declared date of foundation. It wasn”t founded- like Fatah- by a group of persons. It actually inherited a complete organization that has taken shape throughout long years under the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza Strip and the West Bank , although this wasn’t fully declared fearing Abd Al-Nasser”s tyranny during the 1960s and to avoid provoking the occupation and also leftist and national powers during early stages of growth.
Martyr Ahmed Yaseen started earlier this path with others in a society that never missed the Islamic movement or religiousness in general. This was in the 1960s and mid 1970s. He had to take a long period of time and exert so much effort to establish a considerable basis upon which he can move to new horizons .
In early 1980s, sheikh Yaseen felt that the seeds he sowed reached maturity and that time was ripe to implement occupation resistance program. The seed of the armed organization was sowed in 1982 but it was rounded up by the occupation, including sheikh Yaseen who was sentenced to thirteen years, and was released 3 years later in a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1986.
Sheikh Yaseen prepared again for the building and education till the declaration of the foundation came when the first Intifada (uprising) erupted from mosques in Jabalia Camp, led by Yaseen”s followers and supporters. That happened while the Palestinian national movement was facing a bad situation after it got out of Beirut and while its domestic affiliates incapable of doing any direct and costly blows against the occupation.
Since the beginning of the first uprising, Hamas has emerged as an important factor that equaled all national powers including Fatah Movement. The movement had its own statements, strikes and activities. Thus, a series of Israeli hunts started against the movement, a series of hunts that became more ferocious after the movement changed its resistance program after Hamas realized that throwing stones became no longer costly for the occupation. As it turned into a burden for the Palestinian after it was contained by occupation agents in addition to cowards disguised in cloaks of resistance.
By late 1980s and early 1990s, the military apparatus (Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades) was established to start the military action from Gaza Strip to the West Bank, a reality that, along with other factors, accelerated holding Oslo agreement after the Israelis realized that the seriousness of this new war of attrition. Post cold war and post Gulf War events in addition to the Palestinian Liberation Organization”s growing desire to gain an international recognition gave them the opportunity to holding a miserable agreement that serves their program for settlement and their dreams for controlling over the region.
With the big deportation operation in 1992, and starting the series of martyrdom operations, Hamas became a key factor in the Palestinian arena. However, the Arab and international reality remained biased to Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, spawning Oslo agreement according to which Hamas armed cells, and infrastructure were hunted. But Hamas movement was too deep rooted in the Palestinian reality to be eradicated and no war managed to curb it. On the contrary, Hamas popularity soared due to both its suffering under repression of the Israeli occupation and the Oslo “s bad Palestinian authority. The movement”s decision to boycott 1996 elections was right according to later developments on the ground. This is because participating in the elections meant securing Oslo path and terms.
After Oslo project reached a deadlock in Camp David summit in Summer of 2000, Al-Aqsa intifada (uprising) erupted in late September 2000, in which Hamas restored- this time in a considerable national unity, its resistance momentum, making it the most important stage in the history of all the Palestinian struggle.
While the enemy felt the heavy existential threat that the uprising represented with its martyrdom operations, and the ensuing political losses and deterioration of Israeli”s position in the international public opinion, it decided to retaliate in two directions: The first was a direct reoccupation to the West Bank cities in the Spring of 2002, and besieging Yasser Arafat in Muqataah headquarters.
The second response was the declaration of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza Strip in 2003, and setting the scene for implementing this through assassinating top leaders of Hamas one after the other, topped by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi to be followed by Yasser Arafat. This set the scene- under conditions of Iraq occupation and retreating Arab stances- for a new political stage headed by those rejecting armed resistance ( or the militarization according to them) during Al-Aqsa uprising.
Presidential elections were held to give legitimacy to the new situation. The president was granted a truce to launch negotiations in early 2005, then the legislative elections were held in early 2006 aiming to receive a popular mandate of the negotiation program, facing the sudden result that turned the whole situation upside-down.
Since the beginning, our opinion was that the decision of participating in the elections was not right. These were elections held under ceiling of Oslo agreement that put the Palestinian Authority and its leadership at mercy of the occupation and under mercy of those giving it aid (the Americans and the Europeans). Every one knows that combining both power and resistance is nearly impossible to be implemented.
Nowadays after this bitter experience and as 42 of the Hamas movement MPs in the West Bank are in prisons, in addition to hundreds of detainees in PA prisons, the election win and the military settlement in the Gaza Strip and the ensuing political losses, we can say that it is time to admit that there was a mistake in the political assessment that led this stage which was based on the illusion that Gaza Strip was liberated from occupation, given that Gaza Strip has never been a source of conflict. The Israelis have wished that the sea swallowed it.
However, what happened since early 2006 couldn”t demolish a great and wonderful movement like Hamas (the 20th anniversary festival held in Gaza on Saturday Dec, 15th, 2007, proves its maintained popularity). It has had the privilege of obstructing (at least up till now) the temporary state project laid down by Sharon, a disastrous project that deems the conflict everlasting on wrong foundations that consists of a sovereignty-free state on Gaza Strip and remnants left by the occupation fence in the West Bank (there is a nonsense circulated by some rumormongers that Hamas approved a temporary state according to a document reportedly approved by Ahmed Youssef with European authorities, given that Youssef man is not mandated to speak on behalf of Hamas, while the movement has repeatedly declared its rejection to such nonsense, although its rejection to the idea wasn”t issued because it is concerned for the cause but for fear of any possible competition in the same area of negotiation).
It”s true that what have taken place since elections including some mistakes that marred the movement and its heritage, but this is said only because the movement gained- with its wonderful heritage of martyrs and heroic actions, resistance and sacrifices- a position in the memory of nation that no other movement has ever gained. It also represented an important momentum for the Islamic phenomenon as a whole.
The position of a movement that has all this wonderful heritage can”t retreat among the Palestinians and in the collective mind of the nation, for only committing some mistakes that mostly came in the context of reactions against a planned targeting.
Generally speaking, a movement targeted by the Zionist entity, the United States and many other parties in the Arab arenas, can never face a retreat in its position, specially that the collective mind of the nation is steering it in a camp opposing the Zionist-US camp, while its rival in the Palestinian arena maintains its political absurdity and while the movement”s resisters and institutions are hunted for the sake of the occupation in the West Bank (implementing the first provision in the road map).
On the other hand, we must confess that the root of mistakes committed by Hamas was the illusion of power that controlled some in Gaza Strip, through giving a blind eye to the fact that the West Bank is still fully under occupation, given that the Gaza Strip accounts for only 1.5% of Palestine area, and 6% of territories occupied in 1967, and it is not the core of the conflict. This actually does not alter the fact that its liberation took place through the strong and persistent resistance and sacrifices, not negotiations.
The conflict between the nation and the project of the Zionist occupation is still in its peak. Any one thinking that the withdrawal from Gaza Strip has changed many things in the basis of the conflict is mistaken. Thus, the resistance is the only solution at least in dealing with this occupation.
It”s time to admit that the PA project is designed for serving occupation. Israeli analysts have been calling the Palestinian Authority dissolution scenario as ” the nightmare scenario”. Hamas won”t manage to change the path of the Palestinian Authority, a path for which it was formulated. As for democracy under occupation, it is another illusion through which Hamas was lured away from the resistance arena.
Nearly two years after participating in the elections, Hamas political discourse experienced a retreat. We started to follow up a discourse that does not belong to the movement”s heritage. It is true that Hamas hasn”t recognized the legitimacy of occupation, but the words in a number of documents, topped by the document of the National Unity Government did so in a way or another.
A retreat in Hamas path during the past two years doesn”t distort its image as long as it admits that mistakes have been committed and consequently working for returning the conflict and path to the right way. The legacy of Ahmed Yaseen and Al-Rantisi are a deposit in the hands of the Hamas leadership inside and outside, and they will not protect this legacy except after they get rid of the power illusion, and return to the resistance arena, an arena which it has never abandoned in spite of everything. Generally speaking, the resistance march is faces ebbs and tides according to circumstances.
What”s important is that the banners remain high. The movement did this before when it boycotted 1996 elections and continued the resistance program with the minimum until Oslo faced a deadlock in Summer of 2000.
The problems of Hamas political behaviour throughout the past two years, especially what is done by some of its figures and mouthpieces, is testing what was tested. If the policy of negotiation and concessions and coming closer to the West had led to any a result, Yasser Arafat would have reached it, or even Mahmoud Abbas who shows an unprecedented ability to give concessions, an ability that can”t be rivaled in the history of the Palestinian struggle.
Twenty years after its foundation, Hamas is standing in a difficult crossroads. It is on the one hand holding a wonderful heritage of heroics and sacrifices that make it the most popular movement in the Islamic world, while it is on the other hand experiencing a crisis that started to pose many questions around its role and its presence. This is because the publics do not give any one a blank check. The publics pledge allegiance according to a certain discourse and they withdraw their pledge of allegiance if this discourse changes.
All of us are sure that this wonderful legacy will not be lost, and that the movement leadership will rearrange its papers which won”t only restore its original position which lightly retreated, but will also add more prestige and presence. This is because the resistant Islamic discourse is the only one that can liberate Palestine and restore dignity. What adds to our confidence is the doomed fate of the negotiation program and even all US-Israeli projects in the region.
Hamas is spearheading the nation against the US- Zionist project. It needs support from the nation”s top figures, public opinion and movements and it needs also advice and corrections if its path experienced some mistakes.