The new Hamas: challenges of resistance

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Al Akhbar

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.

6 comments on “The new Hamas: challenges of resistance

  1. prianikoff on said:

    “The MB’s current priority is to solidify its hold on power, deferring all other issues.”

    The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) issued a statement on Sunday, rejecting Morsi’s Consitutional Declaration and called on workers to mobilise today.

    As they point out:-

    “…all the drafts which came out of the Constituent Assembly have been completely empty of rights for workers, peasants, fishermen, workers in informal jobs. The articles which mention workers and social justice do not commit anyone to actually implementing anything – not the government and not the bosses. At the same time, the drafts protect the interests of factory owners and company directors
    ….We call on honourable workers across the whole labour movement – whether in the independent unions or those in the unions attached to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation who are honourable and want to fight back – to come into the streets and join the protestors’ sit-ins, to gather as workers and raise these slogans on their banners:

    Amend the Constitutional Declaration
    Re-form the Constituent Assembly with at least 50% of the members to be workers and peasants
    Guarantee trade union freedoms in the Constitution or the law
    Issue a new labour law guaranteeing workers’ rights
    Speed up the implementation of a law on minimum and maximum wages, and link these to rising prices
    Return of all workers who have lost their jobs
    Resignation of Hisham Qandil’s government

    Workers at the Mahalla Textile Company in Egypt have announced they will participate in today’s protests against President Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration.
    Union leader Wedad El-Demerdash told the Al-Ahram Arabic-language news website that workers were planning to begin protesting after the end of their morning shift.
    “We have other motives for joining the protest [as well as the declaration], such as the refusal to have a 50 per cent quota of workers and peasants on the Constituent Assembly,”

    Although the Muslim Brotherhood called off a “million-man march” in Cairo today, in other cities their marches will go ahead.
    In Alexandria an official MB spokesman announced it will participate in a mass march with Gamaa Al-Islamiya and the Salafists in support of Morsi’s Declaration.

  2. Interesting stuff.

    No sooner had the ceasefire been annouced that the propaganda against the Assad regime went into overdrive. It is clear that the ceasefire was called to go all out to topple Assad. His days must now be numbered.

    Where should the Palestians stand in all this? If they support the US alliance then they are part of the system that creates their oppression. I guess they are in such a bad position they see no choice and they are probably correct. It does make you think though, why should I bother.

  3. This was an interesting article, I think the reference to Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade illustrates the problem, that if Hamas engage in a long term cease fire, even if that is the sensible approach, they become vulnerable to being out-flanked by opportunist military actions by Fatah’s own armed supporters, predominanately in the West Bank.

    What is more, a permament ceasefire predicated upon an accomodation with Egypt, Turkey and the Gulfies would further divide the Palestinians, and could lead to Israel consolidating its position in the West Bank.

  4. Andy Newman,

    As I recall you mentioning in a related thread, Andy, ordinary Palestinians are, not unreasonably, immediately concerned with day to day hardship. It would seem that the accomodation with the “Gulfies” would be the quickest way to achieve some semblance of normality in Gaza, assuming the necessary supplies and money were made available. Not a perfect solution by any means but it may at least alleviate short-term suffering. Perhaps if Fatah were to escalate their actions they may benefit from some sympathetic support,also?

  5. Omar: ordinary Palestinians are, not unreasonably, immediately concerned with day to day hardship. It would seem that the accomodation with the “Gulfies” would be the quickest way to achieve some semblance of normality in Gaza, assuming the necessary supplies and money were made available

    Absolutely, the politics is very hard, rotating around an intransigent Israel, and making the best of available options.

    All I am saying is that the pressure to go down that route wll have some consequences that are less welcome, alongside the more obvious advantages. Tragicaly, Israel is always able to play off the various Palestinian actors against each other. Looking at the same question from another point of view, many in the West bank wil have experienced Hamas’s actvities in Gaza as providing Israel with a pretext for reneging on Israel’ commitment under Oslo, and for further destabilising the West Bank economy.

  6. Jellytot on said:

    @3What is more, a permament ceasefire predicated upon an accomodation with Egypt, Turkey and the Gulfies would further divide the Palestinians, and could lead to Israel consolidating its position in the West Bank.

    I think this is the plan Andy. Good analysis in #3 BTW.

    @4Perhaps if Fatah were to escalate their actions they may benefit from some sympathetic support,also?

    Looking at how things are shaping up, those in the West Bank have a worse long term political outlook than those in Gaza. Up until very recently the reverse was the case.