by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 6, Ramadan, 1434)
The Palestinians have often been let down by their own leadership. Even Hamas, the Islamic movement, finds itself in difficulties once again because of the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi from power in Egypt.
Egypt is literally the lifeline for the people of Gaza. Under siege since 2006 when Hamas won the elections, Gaza is surrounded on two sides by Israel and on the third — its outlet to the sea — it is blocked by the Israeli navy depriving the tiny Strip even to fish in its own territorial waters. That leaves the Rafah Crossing to Egypt as its only outlet to the outside world. When Mohamed Mursi won Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, there was much euphoria in Gaza especially among Hamas officials. They had closed their offices in Damascus because of the ongoing turmoil in Syria and moved to Doha, Qatar. With Mursi’s ascension to power, they opened offices in Cairo as well hoping that their ideological cousins would provide them much needed help.
While Mursi’s presidency did not bring the kind of relief Hamas and the people of Gaza had expected, it was far better than what they had faced during Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Mubarak was a US-Israeli puppet and carried out their policies. Now that the military has once again taken direct control of Egypt and remnants of the Mubarak era are back in power, life for Hamas and the people of Gaza has again become intolerable. Even the intermittent opening of the Rafah Crossing has become less certain. Reports from Gaza point to a rapidly worsening situation both in terms of food and medicines. Equally disconcerting is the lack of support for Palestinian resistance fighters to confront Zionist aggression that is now openly feared in Gaza.
It has now come to light that days before General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi carried out the coup he had consulted Israeli officials about the potential threat from Hamas. Tel Aviv assured him that Hamas was under strict surveillance and that the Egyptian military should destroy the tunnels that are used for smuggling much needed goods for Gaza’s survival. Roni Daniel, the Israeli military analyst, revealed this while speaking to Israel’s TV Channel-2 on July 14. Even before he had ousted Mursi, al-Sisi ordered the demolition of tunnels, much to the dismay of Hamas.
There have been other nasty surprises. Mohamed ElBaradei, touted as the sophisticated diplomat who for many years served as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), twice met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek his help in garnering international support for the coup. The Zionists have not disappointed the coup-makers. This puts Hamas in a very difficult situation. Not only has the movement lost an important ally in the Muslim Brotherhood but those that have taken over in Egypt are working to advance the imperialist-Zionist agenda. What will Hamas leaders do now? They may be forced to close offices in Cairo, or at best keep quiet and not indulge in any activity against the Zionist occupiers of Palestine.
Relocating completely to Qatar carries its own risks. The Qataris have their own agenda and they follow the orders of their American and Zionist masters. They may tolerate Hamas leaders to stay on their tiny island and may even provide them comfortable living quarters a la Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi but they will not allow them to indulge in any activity that would upset the Americans or the Zionists. In other words, Hamas leaders will be completely hamstrung. Will this force them to reassess their attitude toward the government of Syria now?
Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders — secular and Islamic — have a long history of making strategic blunders. Opting out of the resistance front comprising Islamic Iran, Syria and Hizbullah to join the Egypt-Turkey-Qatar axis was a monumental error. Whatever the faults of the resistance front, they are minor compared to the betrayal Hamas leaders faced and will continue to face at the hands of the pro-imperialist-Zionist camp. True, they were confronted by a serious dilemma when the uprising in Syria began but they should have assessed the situation carefully before abandoning their offices in Damascus. Throughout their decades-long stay in Syria, were they ever constrained in their resistance activities, the raison d’etre of their existence? If they were forced to take sides, they should not have supported the US-Saudi-Qatari-Zionist-backed mercenaries that have caused so much havoc in Syria. Numerous statements by the so-called Syrian opposition figures have made clear that they are pursuing the US-Zionist agenda.
So what will Hamas leaders do now that they have an openly hostile government in Egypt and their so-called friends and benefactors are all imperialist-Zionist agents? Being refugees appears to be a permanent condition of life for the Palestinians but some circumstances are avoidable. This, however, requires leadership qualities that, unfortunately, Hamas leaders have frequently failed to exhibit. Nonetheless, it is still not too late; they must rejoin the resistance front by atoning for their errors and making sincere amends. The Qataris may be able to provide them comfortable quarters to live in but that will not bring any relief to the suffering people of Palestine much less bring the day of liberation from the clutches of the Zionists any closer.
Life in the Islamic movement has never been easy but making the right choices is essential to avoid unnecessary complications and setbacks.