Policy course correction by Hamas

Developing Just Leadership

Tahir Mustafa

Dhu al-Hijjah 27, 1434 2013-11-01

Main Stories

by Tahir Mustafa (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 9, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1434)

The Palestinians have suffered for decades. If it is not at the hands of the zionists, then the faulty decisions of their leaders cause misery. This is what Hamas did recently . Is the leadership about to make a course correction?

Life has never been easy for Palestinians. Fate has dealt them a terrible hand and in the last 100 years or so, their life has been miserable. In fact, they have faced a series of disasters, their fate decided by others without even consulting them. From the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 to the UN’s illegal partition of Palestine in November 1947, and subsequent disasters, the Palestinians have suffered continuously.

Almost all their land is under Zionist occupation; the pushy Zionist squatters from North America and Europe continue to steal even the few patches of land left in their control while the Palestinian leadership remains divided and in disarray. Add to that the tight siege of Gaza, both from Israel and the military-backed regime in Egypt and these are all ingredients for a disaster.

Under such dire circumstances, there is very little room for maneuverability left for the Palestinian leadership. Yet, at times they are also prone to miscalculate and do so badly. This was the case in their decision in early-2011 to back the Syrian rebels by abandoning their decades old alliance with the government in Damascus. The Palestinian leadership, of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, did not have to take sides in the heart-wrenching conflict in Syria; it sill could have maintained its principled position without burning bridges with Syria and by extension with Iran. It was a gross miscalculation to disrupt this relationship. Hamas damaged relations more than Islamic Jihad.

Decisions carry consequences and bad decisions often result in terrible consequences. This is what Hamas has found to its detriment. By taking sides in the Syrian conflict through faulty assumptions — that the rebels would win — the movement has found itself in very difficult straits. Not only have Syrian opposition groups been taken over by extremist elements, Hamas has found itself on the same side as US imperialism and Zionist racism. The Syrian rebels have failed to dislodge Bashar al-Asad from power while exposing themselves as a bunch of murderous thugs. Further, the Ikhwan in Egypt, the parent organization of Hamas, has also been overthrown and its leadership imprisoned, suffering horrible torture.

Revolutionaries, however, should not be vying for material comforts; these dull the spirit and lead to decline in revolutionary zeal. Material attractions are a slow poison.

After abandoning Damascus, Hamas’ Political Bureau Chief, Khaled Meshaal, took up residence in Qatar. True, life in Doha has been far more comfortable materially but there are restrictions on his political activities, something that did not happen in Syria. Revolutionaries, however, should not be vying for material comforts; these dull the spirit and lead to decline in revolutionary zeal. Material attractions are a slow poison.

Further, Arabian rulers are extremely unreliable and fickle. Their alliances are as stable as quicksand. With the overthrow of Mohamed Mursi’s government in Egypt, Qatar has also lined up behind the new military rulers in Cairo. The thugs in uniform led by the arch Zionist Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have gone after Gaza’s tunnels with a vengeance. The orders for their destruction came straight from Tel Aviv. Thus, Hamas finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place.

Having lost its ally in Egypt (although not much help even while in power), being abandoned by Qatar and squeezed by al-Sisi and Netanyahu’s murderous thugs, there are few options left for Hamas. Circumstances have forced the movement to amend relations with Syria and Iran that should not have been disrupted in the first place.

Early last month, rumours started to circulate that Meshaal was looking for an alternative place to live in. Doha had become too hot for him despite the plush air-conditioned residence provided to him by the Qatari amir. Change of leadership in Qatar from father to son also proved a setback. Initially, Mousa Abu Marzouk, number two in the political bureau, who lives with his family in Cairo despite the serious difficulties now faced by the movement, denied these rumours. Interestingly, the denial did not come from Meshaal who lives a stone’s throw away from al-Jazeera headquarters in Doha.

To be fair to Hamas, not everyone in the movement agreed with Meshaal’s decision. Mahmoud al-Zahar is one of them; he was openly critical of Meshaal’s decision to cause a strain in relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Other Hamas leaders in Gaza have also been upset with Meshaal’s decision-making style, saying he has abandoned the principle of collective decisions by all of the movement’s heads. They feel that the Shura Council has been weakened as a consequence.

Since the July 3 coup in Egypt, Hamas’ internal operations have launched a course correction. First, there was a meeting in Beirut between Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah officials. The Hamas delegation included Mahmoud al-Zahar. The Iranians were as gracious as ever and prepared to let bygones be bygones even though they had been unhappy with Hamas’ earlier position vis-à-vis Syria and joining the pro-West and pro-Zionist Arabian rulers.

Meshaal also appeared to have moved away from supporting the Syrian rebels. At a conference in Beirut last month, he gave his clearest indication yet by saying that he opposed bloody revolts against Arabian dictatorships. This could be interpreted in different ways but the Syrian rebels took it as a signal that Hamas was ending its support for them in their struggle against al-Asad. Other Arabian dictators would be pleased, and relieved. There are also reports that Meshaal is preparing to visit Tehran soon.

Further evidence emerged when Abu Marzouk in an interview with the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen television last month (that is close to the Syrian government) said that the Hamas Executive Council decision was made by Meshaal and hinted that it was wrong. On October 14, Hamas issued a reversal of its support for the foreign instigated rebellion in Syria. Other Hamas sources said “most of the [Executive] Council appears to agree with this position.”

For its part, despite expressing displeasure, Iran has not held such mistakes against Hamas or any other movement. It has always maintained a principled position of opposing Zionism. In fact, the Rahbar of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, has publicly announced that the Islamic Republic would support any movement that opposed Zionism. Hamas could not be excluded from this list.

As a senior partner in this equation, the Islamic Republic has shown the kind of maturity that is expected of it. One hopes that the Hamas leadership would show greater wisdom in the future and not fall for the fickle promises of Arabian dictators. A simple rule of thumb they should follow is to ask whether these rulers are legitimate. If not, how can they be expected to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people? Treachery runs in the blood of these Arabian tyrants. Hamas should take this reality into account and formulate policies accordingly.

Regardless of what difficulties they may face in their relations with the Islamic Republic, that is the only true friend and ally they have against Zionist aggression. If Arabian rulers were serious and sincere, they would not have allowed the Palestinians to be mauled by the Zionist wolves.

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