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The Hamas dilemma in Egypt

January 24, 2014 at 6:37 am

I realise that the environment in Egypt is not conducive to discussion of the state’s relationship with Hamas, which has been accused of interference in Egyptian affairs post-January 25 Revolution. Nevertheless, a press conference held by Hamas in Gaza on July 30th revealed a number of dangerous documents in which attempts to pit the movement against other authorities are mentioned.

The documents provide compelling evidence against the Palestinian Authority intelligence agency in Ramallah, and it is strange that the Egyptian media has ignored this issue.

A letter dated July 2nd to the Head of Intelligence in the Gaza Strip, Colonel Jamal Hassouneh from Colonel Sha’aban Al-Gharbawi, his counterpart in the Gaza Municipality said that the Gaza authorities had arrested an intelligence officer, Mohamed Fadel Abu-Raya, who came to visit his family in mid-July. His laptop was seized and it was found that he had not erased a number of security reports stored on it.

They revealed that the PA intelligence agency has a senior committee to follow up on Egyptian affairs. Moreover, this committee monitors Egypt’s internal affairs, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, with particular focus on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. The agency also instructs its representatives in the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo to promote any news that may incriminate Hamas with the Egyptian authorities.

In this context, a document sent on July 17th from the Preventative Security agency in Ramallah to Bashir Abu-Hatab, the Palestinian Security Attaché’ in Cairo, read, “We suggest that, during this period, the Media Committee [in the embassy] focuses on the news that suggests that Hamas is supporting the armed gunmen who are killing the Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, as [the gunmen] support the Morsi regime and have been harmed by the June 30th revolution.”

It also recommended by the security officials that a news article should be prepared under the heading “Hamas prepares to open up front with Israel in Sinai to involve the Egyptian army”, in order for it to be used to put pressure on Hamas. “We would like to hear your opinion on the effectiveness of preparing such an article.” The article was signed by TV presenter Ahmed Mansour Doghmosh.

The rest of the documents follow suit. I don’t have space to report all of the details. However, they reveal clearly the Palestinian Security Agencies’ role in fabricating and leaking stories to various media outlets in order to delude the people of Egypt into thinking that Hamas is behind the capture and killing of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. Hamas, it is to be claimed, is behind the killing and destruction in Egypt, and is cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood and Dr. Morsi, who allegedly expressed his willingness to give up Sinai for the Palestinian resistance movement.

I believe that the relevant authorities in Egypt should investigate the veracity of these documents. If they are shown to be genuine then it is evidence that public opinion and state agencies in Egypt have been misled and cheated in a massive act of deception.

At the moment, the most important and dangerous of the allegations against Hamas is that it played a role in storming the Wadi Natrun Prison, in collaboration with members of Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2011. A judge in the Ismailia Court of Appeal has ordered prosecutors to investigate the matter, and cited the names of more than two dozen people who were charged over the operation, including Dr Mohamed Morsi. This ruling was used to charge the former president of collaborating with Hamas and was the basis of his 15-day detention.

The case is still being investigated, it is claimed, but what has been announced publically is that Hamas is at the heart of the operation; it is this allegation which is the essence of the accusation against the former president. We must wait for the outcome of the investigations but in the meantime there is another side to the matter that no one has mentioned yet, despite its significance.

When referring to the Wadi Natrun Prison break, everyone ignores the report by the Fact-finding Committee set up in 2011 on the recommendation of the former Prime Minister, Dr. Esam Sharaf. The committee is headed by Counsellor Adel Qura, former President of the Court of Cassation and it has made use of a team of experts and investigators to carry out its task. They prepared a 400-page report on the violent acts that occurred after the January 25th revolution, including the incident at the Wadi Natrun Prison. This report was presented on April 19, 2011; a summary was published in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on the same day but it was later buried and no mention of it has been made since then. This was likely a deliberate act, because if it was considered then the history of the post-revolution phase would have to be rewritten; quite simply, the report is clear and explicit that the police were responsible for the deaths, assassinations and other crimes committed after the revolution.

Hamas was not even mentioned with regards to the prison break; in fact, the report questions the story of an armed attack on Wadi Natrun Prison. The committee commented on this story by saying, “After examining the prison wall, we found there was no evidence of gunfire to the walls or towers, which indicates the police officers’ story was invalid.”

Where was the report prepared by jurists, with the assistance of a team of experts, hidden when the testimonies of the security men were adopted in the Wadi Natrun case? Why was Hamas later implicated in the incident? Does this have any relation to the measures being taken to prepare for the isolation of President Morsi?

Why is Hamas being targeted? In trying to answer this we will find that Hamas is considered to be a complex entity in which three factors intertwine: it is a Palestinian movement and a resistance movement, and has historical relations with the Brotherhood. These three factors also apply to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, which differs from Hamas in its political efforts, but they agree upon more than what they disagree on. Those who hate the Palestinians dislike Hamas; those who reject the resistance oppose them; and those who are against the Muslim Brotherhood are also against Hamas.

However, I claim that the source of Hamas’s true legitimacy is the fact that it is a national resistance movement. It is true that it has not liberated Palestine, and does not mind calming the situation with Israel for temporary political benefits, but it should also be credited for its keenness to remain in the resistance trenches, its refusal to surrender and its determination to persevere in facing the Israeli enemy, as well as the fact that it is not involved in any shameful security coordination with Israel.

I am not saying that Hamas is faultless; I understand the comments of the other factions regarding its methods in running the Gaza Strip. Nor do I deny that among its members is a group of religious extremists who do not give others the benefit of the doubt. I am, however, saying that these matters are internal affairs to be addressed by the Gazans, who are more knowledgeable of their own people.

The campaign demonising Hamas has been successful in Egypt, which adopted such campaigns during the Sadat and Mubarak eras. Many factors contributed to this success, as we must inevitably admit that the two mentioned rulers helped to strengthen the Israeli “lobby” within Egyptian media and intellectual circles. We can’t ignore the security agency’s role in this, as it was keen on pointing fingers at Hamas to exonerate the police of their crimes against the January protesters. Moreover, the process of demonisation restricts and pressures Hamas, as well as contributes to the settling of the PA’s accounts with the movement. The leaked documents have explained the methods followed in this regard.

I would like to remind everyone what former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said once about wishing that Gaza would disappear and that he would wake up one morning and find that it has disappeared off the map. The man did not have a problem with the geography of Gaza, but he was annoyed with its perseverance and its noble resistance, which turned Gaza into a thorn in Israel’s side and an obstacle that exposes for what they are the advocates of surrender and cooperation with the occupation.

The demonisation of Hamas, and in turn, the resistance, fulfils Rabin’s dream and directly benefits Israel in terms of reducing Egypt’s balances and national security. I do not understand why many ignore the fact that the steadfast and resisting Gaza Strip is in Egypt’s best interest, while Gaza’s submission to those with security co ordinations with Israel conflicts with Egypt’s best interest and is a real threat to it. Furthermore, establishing a positive and successful relationship with Gaza’s government contributes to the control of the still uncontrolled situation in Sinai.

The Egyptian General Intelligence Agency handling the Gaza portfolio is well aware that the smear campaign against Hamas is full of lies and fabrications. In an earlier piece, I referred to what I had heard from one of the agency’s officials about the information published in our media about Hamas being mostly “newspaper talk” that should not be taken seriously. If this is true, it means that the continued demonisation campaign in Egypt is violating national, patriotic and ethical considerations, and is shooting poisoned arrows at the different values suggested by those considerations. I hope I do not need to remind you who really benefits from this.

The author is an Egyptian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Al Jazeera Net on 6 August, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.