Ever since the beginning of Egypt’s incitement campaign against Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza, including the attempts to disfigure the image of the Palestinian resistance in Egyptian media, we have met many foreign journalists, ambassadors, politicians, aid workers and activists who asked questions about the goals of this campaign and its various dimensions, because they are perplexed over what could have suddenly happened to make “Hamas, the movement, the government and the resistance” all look like the devil?
Do Hamas and the Al-Qassam brigades really play a role in the bloody violence and terror that is going on in the Sinai? Is it possible that the Islamic resistance in Gaza could be supplying the people in Sinai with weapons through the tunnels? And were those who killed Egyptian soldiers, as well as abducted members of the army and security personnel in the Egyptian Rafah, also Palestinian extremists?
Despite the lack of evidence to support these questions, they continue. We tried on our part to refute the accusations and respond to them. Sometimes we even asked if anyone had any information regarding this incitement campaign that aims to make Hamas and Gaza look this way, which is the total opposite of what is the true and proud image imprinted in the conviction of the nation!
There is no doubt that some Egyptian journalists talk about Hamas members as if they are neither Egyptians nor a part of the Arab nation, as if they never grew up in the arms of Nasseriyah culture and the idea of Arab nationalism, through which Egypt led this Arab nation since the free officers’ revolution of 1952, until the defeat of 1967, when the flags were pulled down, which caused many to lose their conviction that Egypt is capable of leading the Arab nation.
In fact, we cannot find a convincing explanation for what is happening. We understand that Egypt is facing a state of instability and insecurity, that there is a hidden internal struggle for power, and that the deep state will not give up or hand over any power to Islamists, or even allow a ruling partnership. Thus the entire secular sector, in alliance with men of money, using their businesses and media, all moved together in order to overthrow the democratically elected government under the Muslim Brotherhood.
All this can be understood in the above context, as well as other, more complicated, political contexts, but – and this is why we as Palestinians are surprised – what do Hamas and the Al-Qassam brigades have to do with what is going on, and why are they now made to look like demons? It is as if there were a historical enmity between us and them, or a desire for revenge.
Sometimes we used to joke around with some of the diplomats visiting us in Gaza who asked us about the secret behind all this tension in our relations with the new military regime in Egypt. We used to reply by saying: “Do you have any idea? Perhaps you can tell us?” We were in fact trying to look for a plausible reason, in the hope that they could provide us with information that might help us interpret this “un-friendly” attitude by our beloved brothers in Egypt, which to us is actually quite shocking and surprising.
We, as Islamists, were never absent in our relations with Egypt, and we were able to deal with Mubarak’s regime despite our differences in vision and practice. We considered Egypt to be our biggest sister. We entrusted it with the reconciliation file, and accepted it as a referee between us and our brothers in Fatah to help us with our internal differences, and even with the security files related to our conflict with Israel. Egypt was our first choice for mediation to settle the Shalit file, and it was the one we entrusted to negotiate on our behalf with the occupation.
Before 30 June, and even after that date, we did not lose contact with our brothers in the general intelligence, because the trust, respect and understanding we have cannot be doubted by anyone, and we are always ready to cooperate and coordinate with Egypt on the security level in a manner that helps serve our mutual interests, and we have always offered our brothers our expertise and services in order to achieve safety and security for us and them.
We never betrayed the trust we had built with any of them, and we believe that their intelligence system is filled with national cadres who are faithful to their country and who are keen on preserving the national security of Egypt and its surroundings, and that they are smart, have good manners and behaviours that enhanced the strength of our relationship, and the long years of working with them added to strengthening our trust and appreciation of them.
I tried, as an admirer of great Egypt and its kind people, to understand the puzzle of the vicious campaign against us in Gaza today, and after careful consideration and thought, I have come up with four possible interpretations, as follows:
1) The campaigners are trying to find a link between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and “terror”. The ruling regimes in many Western countries refuse, in general, to support what is happening in Egypt and are calling it a coup, thus they have not recognized the new government. Therefore, connecting Hamas – which is on the list of international terrorist groups – with the former government is the best option to link the Muslim Brotherhood and “terror”. And so perhaps the incitement campaign, whose slogan in the Egyptian media is “Egypt is fighting terrorism”, is an effort to legitimise the coup. The West is emotionally and politically charged when it comes to questions of security and terror, especially after the events that took place in the US, Spain and Britain over the past decade, which helps to justify any war against the “terrorists”, no matter how bloody it is and how much it violates human rights, so perhaps this connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas was viewed as the most suitable way, or the ticket, to reaching the hearts and minds of those in Western countries.
2) It is perhaps an attempt to divert the attention of the Egyptian street away from the internal conflicts within the new regime, as well as to generate popular support for the military operations that are going on in Sinai which jeopardise Egypt’s safety and security. The presence of an external enemy can be accused so people will not say that Egypt is killing its own people. Perhaps some find that this can be done through demonising Hamas and accusing it of what is going on.
3) The campaign could be a clever attempt to challenge the provisions of Camp David, and if this is so, then it shows great cleverness by the Egyptian politicians and security forces. It aims at convincing the world and Israel that Egypt’s national security is at stake because of the security chaos and absence of stability in the Sinai. Solving this requires changing the conditions of the Camp David agreement to allow Egypt to mobilise more troops and in various locations, where it would then become feasible for the Egyptian army to move its forces inside Sinai to maintain order, not leaving this huge area exposed for all those who want to mess with Egypt’s security and stability. There is no doubt that this is enough of an excuse to push Israel to accept the new mobilisation, especially considering that Israel also has its own fears about insecurity in Sinai. Thus, perhaps Hamas and the Al-Qassam brigades are being used to achieve this strategic goal for Egypt and its national security.
If this is really the goal behind the vicious media campaign against Gaza and Hamas, then on our part we say that we will accept this suffering and the pain of our people for the sake of Egypt’s security and stability.
4) Perhaps the reason is that Hamas and the people of Gaza showed sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, through its media and religious activities, in regards to the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013. However, the problem here is that the media campaign against Hamas started a month before that date.
In fact, our brothers in Egypt know for sure that we never let anyone abuse the commercial tunnels, which were once the lifeline for our besieged people in the Gaza Strip, and we were always thankful to them for understanding our situation and turning a blind eye on delivery of many goods, including construction materials and medical goods which Israel deliberately prevents from entering Gaza to keep us behind and increase our suffering. We – as Palestinians – will not forget that the Egyptian people and army have been “our best ally” politically, militarily and emotionally; they are the best brothers and friends.
Egypt and Palestine: history, Arabism and Islam
The relation with our neighbour Egypt is a historical one. It is a strong brotherly relation in which geography, intermarriage, and the heroic battles fought by the Egyptian army on Palestinian land to defend the religion and dignity of the nation in Ein Jalot and Hiteen, all intertwine. Egypt has always been the symbol for patriotism and the slogans put forth by President Abdul Nasser, God rest his soul, revived Arab nationalism and renewed the nation, moving the Arabs closer toward their central goal: the Palestinian cause.
We will not forget that the Egypt of Abdul Nasser and Hassan Al-Banna released both the national and Islamic feelings of the nation, forming the historical and strategical depth that connects it both ideologically and consciously with Palestine. Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh delivered a speech on the first anniversary of the “prisoners swap deal” on 19 October 2013, in which he said: “Hamas is proud of its Islamic reference and historic roots which intertwine with other Islamic movements, which – as he stressed – have played an effective role in spreading the Islamic awakening since the beginning of the last century. It is natural for the leaders of Hamas and its fighters to sympathize with the Arab public movements, and their national and Islamic symbols. Such things cannot be taken against the movement.” Haniyeh (Abu Elabed) explained that in return, Hamas did not limit its relations in the Arab arena to Islamists only, but that it is open and has relations with all the different factions and powers, stressing at the same time that the movement does not interfere in the business of any other country, and that it was never part of any events or actions or conflicts in these countries. Haniyeh restated the steady position of his movement, which rejects external interference in the affairs of Arab and Muslim countries and refuses any attack against them from other countries. He also condemned the unjust accusations against his movement, and reiterated that his movement does not interfere in the internal affairs of any other country. He stressed that Egypt will remain “the big sister and strategic partner for Palestine; we respect Egypt and appreciate its history with our people and the nation, and we will remain keen on its interests and national security, as our only battle is against the Zionist occupation, and the movement will not deviate toward any other conflict and focus only on the conflict with the occupation.”
Given the above, any attempt to mess with the relations between Egypt and any Palestinian side is like directing a blow to our national project with all its political, national and Islamic dimensions. What is shared between us and Egypt is bigger than can be imagined by some, as the relations with Egypt, as I mentioned, have historical, cultural and humanitarian roots, in addition to being based in the political geography of the region. Also, Egypt provides strategic depth for the Palestinian people and their national case, and we will not forget all that Egypt has been offering to us for over fifty years, including struggle and sacrifices Egyptians have made in order to defend Palestine and the Palestinian people. We will not forget the 23 July 1952 revolution, and the brave military operations against British soldiers near the Suez Canal. We will not forget the heroic battles during the tripartite aggression of 1956, until the withdrawal of the Israelis from the Gaza Strip on 7 March 1957. Those events are cornerstones of Arab patriotism upon which we were brought up to witness.
We will not forget that Egypt opened the doors of its universities to us, from Alexandria to Aswan, in order for us to gain knowledge and education. We will not forget Egypt and its special people, who love to give. We will not forget their aid efforts towards the people of Palestine. We will not forget Egypt with its political and cultural scene that is deeply imprinted in the collective memory of our people.
Therefore, Egypt will always be the reference for our cause and people. It is above all accusations and suspicions, even if we disagree with its governments regarding some issues.
Dear Egypt… Palestine is sad
Egypt is very dear and precious, and we will not allow anyone to insult its pride or mess with its prestige, because its high status has always been beneficial for us. Egypt has always considered Palestine to be a strategic cause for its national security, and I believe that all Palestinian national and Islamic factions also consider Egypt to be a strategic partner for Palestine.
It is worth noting that the strategic goal for all of us, for both the Palestinians and the Egyptians, is to end the Israeli occupation, to establish an independent Palestinian state on 4 June borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, and to find a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, granting them “the right of return” to their homes and lands as stated in UN resolution 194. Also, logic leads to a firm belief that Egypt is concerned with keeping Israel busy, surrounded, and unable to further occupy and control the region. Thus, Palestinian stability and power is key to the strategic vision for Egypt when it comes to deterring Israel.
In this context we can say that a strong and capable Palestinian state that has control over its borders is a crucial issue for Egypt, and such a state that meets this description will provide support and a base for Egypt’s position, which aims at reducing Israel’s colonial aspirations, and limiting its power and arrogance. Thus our firm belief is that Egypt is keen on maintaining strategic relations with Palestine and that it continues to work on this along various levels.
Thus I speak to all those with insight and say: the closure of the network of tunnels and the tightening of our siege worsens our economic situation, which increases the suffering and humiliation that our people are subjected to in Egyptian airports and at border crossings. These are not what formulates the image of our strategic relation with Egypt, and if Egypt allows us to complain, we would say that we are in pain as the Rafah crossing is our only outlet due to the occupation’s stifling blockade, and it is our only way to achieve communication with our Arab and Islamic brothers. It is the beginning of our gradual freedom from complete dependence on the Israeli economy.
Our talks with our brothers in Egypt, on both the political and security levels, have always reflected our keenness not to hurt the close relationship between the two countries. The talks and efforts will continue until we find solutions to the already complicated situation at the border crossing between us and neighbouring Egypt.
I hope that you, wise men, will not escalate tensions and the level of the rhetoric so that it reaches the point where it loses balance, as that will further complicate matters.
Finally: Our relations will remain strong
Hamas, both the movement and government, has so much respect and appreciation for Egypt, and values its position and pioneering role as the basis for the region’s stability, independence and autonomy. What we hope is for Egypt’s conditions to stabilize and for it to enjoy safety and security, as it is the gateway to the dignity and pride for Arabs and Muslims, and it is the safe haven for all the weak.
I finally say to Egypt: the love, friendship, intermarriage and brotherly relations between our two people make our strong relations defiant to discord and disagreement; the blood we have shared and the sacrifices we have made together in our battles with the enemies are bigger than those that can be spoiled by what is being said in some media outlets.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.