Hamas has been accused of interfering in Egypt's internal affairs; an earlier accusation mentioned Syria. Such accusations are unprecedented, as well as unfounded, because ever since the movement was founded, it has never interfered in any Arab country's affairs; even when called upon to do so and weigh in, the movement stuck to its position and refused.
When this policy was adopted, Hamas kept in mind other Palestinian experiences with the Arab world; during Arab-Arab conflicts and internal Arab disagreements, the Palestinians intervened, and the consequences of such interventions were damaging for the Palestinian people. In Yemen's conflict with Oman and the Dhofar front, a number of Palestinian and nationalist groups got involved to confront Oman; this had a direct impact on the Omani government's relations with the Palestinians. The same applies to the Libya-Chad crisis, where the Palestinians were the most significant presence in the war, as well as the crisis with the Jordanians and Palestinian groups, from which the Palestinian people are still suffering today. Furthermore, the Palestinian position on the Iraq-Kuwait war led to the expulsion of thousands of Palestinian from Kuwait. I could go on.
The Palestinians have paid the price of the flawed interventions by other Palestinian organisations and this makes us insist on our non-intervention in the affairs of Arab countries as a matter of policy. We are also determined to maintain our relations with all parties, without exception, and when these relations conflict with each other we choose the option that is best strategically for the resistance and the Palestinian people; this was demonstrated by our relations with the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, despite their serious and open conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood. We have never accepted that any of our relations with any party should be at the expense of another; we have had good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Iraq. This is simply due to the fact that we need everyone and that the Palestinian cause is a unifying issue; the Arab countries must understand the extent and depth of the relationship as well as our policies and our people's interests.
The movement left Syria to preserve our non-intervention policy; we left because we refused to take one side at the expense of the other. Hamas's relationship with the Syrian government was never better and our relations with the difference Syrian groups were the same. We saved ourselves, our members and our people from the consequences of intervening and taking sides, and advised all the parties involved to work towards a political solution to act as a foundation for dealing with one another, instead of a security and military solution. This, we believed, was the best course of action given that at the beginning of the crisis President Bashar Al-Assad was accepted by all parties and was a common denominator. It was possible to save the country from sliding into war, destruction and corruption. However, the Syrian authorities asked Hamas to determine its position in the hope that it would be biased due to its strong relationship with the regime; the movement stuck to its policy and maintained a neutral position. This triggered pressure from friends and allies to take a clearer stance, leading to demands for us to declare the movement either for or against the regime. There were also requests to meet with President Assad, and officials discussed the nature of the meeting, the participants, the presence of the media and what would be said afterwards. At this point, the differences were obvious because we insisted on giving the clear impression that we will not be interfering or taking sides. In the end, Khaled Meshaal declined to meet with the president, which was the deciding factor for our departure from Syria.
Hamas paid a high price for not interfering in Syria; we had to leave the country even though it was a very important arena for us. It was not easy for either the leadership or the members, as there is no longer one place which hosts the entire political bureau. It was a difficult displacement for the members of the movement, but it was definitely less harmful than taking sides and intervening in internal Syrian affairs. After we left our base in Damascus, we noticed that there were many claims that we had participated in the fight against the government and army; this is untrue. Everyone knows that we did not take part or change our belief that a political solution was the best way out and that the military option would lead to devastation.
Over the past three years, we did not harm anyone and we will stand by the same position regarding the suffering Syrian people; we condemn the mass killings and forced displacement. We have called on our fellow Arabs to assume their responsibilities towards the murder of these innocent people, and all we can do is speak out and pray for them which, as God is our witness, we have done.
As far as Egypt is concerned, we do not consider it to be the same as any other country; it hosts many Palestinians and is the crossing point for everyone going to and from the Gaza Strip. It is the largest Arab country that has embraced the Palestinian cause and was the focus of Arab action and the centre for strategic guidance.
Hamas was very clear regarding its non-intervention policy in Egyptian affairs from the beginning of the relationship. We were asked in the past by ex-Minister Omar Suleiman not to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood, despite our keenness to do so. However, we acceded to his request and did not; we met with every other party except the Brotherhood. A vicious campaign was carried out against us after the Palestinian political conflict and due to the blockade and the closure of the Rafah crossing. However, despite this, an example of where Hamas members or people from Gaza have worked against Egypt has yet to provided, even though the official Egyptian political class was uncomfortable with the result of the 2006 election in Palestine. However, ever since the Brotherhood won the Egyptian presidential election the media has intensified its attack against Hamas. Although the actual target was the Muslim Brotherhood and all associated with it, we were the most affected and targeted, especially since there are problems in Sinai and because of the blockade on Gaza, which created more opportunities for attacks, lies and fabrications against the movement and the Palestinians.
The accusations against Hamas have included the bombing of All Saints Church, murdering January 25th protesters, leaking fabricated phone calls and the storming of prisons. The latter was investigated by the Fact-Finding Committee, which only mentioned Hamas when referring to some Bedouins chanting the movement's name in front of the Wadi Natrun Prison. Hamas was also accused of killing Egyptian soldiers in Rafah and Sheikh Zowaid, and then, according to the Egyptian army and Ministry of Interior, the killers were arrested. Then there was another attack and the suspects were accused of being members of Hamas, but it was later found that they were all Egyptians apart from one, who was an Egyptian of Palestinian origin and had no political affiliations.
The Hamas military wing was also accused of sending 300 members, and on another occasion, 7,000 members, to protect President Mohamed Morsi and the palace; the story disappeared from the news due to its lack of impact. Not one member of the Al-Qassam Brigades has been found in Egypt, let alone thousands. Following the abduction of seven Egyptian soldiers, Hamas was among those accused but their release proved otherwise. Another fabricated story spread by Egyptian newspapers and media outlets concerned 4 Palestinians from the Hajaj and Ayyad families, who were said to have been members of Hamas and were arrested in possession of weapons and explosives in front of the Brotherhood headquarters in Mokattam; this was later shown to be a lie. There were also claims that the guards of the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square were Palestinians; three were "identified" as members of Al-Qassam Brigades but when the Supreme Guide was arrested, he was alone. It was later revealed that some of the individuals who were named as his "guards" had never even entered Egypt while one had passed through on his way to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.
Many members of the Al-Qassam Brigades were accused of protecting Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square and there were claims that large numbers of Palestinians took part in the sit-in, but no Palestinians were arrested on charges of anything other than being members of Al-Qassam Brigades, as evidenced by the Minister of Interior himself after the dispersal of the protests. Furthermore, many "security and strategic experts" suggested that some Brotherhood leaders, such as Mahmoud Ezzat, Osama Yassin, Essam el-Erian and Mohamed Beltagy were hiding in Gaza, but their arrests demonstrated the falseness of this claim.
It is worth noting that accusations were only mentioned in two newspapers and the sources were always "unofficial", as most of the official statements did not include such outrageous claims. Also, no members of the Al-Qassam Brigades were arrested in Egypt, nor have any Palestinians faced any criminal charges, as the Attorney General has not accused anyone of such crimes. All the Palestinians arrested based on suspicions alone have been released or deported. It is obvious, therefore, that all of the accusations on which so-called "experts" based their claims that Hamas is meddling in Egypt's internal affairs have been fabrications.
I would like to reiterate that Hamas's non-intervention policy in the affairs of any Arab state is set; we have paid the price for this policy but we are happy to do so even though we are well aware that the cost of neutrality is far less than the cost of intervention. Our neutrality is very important to the movement; that alone should be a guarantee that we do not interfere in anyone else's internal affairs, Egypt's included.
The author is deputy head of Hamas's political bureau. This article is a translation from the Arabic text which appeared in Al Hayat Newspaper on 18 September, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.