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What's next after the 'demonisation' of Hamas?

I read a story in Egypt's Al-Akhbar newspaper last month which suggested that the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) had sent brigades led by the "Mujahid" Ahmed Jabari to Egypt in order to sabotage the celebrations of the third anniversary of the January 25th Revolution. This could have been more believable but for one factor: the Hamas commander mentioned in the story was killed in November 2012 by an Israeli Apache helicopter in the Gaza Strip.

The accusation of sabotaging the celebrations was only one in a series of false news reports and stories that Egyptian pro-coup media outlets began to broadcast on a wide-scale immediately after the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Such reports also suggested that President Mohamed Morsi was intending to give the Sinai Peninsula to the people of Gaza, sell the Suez Canal to Qatar and surrender Hala'ib to Sudan.

All such reports were in the context of a scheme to incite the Egyptian public carried out by the so-called "deep state". The remnants of the Mubarak era used the media, largely managed by the deposed president's henchmen, in order to gain revenge on the January 25 Revolution and its resultant democratic legitimacy and political process.

The demonisation of Hamas by the media has been part of the same process, on the basis that the movement is an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was accused of killing Egyptian police officers and soldiers in Sinai because it is supposedly after the land, and that it interferes in Egyptian affairs. Hamas was even accused of breaking into Egyptian prisons during the revolution.

What is the reason for this campaign? It's quite simple: coup supporters and their media want the support and acceptance of Israel and Washington for the coup, and to tarnish the public image of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The movement's leadership, it is worth remembering, went from being key players in national politics to "terrorists" overnight. Their democratic legitimacy was gained through elections monitored and declared free and fair by the same military which designated the Brotherhood to be a "terrorist" organisation.

The judiciary in Egypt has also been involved in the demonisation of Hamas, making allegations that the movement has described as "purely political" and false. Individuals have been accused by the Egyptian authorities of illegal activities even though some have been in Israeli jails for decades and others died years ago. Such is the scandal of false allegations which has made the judiciary an object of ridicule for Egyptian youth, not only on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, but also on the streets and in the squares. Their sarcasm and cynicism has had a serious negative impact on the prestige of Egypt's judges, which threatens the social stability and security of the country.

It perhaps seems obvious to say it, but it is clear that the coup organisers are fabricating a crisis in its relations with Hamas in order to serve Israel's agenda and ensure continued support from Washington and Tel Aviv for their crime of staging a coup against legitimacy.

I recently had a meeting with a prominent official from Hamas during which it was confirmed that the current authority in Cairo is very certain that Hamas plays no role whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, in Egypt's internal affairs, or any other Arab affairs. It is also understood in Cairo that Hamas's agenda is limited to working towards the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation.

The official also stressed that regardless of its differences with Cairo, Hamas views Egypt's national security as one with Palestine's, and that coordination between the two has never stopped. Hamas, he insisted, has no interest whatsoever in taking sides in the Egyptian crisis. There are no Hamas members in Sinai and the movement did not send any of them anywhere else in Egypt. There is a sense of bitterness in Gaza that the government in Cairo is exploiting Hamas and its name in order to take revenge on the Muslim Brotherhood.

This leads us to the security coordination between Israel and the coup-leaders in Egypt, and Tel Aviv's role in the deterioration of relations between Cairo and Hamas. The report prepared by the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies and presented to the government a week after the coup in Egypt reveals the depth of cooperation between Israel and the Egyptian army. This includes Israel's continued permission for the Egyptian army to station troops in Sinai at a level higher than that permitted by the Camp David agreement.

This is regarded as an exception made by Israel for the Egyptian army in order for it to face the "jihadi" networks that primarily target Israel, such as those smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Israel has responded to Egypt's requests to use its forces and resources beyond the limitations of the peace agreement, in the context of the so-called war on terror.

Thus, Israel allowed Egyptian helicopters to fly over Gaza and to destroy the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip through which the Palestinians break the siege imposed on them. It is worth noting that this is the first time since the Six-Day War in June 1967 that Israel has allowed Egypt to overfly Gaza.

This was preceded by security coordination in the protection of Eilat Airport, which Egyptian intelligence told Israel was being targeted by "jihadists". The airport was closed for several days.

Analysts and politicians have suggested that there is a plot to overthrow the elected Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and the media campaign in Egypt is part of the plan.

"There is a suspicious coincidence between the Zionist threats to strike the Gaza Strip, the tightening of the siege; the planned liquidation of the Palestinian cause by means of Kerry's 'Zio-American' plan; and the avalanche of accusations made against Hamas and the Palestinian resistance regarding its intervention in Egyptian affairs," said Hamas in a statement on January 29th. The fabrication of events and names all contribute towards the demonisation of Hamas in Egypt, continued the statement, and it is regarded as an enemy by the media and judiciary.

Unfortunately, despite the clarity of official Hamas statements and its position, and its keenness on being absolutely transparent in its dealings with Egyptian affairs, the coup-led government in Cairo is turning its backs on the movement. Al-Sisi and the other ministers will only listen to the Israelis and are ready to sacrifice Hamas to get US support for the coup.

It is clear that the coup leaders are now fighting a proxy war against Hamas and the resistance on behalf of the Israeli army. This can be seen not only in the media campaign but also the tightening of the siege on the people of Gaza. What the coup-leaders in Cairo are doing to Gaza is seen by many as a prelude to an Israeli military strike against Gaza. The leaders of Hamas are aware of this as it has already been threatened by the government in Tel Aviv. Even the relative banality of Israel Radio playing pro-coup songs by a singer who was infamous for once recording a "hate Israel" title is welcomed only by those in Egypt who now regard Israel as a strategic partner in the region. Such people are by no means a majority in the country.

The author is an Egyptian writer and a member of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate. This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Al Jazeera net on 14 February, 2014

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

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