Recently, there have been genuine calls by intellectuals in Islamic movements in the Arab world for the recalibration and reassessment of strategies, ideologies, paradigms and tactics. Some even called for an entire shift from religion to politics. Hamas, as a pivotal movement which pioneered and inspired Islamic movements, maintains regular reviews of its practices and perspectives.
The group has been in power in the Gaza Strip for a decade now, and during this time it has committed five inexcusable – though inevitable – mistakes.
Needless to say that the Palestinian cause has gone through political turmoil that complicated the political decision making process and led to calamitous consequences. After the Oslo agreement, Hamas was cornered and accused of singing out of the national tune by adopting the military struggle as the sole strategic solution to the Palestinian cause.
In a conference at the Islamic University of Gaza, Dr Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, the co-founder of Hamas, answering a question about the movement’s participation in the political scene under Oslo, saying: “In case Hamas wins election and forms the government, a siege will immediately be imposed, people will be punished and we’ll have no choice but to feed the people who elected us.”
Originally, Hamas was founded as a resistance movement, orchestrating the armed battle against the occupation. Hamas’ doctrine is to liberate the occupied land of Palestine and participate in bringing about a sound Islamic system of governance. Oslo shuffled all the cards and the Islamic movement was forced to confront the ongoing attempts of social alienation and political annihilation.
Historically, Hamas has dumbfounding records of election triumphs in syndicates and local unions. However, it was believed that a dramatic shift to combine both armed struggle and politics was not a calibrated step due to the expected ramifications in case the movement won, but one had to wonder if other choices were left.
Ultimately, Hamas won the election and its overwhelming landslide victory was an undisputable black eye for Washington’s attempt to “tame the shrew”.
After winning the elections, schemes to topple Hamas started to be cooked up by the rival party, Fatah. Mohammed Dahlan, ex-head of the Preventive Security Forces in Gaza, and the most prominent Fatah leader, threatened that anyone who would help or take part in any coalition government would be severely punished. He pledged to teach Hamas lessons in “political belly dancing”. Thus, Hamas was literally waylaid nationally and internationally. Scrupulously, the movement exerted all possible efforts to create alternatives and find solutions. However, its rivals’ incitement and provocations were excruciating and unbearable.
Hamas was obliged to defend itself in order to protect its project and survive. Primarily, Hamas’ doctrine has persistently been: “If you should raise your hand against me to kill me – I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear God, Lord of the worlds.” However, the state of affairs at the time plausibly justified the military takeover. Hamas won the election and despite its willingness to concede some of its legitimate prerogatives, it was not empowered to embark in its designated right. It was unquestionable that whatever trade-offs or concessions Hamas makes, it will inexorably be isolated and ostracised regionally and internationally. There was no room for doubt that the imminent priority was to thwart, by all means, the firm American conspiracy that aims to exterminate Hamas.
One shouldn’t forget that the conspiracy against Hamas was colossal, and it was obvious that Hamas was pushed hastily to resolve the political conflict with military means.
After failing to tame Hamas, Washington promptly started cooking up another scandalously furtive intrigue, to train and back armed forces under the command of Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, who had been appointed as the US security coordinator in the West Bank. Dayton’s job was overtly empowering Washington’s protégé Dahlan and triggering a bloody civil war in Gaza that would eventually lead to pulverising Hamas.
On the other hand, part of Hamas’ indescribable challenges were the uninterrupted consecutive wars that drained the people of Gaza and devastated the already shattered economy. Hamas has persistently proved to be resilient and irrepressible in the battlefield.
It’s common that after a fight, warring parties should negotiate. Hamas’ imprisoned leaders directly negotiated with Israelis to regain the rights of Palestinian detainees held in Israel’s jails. Hamas is also familiar with the partiality and hostility of all mediators. Thus, it’s prudent to be involved in direct talks with Israel to avoid Egypt’s plots which favoured Israel at the expense of Gaza’s rights.
Hamas’ reluctance to hold direct talks with Israel is merely because it doesn’t want to repeat Fatah’s mistake in monopolising the Palestinian decision that eventually dragged us to the everlasting “two-prison” solution through the so-called peace process.
Hamas would be willing to negotiate under the umbrella of a real national PLO that doesn’t exclude active Palestinian factions. It’s a matter of fact that the PLO has been hijacked by Fatah’s old guards and most recently its actions have been suspended and completely paralyzed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas has been a serious headache to Hamas, and the latter perpetrated its incurable blunder by squandering the extraordinary opportunity to reconcile with him when now ousted President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi was still in power. The momentum of the Arab Spring and ascending moral influence of the Islamic movement placed it in a position of strength to impose its conditions and drag Abbas to a satisfactory deal.
Mohamed Morsi, then president of Egypt, and the Hamas leadership have made all promises to facilitate the accomplishment of a genuine national reconciliation that might end the 10-year repugnant rift, but Abbas’ usual procrastination and deliberate obstruction of a deal at that time raise questions about his prior knowledge of the great conspiracy hatched against Morsi and Gaza.
Palestinians are still hopeful that Hamas, which has saved no effort to reach a compromise with Fatah, would rise again from the ashes of the devastated enclave to set off a comprehensive national reunion that would include the complete Palestinian political spectrum and only exclude Israel’s aging puppets.
Experience has established the futility of bilateral reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. Thus, the urgent need is simply involving all factions to come out with a comprehensive Palestinian project to replace the fading fruitless project of Oslo and endless pointless peace talks.
In light of an alleged secret Arab plan to overthrow Abbas and replace him with Dahlan, who is publically backed by Egypt, the UAE and Israel, Hamas fully recognises that such a plan is part and parcel of an enormous arrangement to regionally solve the Palestinian issue under the auspices of the Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.