The relationship between Hamas and Iran has been the subject of widespread controversy for years both within the movement and among the Palestinian people. This controversy has increased in recent years, when the relationship between the two sides has witnessed a collapse or deterioration due to the conflict in Syria and Hamas being forced, in one way or another, to take a position on this conflict.
The question of the relationship between Tehran and Hamas comes up from time to time, and the Hamas movement does not resolve this argument explicitly. This ultimately puts the movement in a neutral position, between heaven and hell. Neither Iran’s friends nor its opponents are satisfied with the position’s grey position on Iran and it is used as a means for its opponents to continuously demonise it.
In the current regional circumstances, there is no longer any justification for the hesitant position on Iran. It is in Hamas’s interest today to restore relations with Iran and to recognise that the position taken in 2012 or the position was taken by some of the movement’s officials regarding the events in Syria were a political mistake. The movement should have distanced itself from what was happening in Syria and not allow itself to be dragged into an internal conflict that has nothing to do with Hamas or the Palestinians. Its position angered both the regime in Syria and its allies in Tehran and Beirut. The relationship between Hamas and Iran today must be based on the following rules, bases and premises:
First, Hamas is a Palestinian organisation operating under occupation, not an Arab state. It has nothing to do with the conflicts taking place in the region, neither with internal revolutions and tensions nor with the inter-regional conflicts. It is not required to adopt a position on the conflicts or crises in the region or to take sides. This applies to what is happening in Syria and Yemen, and definitely to Egypt, as Hamas is not a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has nothing to do with the crisis between the group and the regime.
Second, Iran is an integral part of this region, as is the case with the rest of the Middle East’s elements. The Palestinians or the Hamas movement have nothing to do with the conflict between Tehran and some Arab capitals. Hamas is not required to be aligned with one party or another in these conflicts, and therefore, the relationship between Hamas and Tehran is equal to Hamas’s relationship with any Arab capital.
Third, if Iran despite the siege imposed on it and the crises it faces does not abandon the support of the Palestinian people and does not rush toward Tel Aviv in order to normalise relations with the Israelis – as some Arabs do – it is natural for Hamas to view Iran as an appropriate ally. This is what all liberation forces did over time and across the world when they allied with the natural opposite of their enemy.
Fourth, the claims of Shiism and fears of the spread of the Shia doctrine, which are voiced from time to time by some to justify hostility towards Iran, are nothing but nonsense. This is because firstly, Shia Muslims already exist in the Arab world and their existence pre-dated the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1979). Secondly, Hamas or any other Palestinian organisation is nothing but a political force. They are not religious movements, and therefore it has no guardianship over the minds of the people and has nothing to do with the doctrines of people and their sects. Thirdly, people wherever they are – in Palestine or elsewhere – are free to embrace the religion or doctrine they wish. If Christians, Druze, Baha’is, and followers of other religions and other communities live in the various Arab countries without problems, then the Shia Muslims should be able to live securely with their religion and beliefs.
The bottom line is that the relations between Hamas and any country in the world, including Iran, must not be governed by other crises, and should not be dictated by its submission to other countries that do not offer any support to the Palestinians at all. Instead, these countries approach Tel Aviv to achieve normalisation and establish relations with it. Iran, like the other countries in the world, is in this region, and it could be in Hamas’ interest to ally with it.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 27 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.