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Hamas as we remember it, and the reality today

September 21, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Then Palestinian leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Jordan (from L to R) Khaled Mashal, Musa Abu Marzuk, head of the movement’s political bureau, Ibrahim Ghosheh, spokesman of Hamas in Jordan, and Mohammad Nazzal, attending a ceremony in Amman [JAMAL NASRALLAH/AFP via Getty Images]

Every Arab knows that the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas — has restored the nation’s dignity and pride, and revived the spirit of resistance following the surrender of some Arab governments and the cursed Oslo Accords signed by Yasser Arafat. The spirit of resistance is behind the heroic struggle against the Zionist enemy. Despite — or perhaps due to — its enormous sacrifices, it was able to impose a new deterrence equation in the face of Zionist aggression against the people of Gaza, ending the myth of Israel’s own deterrence factor. It also exposed the fragility of the Iron Dome missile defence system, which the occupation state thought would protect it from resistance missiles.

This is the Hamas preserved in the memory of the nation; the Hamas that stood with the Syrian people in their revolution against the murderous tyrant Bashar Al-Assad, and moved its leadership from Damascus, where the then head of its political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, had been since 1999.

READ: Hamas resumes ties with Syria regime

Hamas sided with the Syrian people who demanded their freedom and dignity, although the decision cost it a lot financially. However, it was a position that was completely consistent with the principles of Islam that it uses as a reference, and a sincere expression of sympathy with ordinary Syrians. It was even an expression of loyalty to all the Arab people who embraced the resistance movement and provided a popular support base in the face of ongoing Zionist aggression.

However, another face of Hamas has surfaced. It issued an official statement on 12 September under the heading “One Nation in the Face of Occupation and Aggression” in which it affirmed its “continuity in building and developing solid relations with the Syrian Arab Republic.” The movement’s justification for restoring relations with the Assad regime after a decade of estrangement is both ironic and a disregard for how people are thinking at the moment. The move, says Hamas, “is a service to our nation and its just causes, at the heart of which is the Palestinian cause.”

It also mentioned that it observed with “concern the continued Israeli attacks on Syria, in the form of bombings, killings, and destruction as well as the escalation of attempts to undermine it, divide it, fragment it, and exclude it from its effective historical role, especially at the level of the Palestinian cause.”

This statement was made to remove any doubt, after two and a half months of leaks and speculation, about the Hamas leadership’s decision to restore relations with the butcher Bashar’s regime. We have seen the movement manoeuvring before confirming its intention, with one official claiming the restoration of relations with Damascus and another denying it. They kept us guessing in order to pave the way for this official statement. It is worth noting that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, visited Beirut recently and met Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, who engineered the link with the Syrian regime, after being tasked with this by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.

Yes, Iran is the one that sought to restore relations between Damascus and Hamas, not the Syrian regime, which is no longer in need of the Hamas card to wave in the face of the Israeli enemy. The Palestinian cause no longer concerns Assad. Israel is not striking his regime because of its support for the Palestinians, but because of Iran’s presence in Syria.

Hamas won’t benefit from the Assad regime; relations have been restored because Iran has requested it. Before the links were cut, Hamas trained its cadres from Gaza in the making of weapons, but today it is impossible for the regime to allow this to happen: trust has been lost, and, importantly, Iranian sites specialising in this are under the Israeli microscope.

There is no doubt that Hamas knows the true face of Assad’s bloody regime, and knows that hundreds of its members and cadres have been tortured and killed, with many being forcibly disappeared. It is also aware that the regime and its agencies will not allow Hamas to move among the Palestinian refugees in Syria as it did in the past. The regime will definitely not allow a concentrated Palestinian presence in certain areas after the destruction of Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital. In short, there is no longer an environment conducive to Palestinian activism in Syria as there was before the revolution.

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While Iran has a clear interest in establishing relations with Hamas in order to penetrate the heart of the Arab nation further after its control over Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; taking the resistance movement under its wing and threatening the Zionist enemy with it as a bargaining chip in its nuclear negotiations, the Assad regime is not willing to deal with it. In the regime’s eyes, it is a hostile project with which it cannot be reconciled. State media in Damascus accuses Hamas of betrayal. However, Hamas is aware that the regime is an Iranian puppet, and if it restores relations with Assad, it will only satisfy Iran, the movement’s main supporter financially and militarily since Arab doors have been slammed shut. Some Arab regimes even regard Hamas as an enemy, and have conspired and boycotted the movement while normalising links with Israel. The movement is, of course, demonised by many international forces, beginning with the US and its allies in Western Europe, and it is facing changed circumstances imposed by international and regional geopolitical shifts.

Does Hamas know that by restoring relations with the Assad regime of the killer Bashar, in return for little benefit from Damascus, it will lose the support of the Arab masses who sympathised with the movement and the Palestinian cause, and who saw in Hamas hope and a model that adheres to the values and principles of Islam? The masses are the movement’s popular base. Unfortunately, it may not realise that it is sowing the seeds of its own demise. Article 32 of the movement’s Charter issued in April 2017, says: “Hamas stresses the necessity of maintaining the independence of Palestinian national decision-making. Outside forces should not be allowed to intervene.” I hope that it looks at this clause and takes it into account before making any rash moves that it may come to regret.

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