The IDF claim last month that it had intercepted a ship carrying weapons for Hamas, or another terrorist group in Gaza, received wide publicity – and some scepticism. Now military analysts suspect the destination was more likely to have been a jihadist group in Sinai, which the IDF knew at the time. Hamas has been a force for stability in the region – but it is losing income, allies and power.
It seems that anything other than treating Gaza, the place, its people, its government, as an irredeemable pariah is regarded by Israel’s defence elite as the soft face of terrorism. Thus the Council for European Palestinian Relations, a non-secretive NGO with the aim of organizing visits to the oPt by European policy-makers, has been ‘outlawed’ by Israel’s defence minister making its funds liable to seizure and officers liable to arrest in Israel.
As B’Tselem points out when issuing new statistics, the death penalty is not banned under international law. However it is regarded as such an egregiously cruel punishment that it is an absolute requirement on any court which issues this punishment that it is punctilious about due process. Neither the Fatah nor Hamas governments observe this due process. Because Hamas sees itself as in a state of war it condemns ‘collaborators’ to a traitor’s death.
The growth of Salafism causes horror in both Palestine and Israel. This Islamist tendency is now seen as associated with violence and intolerance. It is also understood as a response to the failure of both Hamas and the peaceful PA to secure a Palestinian state. Salafism has no association with nationalism and is against democracy and for a Muslim emirate, not a Palestinian nation.Who Salafi are is a cause of dispute among Muslims.
Hamas has many powerful enemies – aka Hamas has no friends – so that it’s hard to assess the weight of these reports about the Tamarod challenge to Hamas rule in Gaza. Rumours swirl that Tamarod Palestine is a front for Israel or the Egyptian military. There is no evidence that it is, and so far no evidence either that it represents popular discontent in Gaza – although anger amongst the young at stultifying rules of conduct is evident. We will have to wait and see what the planned mass demonstration on November 11 produces.
For decades Syria has been a refuge for Palestinans, hosting the Hamas leaders and housing several hundred thousand in camps supported by UNWRA. But since Hamas abandoned Syria and President Assad in 2012 and successive regime attacks on Yarmouk refugee camp, Palestinians tend to have sided with the Syrian rebels in the name of pan-Arab liberation. Now the threat of western intervention has silenced the Palestinian critics of Assad.
The initial target of the Egyptian clamp-down on crossings and tunnels appeared to be Hamas and terrorist groups, but now seems to have developed into a wider anti-Palestinian – especially in Gaza – drive. Palestinians in Egypt report a high level of hostility towards them and a complete disregard for the effects of denying access to Egypt. Hamas protests its innocence but seems to tolerate the Sinai jihadists.
Protests by Hamas that they are not involved in Egypt’s internal politics have not appeased the hostility of the army towards them and Palestinians in general. Having consulted with the Israelis in advance, General al-Sisi has made it clear that security is his top concern. The smuggling tunnels have been closed so Hamas has lost both its income and its Muslim Brotherhood ally. The Israel/Egypt security paradigm has won.
Hamas has again tried to shut up journalists in Gaza, this time by closing the offices of several news outlets including Ma’an and al-Arabiya. The news they object to is anything which ‘weakens the resistance’ – this time news of contacts between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and people in Gaza and with Israeli sources of information. Their action has prompted protests from Palestinian journalists and human rights groups.
Tentative and unpublicised moves between EU and Hamas representatives have been proceeding since 2011 when the Arab uprisings threw out the EU’s old chums and officials had to hastily rethink who they had relations with in Arab countries. This was an opening for Hamas who have taken the initiative in try to reverse its label as a ‘terrorist organisation’ which thus prohibits diplomatic relations. The sticking point is Hamas’s refusal to reocognise the state of Israel – although its acceptance of a 2-state solution is a de facto recognition.
Israel prevents anything arriving in the Gaza strip by sea or air and allows has just one land crossing. There is a 2nd opening at Rafah, under Egypt’s control.Trade is thus effectively illegal – creating a huge black market in which nappies and headache pills are as likely to be smuggled through the many tunnels from Sinai as weapons and cement. The trade has of course created honest entrepreurs and criminal bosses and done much to make the Sinai a land of lawless gangs. Hence the Israel/Egypt security co-operation (see next posting).
The dramatic loss of the Muslim Brotherhood’s popularity in Egypt as well as of its reputation as ex-President Morsi packed state positions with Muslim Brotherhood officials will have an impact on Hamas. Hamas leaders made it clear they expected a close economic and politicial relationship with Morsi’s Egypt. Al Monitor writers say Hamas will pay a price for this. Plus how Egyptians turned against Hamas.
From Gaza Youth Break Out, a fresh and energetic voice, pushing aside the stale declamations and sectarian conflict of their elders. They want, above all, an end to the occupation which deforms the lives of Palestinians and Israelis; they want freedom and dignity and their own voice which Fatah and Hamas deny them. They want support.
Professor Rashid Khalid is not afraid of making enemies – which is fortunate as he has a lot, especially in the US. In this wide ranging interview he speaks sharply of the Palestinians, Saudis, Qataris, the vast settlement-industrial complex and his old friend Obama. And why a peace process based on Begin’s idea of autonomy can’t work. Recorded 18 months ago, it is remarkably fresh – except that then he only fears a civil war in Syria might begin.
Last February Khaled Meshaal, political leader of Hamas left Syria to live – via his first, brief, visit to Gaza – in Doha. There, in the Qatari capital, he is interviewed by Foreign Policy magazine. He gives brief explanations on why Hamas left Syria, and his opposition to making any concessions until Israel shows itself ready to end the occupation. It is less revealing than other interviews he has given but is, perhaps, a message to an American audience that he is a human being who believes in democracy and human rights – but is unflinching about the priority of ending the occupation.
Steps to change, from bottom to top. (5) the PA allows Hamas to hold an anniversary rally in Nablus, Dec. 14; (4) Hamas goes back on an agreement to allow Fatah to hold its celebration in Gaza, Dec.16; (3) Fatah announces it will hold the celebration in Gaza City’s al-Saraya square Dec 28, the venue offered by Hamas. (2) Dec. 31, Fatah celebration begins. (1) Fatah flags fly in Gaza.
Gershon Baskin argues that by initiating the recent round of fighting with the assassination of al-Jabari, Israel strengthened the idea of weapons and intransigence over the pragmatism which had been emerging in Hamas – witness Meshaal’s change of tone. He lays out the steps that can be taken for progress.
Meshaal makes an inflammatory and celebratory speech at a rally for Hamas’ 25th anniversary vowing Hamas will free every inch of the land from the river to the sea from Israeli control: a challenge to Fatah as well as Israel. Whether the demogoguery was as showy but flimsy as the flags and replica rocket, who knows? UPDATES 2, Observer corrects its wrong translation , 3,4, commentary by Richard Silverstein and Uri Avnery.
To coincide with Meshaal’s brief visit to Gaza, we post the first part of an interview he gave to Mouin Rabbani in 2008. He gives an account of his upbringing and the formation of Hamas. It is an idealised version from a deeply religious man who has not lived in Gaza or with the worst aspects of Hamas – the intolerance, antisemitism , lack of due process and reliance on violence over politics. But it is a valuable counterweight to the view that Hamas is nothing but those worst aspects and rules only by terror. Part 2 next week.
Israel cannot hide forever under its Iron Dome. While its neighbours are changing and growing in confidence Israel is shrinking in political stature as it again opts for hi-tech violence over political thought. Adam Shatz in London Review of Books contrasts the liveliness of Arab politics with the lonely inertia of Israel.