At best, Hamas’s greatest achievement in its latest war was live footage of salvos of its iron missiles -- many of which were brought down by the Israeli Iron Dome -- being widely broadcast by Arab and global media outlets.
The footage certainly held significant appeal for populists in the Arab world, leftist remnants hiding behind the most famous cause, and Arabs who oppose and do not recognize their regimes and celebrate their subversive support for Hamas and its moves, writing messages of support from the safety of their screens, while accusing any person who does not share the same feeling of betraying the cause.
Due to Hamas’s poorly calculated missile attacks, the heavy shelling by Israel’s aircraft and artillery decimated the infrastructure that Hamas has been developing since 2007, following its coup and taking control of Gaza.
Shockingly, some Arab activists shot videos of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank going about their ordinary lives, unconcerned with what is happening in Gaza. This incongruent image upset many, as the Arab World had been under an immense emotional burden, going as far as canceling celebrations out of sympathy with Palestinians. However, modern technology and the ease of taking videos exposed this hidden side of Palestinian society, whose members respond to the cause in varying degrees. Many seem unhappy and disengaged, not believing in Hamas’s cause, its unilateral decision-making on matters such as war and peace, and its militarization of the complex Sheikh Jarrah issue after 10 days of peaceful protests in Jerusalem.
Feelings on the international scene shifted from sympathy with Jerusalem’s Palestinians to sharp criticism of Hamas, which imagined that it was giving the Israeli army a run for its money, or was perhaps pushed toward a confrontation with miscalculated military capacities. Hamas reminds me of the Taliban in 2003, when the extremist group’s defense minister, carrying an AK-47, threatened the US, and Washington responded with B-52 bombers, inflicting a huge loss on the group and eliminating Mullah Omar’s ally, Osama bin Laden.
Today, Hamas seems to have drowned in illusions of its own grandeur, ignorance of global politics, and statements such as that of Khaled Mishaal and Ismail Haniyah before him that the time has come for Hamas to take the reins of Palestinian decision-making. This is confirmed by this recent slide into a full-fledged coup that used the legitimate cause of Sheikh Jarrah to arrive at power, as if Hamas believes the world today looks like Gaza when the movement ousted Fatah.
Reading between the lines of this war that shook the Middle East, it seems like “a war of necessity” for many parties, and the raid on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood seems pre-arranged behind the scenes between certain political actors. We also need a good understanding of the Hamas mentality that strives to prove its military capacities, thus paving the way for war for all parties. Iran was expecting to leverage the escalation to gain a bargaining chip in its negotiations on the nuclear deal with the US and the West. Netanyahu dissolved his alliance with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood for the sake of the far-right. Hamas, with its military and political shortsightedness, rushed into a war in which the biggest losers are civilians, believing in vain that an armed group could achieve military victory over one of the world’s most powerful armies.
Any observer can see how military superiority quickly quelled the initial enthusiasm that saw Hamas falling into one trap after the other.
A key example is the military ruse devised by the Israeli army, which spread rumors about raiding Hamas tunnels, which pushed Hamas leaders to rush into the tunnels, thus exposing their entry and exit points and allowing Israel to bomb them over their heads.
The war resulted in Sheikh Jarrah succumbing to the wounds inflicted by the missiles of Hamas, which did not change the military equation one bit -- much to its dismay. Instead, all Haniyah et. al. did is restore Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity and give new life to his political career.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper Okaz.