In the mid-1990s, the Kuwaiti magazine “Mugtama” which is affiliated with the Brotherhood interviewed Ahmad Yassin, the historic leader of the Hamas movement. The headline predicted Israel’s demise before the millennium. Yassin spoke in a dream-like manner and refused to head in the direction of a conflict with the Palestinian Liberation Organization despite all provocations and cited the Quranic verse: “If you should raise your hand against me to kill me, I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you.” Few decades later, Hamas announced its new charter in which it amended its founding charter.
In the charter it announced on May 2, Hamas voiced its worry over its current situation due to political and ideological considerations and international changes. The movement has never denied its Brotherhood roots since its establishment in December 1987. Its founding charter stipulates that Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and is influenced by it, and it also commended the Brotherhood’s ideology. However, there is currently an international and regional wave against the Brotherhood which has been listed as a terror group by some countries. The current American administration has hinted that it will list the group’s cadres on its terror list. This made Hamas enhance its presence in the international legal arena in order to shield itself from any harm as a result of its Brotherhood affiliations.
Meanwhile, the peace process in the Middle East has been revived and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently met with US President Donald Trump. Hamas is now trying – in theory – to integrate more into the political process instead of being addicted to suicide operations and focusing on moves that violate the context of resistance as legitimized by international laws.
Part of the struggle
The Hamas movement is part of the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis. However Hamas has imposed its presence outside the authority that is internationally recognized. Hamas does not have realistic dimensions towards the historical Arab cause. Even the new document does not express any realism. The movement continues to obstruct the PLO’s work and harms possible and realistic agreements within the Arab initiative which Saudi Arabia proposed and Arab and western countries agreed on.
The Hamas movement is part of the struggle between Palestinians and IsraelisFahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Although the movement gave up on the goal of “Israel’s demise,” the document hinted at the “eternity of conflict” and at ending all possibilities towards a solution and negotiations. One of the document’s articles said: “Hamas confirms that the conflict with the Zionist project is not a conflict with the Jews due to their religion. Hamas is not at conflict against the Jews because they are Jews but it’s in a conflict against the invading Zionist aggressors. The occupation leaders are the ones using the slogans of Judaism and Jews in the conflict. They are the ones who describe their invading entity as such. Hamas rejects persecuting any person or depriving him of his rights on ethnic, religious or sectarian basis. Hamas believes that the Jewish problem, anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews are phenomena that are originally linked to the history of Europe and not to the history or legacy of Arabs and Muslims. The Zionist movement – which succeeded at occupying Palestine under western powers’ sponsorship – is the most dangerous model of an occupation that builds settlements. This type of occupation has ended in the entire world and must end in Palestine.”
This is an important development if it’s actually executed as it alters the hateful terms which have been used in Hamas chants ever since the movement was established and which contributed to spreading hatred among Palestinians despite their different religions, sects and affiliations.
A political context
In April 2016, Palestinian Academic Doctor Aqel Mohammed Salah published a significant book entitled “The Hamas Movement, its political and democratic practices since 1992 until 2012.” In the second chapter he compared between Hamas and the PLO’s founding charters. He included an analysis by al-Ashhab and based his opinion on it saying: “Hamas issued its own document because it refuses to join any framework or structure linked to the PLO. Since Hamas did not recognize the PLO as the legitimate and only representative of the Palestinian people, its attempts to join the organization failed. According to Hamas, what obstructed joining the PLO are the following: the organization’s secular approach and not committing to the Islamic approach, the organization’s political program which is linked to a settlement with the occupation and the percentage of its representation in the organization as Hamas required a representation between 40% and 50%.”
Aqel Salah also highlights the difference between the two groups’ rhetoric. Hamas uses “general and unspecified prose like terms about the homeland, tyrants and false state while the PLO is distinguished for its clear, specific and direct language. Hamas’ document is directed to the people while the PLO’s addresses the Palestinian people.”
Hamas did not deal with the Palestinian cause within a political context and its’ been distinguished for its conflicting policies and the lack of people’s trust in its seriousness. It adopted impossible formulas and abandoned solutions that would have benefitted people’s lives, hopes and future. What’s more dangerous was transforming the Palestinian cause into a tool for ideological and partisan mobilization. It did not invest in patriotic awareness or establish for the meanings of resistance in a scientific and legal way. Instead it consumed and cloned slogans from communist groups and leftist trends. Even suicide operations were cloned from the death squads of leftist organizations.
Ever since this Palestinian crisis, Saudi Arabia has shown its concern to find solutions that end the tragedy of a society whose cause has been turned into a tool for financial and religious deals. It proposed many initiatives. However the ball now is in the court of politicians there. Are they serious about reaching a solution to this problem? Or will the “eternity of conflict” be the only option which will lead to nothing other than more bloodshed and death?
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.