All that was left for Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, to do was to ask the people of Al-Yarmouk refugee camp to apologize to the Syrian regime for the destruction of their own camp.
Al-Yarmouk refugee camp is situated near Damascus and was established in 1957, unlike other camps in Syria and Lebanon that were set up after the 1948 Nakba. Over a period of time, Al-Yarmouk became the largest gathering for Palestinians in Syria. The camp has been completely destroyed and its Palestinian inhabitants —who are numbered in the thousands — fell victims to the war launched by the Syrian regime against its people.
Unfortunately for the people of the camp, not all residents were Palestinians. Over the years, as poverty spread across the country, poor citizens also came to live in the camp and adjoining areas. It was natural for Syrians — who seek a dignified life — to join the revolution which broke out against the regime in March 2011. What wasn’t normal was for ISIS to enter the camp and deploy there.
Does Haniyeh who lives in Gaza and who does not know anything about what’s happening in the world know that ISIS was commissioned by the Syrian regime and that its infiltration into Al-Yarmouk came in the context of the policy the Syrian regime adopted since its establishment in 1970, or even before that when Hafez al-Assad was still minister of defense? This policy is based on exploiting Palestinians, especially people of the camps, and using them to maintain the status of “no war” and “no peace” in the region. This status is the best service the Syrian regime can provide to Israel and also serves as justification for the regime’s existence.
It seems Haniyeh is shameless. If that’s not the case then how else do we explain his remarks that he did not voice support for the Syrian revolution and his statement that the “Syrian regime has stood by Hamas during important phases.”
Haniyeh did not specify these important phases. However, the Syrian regime has encouraged Hamas to carry out suicide bombings to prevent any peace process so that Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu can say “there is no Palestinian partner we can negotiate with.”
Hamas, like any other organization that belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, is greedy for power. This is why Haniyeh did not find it disgraceful to dabble with contradictions and to play on them while overlooking the fact that the Gaza Strip is in real crisis, which does not allow practicing this game of fooling people.
For example, Haniyeh said: “At the time when Hamas heads towards strong ties with Egypt, it maintains strong relations with Qatar and Iran,” adding: “Iran is an important pivotal state in the region and Hamas’ relations with it has a strategic dimension.” Haniyeh also said: “Iran gave a lot in the interest of the Palestinian people and their valiant resistance.”
Haniyeh went even further claiming that Hamas “intersects with Tehran in everything related to Palestinian affairs in vision and (purposes).” He added: “The relation with Iran today is in a special and advanced phase.”
When Haniyeh talks like that about the Syrian regime and Iran, it’s no longer surprising what happened to the Yarmouk camp and to the Palestinians residing there and who are now displaced again. He who does not care about what happens to Palestinians residing in Gaza will not care when the Syrian regime destroys an entire refugee camp under the excuse of fighting ISIS which is a product of the regime itself.
There are irresponsible practices which convey a clear desire that views the Palestinian people as a mere commodity. Yesterday, Hamas had to choose between Qatar and the Syrian regime so it chose Qatar. Today, it no longer needs to make such choices in this regard as it seems Qatar is no longer hostile to the Syrian regime. What’s important for Hamas is to attain help and support. Everything is of little importance in exchange of getting support that can be used to maintain the Islamic emirate which Hamas established in Gaza.
Everything is of little importance for the sake of staying in power, even if it includes providing a Palestinian cover to the Syrian regime which in the past purposely involved Palestinians in Lebanon’s war. Does Hamas know that it’s covering up for a regime that is on the Nakba’s 70th anniversary, completing Israel’s mission which originally relied on displacing the Palestinians and keeping them outside Palestine?
It’s difficult for Hamas to be aware of the threat of providing a cover for another displacement of the Palestinian people, which this time is carried out by the Syrian regime. What’s more difficult is to realize and understand that this is the task which the current Syrian regime has been found for. Hamas thinks Egypt’s stance towards the Syrian regime allows it to play some tricks. Yes, there’s some sort of understanding between the Syrian regime and Cairo. Among the basis of this understanding is the Egyptian stance over the Muslim Brotherhood. But to what extent can Hamas combine developing relations with Egypt on one hand and with Iran and Qatar on another?
What’s certain amid all these developments is that Hamas’ first victim due to this approach is the Palestinian people. We cannot ignore the fact that Hamas carried out its coup in Gaza 11 years ago. Everything that Hamas has done since that date has inflicted misery on Gaza. It spread the chaos of weapons to pave the way for its coup then launched rockets against Israel so that the latter justifies its siege on the strip.
Everything Hamas did strengthened Palestinian division. There is a gap between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank amid the presence of a national authority that resides in Ramallah and whose task has become limited to security coordination with Israel.
When reviewing Hamas’ achievements over the last 11 years, only one achievement can be added to its record and that would be its ability to combine, at least theoretically, Egypt on one hand and Qatar and Iran on the other while standing with the Syrian regime in its war against its people and against the Palestinians residing in Syria.
When Hamas, a Palestinian party, plays such a role, it’s no longer possible to ask why Israel is this comfortable these days! What would Israel’s problem be when Hamas has supported the Syrian regime which has for over half a century devoted all its efforts to prevent any reasonable and acceptable settlement in Palestine and which has involved the Palestinians in domestic wars which eventually led them to seek new places of refuge? These new places of refuge are more miserable than the refugee camps which hosted them for years following the Nakba. Who said the camps symbolize the peak of misery the Palestinians have reached?
This article is also available in Arabic.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).