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Hamas and Western Double-Standards

Liberal Thought and Islamic Politics
A Hamas supporter attends a rally in Gaza City December 14, 2011, marking the 24th anniversary of the Hamas movement’s foundation - Reuters
Despite the continuous global political pressures on Hamas, the Palestinians showed no refusal at all to Hamas following the 2012 war. (Reuters)
Hamas and Western Double-Standards

The Palestinian political sphere in general, and the Gaza Strip in particular, has brought to the forefront one of the scenes where the conflict between the Islamic thought and the Western one has continued unabated. This picture of the conflict between Hamas and the US and its allies stood true until the outbreak of the Arab Revolutions in early 2011.

Following the 2011 events, some of these very players started to change their stances. The way Arab people decided to change their fate had with no doubt to renovate the policies of different states and governments, including Hamas in Gaza and Abbas’s government in Ramallah.

These states include the US and its Arab allies, they had to do two things to be able to keep a reasonable distance between them and the newly rising Islamist governments: face-saving before their peoples and abiding by the outcomes of democracy on one hand; and on the other hand, keeping up high caution against the spill-over effect that these uprisings might have in reaching out to their lands.

The Paradox

On one hand, the Western thought performs in accordance with the liberal theory of government, in which democracy (i.e. rule by the people) is the only way to run a country in all affairs.

On the other hand, the Islamic thought, like that of Hamas, embraces a political vision different from the Western one, yet they share the elections as a mean. However, when Hamas reached power based on the Western democratic approach, it faced a total denial from the majority of regional and international powers.

Two paradoxes here to be stated:

- Despite adopting the same Western democratic model — which is the most prominent feature of Western liberalism — during the 2006 elections, Hamas leaders have been faced with a dismissive approach from most of the surrounding forces: Fatah, Israel, a  few Arab regimes, the United States, and the European Union.

- The first attack in 2009 which was performed by the liberal Olmert took longer time — 22 days — to settle down than it was with the rightist Netanyahu in 2012— only eight days.

New players had something to say in the second time; such as Egypt’s newly-elected Morsi decision to follow the Netanyahu-led attacks on Gaza in 2012 by an urgent Arab League meeting in Cairo. Compared to the 2012 attacks on Gaza, the situation in the 2009 attacks rendered the Arab leaders short of any serious action, such as the reaction of the ex-Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul-Gheit who knew about the plot before it happened and did almost nothing to stop it.

The Arena Before 2011

A new contradiction appeared, do liberals accept getting into — temporary — agreements with “terrorists”? Is terrorism tolerated?

This introduction shapes the form of the conflict between Islamists and the West that is explicitly claiming the adoption of the model of liberalism. Or in other words, the difference between talks and walks of the Western thought is what digs to widen the gap between both trends. The conflict lies right here and in the enigmatic context of how the liberal political ideology will be capable of resolving the Palestinian crisis precisely and the surrounding countries as well. Gaza, which is under the direct administration of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas since June 2007, is a territory that witnessed steadfastness over the recent history of the Palestinian cause. Hamas seized control over the Strip directly after it was refused recognition as the official government representing Palestinians by the West and under pressures from fellow Palestinian factions like Fatah.

The refusal came through various means, among the most influential of which was the EU cutting its financial aid to the whole "Palestinian territory," because — as the EU and the US put it — "a terrorist organization is ruling over." This conviction was despite forming a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council following the elections which the West (i.e. Western observers from the EU precisely) admitted its fairness and transparency.

This was followed by an international embargo — politically, economically, and militarily as well — against the elected government. Although both sides of the internal conflict in Palestine, Fatah and Hamas, were about to reach a government of national unity as a result of the Mecca Agreement, external parties worked hard to undermine this agreement. The reason was that those external parties see the agreement "adapt[ing] with Hamas's perspective towards the conflict" — a movement which adopts armed resistance (or "violence", in the liberal language) as an essential mean to retrieve the land and resolve the conflict.

Regional consequences embedded: the Palestinians in Gaza were obliged to flow into the Egyptian city of Rafah to the extent that they broke through the fences and crossed the borders in search for food and medical aid. Since then, Egypt was forced more to be part of the truce between Israel and Hamas since it felt the strong grasp that the blockade had on the Strip and the effects that reached its sovereign lands. On the Israeli level, the government and the people suffered from the missiles lobbing by the military wing of Hamas, Kataeb al-Qassam.

After 2011

Israel claimed that it went for a second war on Gaza in 2012, which started by Israel’s assassination of Hamas’ military leader Ahmed Jabari, so as to stop the Hamas’ rockets. Based on the famous Clausewitzian definition of War, “an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will,” the Israeli war was internationally marketed as an act of violence to compel Hamas to refrain from lobbing rockets. Following the ceasefire agreement, Netanyahu announced that “we achieved our aims; assassinated military leaders, destroyed thousands of rockets.” Yet, this sounds to be an interim win.

Since its inception, Hamas has been refused to be part of the political talks, and Hamas itself was distancing itself from the fake peace process, seeing that the only solution for regaining the Palestinian lands is through using the same weapon of its opponents, force. Nevertheless, the assassination of the major Hamas figures, Sheikh Ahmad Yasein and al-Rantissi among others, who were the founders of the movement and its thought, caused some changes to the way Hamas now manages the scene. The movement now is taking part in politics as a simultaneous path towards regaining the Palestinian lands and seizing the tremendous shift in the new technology and media to use it as a third path towards exposing the Israeli massacres to the world.

Looking at the atrocities of the 2009 and 2012 wars, one finds that the longer the period the harsher the war becomes on Gaza. Killings reached around 1,400 in a 22-day war, mostly civilians and almost half of them were children and women. The 2012 killings were less intense, reaching 140, in an eight-day war, and were mostly civilians as well. Israeli weapons used were “primitive” compared to that of 2009, when the political context was tipping in Israel’s favor.

As if being in a dream where scenes shift drastically in an unrealistic sense, Western politicians started to understand the complexity of the situation and started to praise the (Islamic) brokering between Hamas and Israel, led by Egypt’s Morsi, and agreed to abide by it.

Nevertheless, a new contradiction appeared, do liberals accept getting into — temporary — agreements with “terrorists”? Is terrorism tolerated?

Unfortunately, though liberalism on paper strongly stresses upon the freedom of people, the liberal politics could not understand that standing in front of the people’s will is hardly enduring.

Now a question, why in 2009 did Olmert wage the war to free Gilad Shalit, whom he failed to release, while Netenyahu, a rightist politician, decided to go for talks?

Probably, in Olmert’s case Shalit was not the ultimate goal, but it was breaking the Palestinian will that supports Hamas. Thus, the two wars of 2009 and 2012 fall together under one common goal.

On the US side, policies are still unchanged. The US Secretary of State Clinton said that “the rocket attacks [from Gaza] must end and a broader calm must return.” Obama thanked Morsi, and not only did he hail Netanyahu but also offered him to seek additional funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. As expected, Hamas was not on the list with those deserving a thank you.

As for Egypt after 2011, the role it played was different as well. Egypt worked on facilitating the pressure the molded bullets and rockets had on Gaza differently through: condemning and ensuring the immediate stop of this war, recalling its ambassador to Israel, and delivering a formal protest to the Israeli government. In addition, Egyptian prime minister paid a formal visit to the Strip during the war, Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, and sponsored the truce deal.

Hamas Scores?

The war ended up in loses on both sides, political loss on the Israeli side and a materialistic loss on the side of Gaza.

Generally, Hamas itself was characterized by persistence and steadfastness in terms of having stable stances. However, the political status on the ground pushed it to compromise from totally refusing the “state of Israel” to accepting the Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, coinciding with the Arab governments' demands. This does not mean that the movement wholly gave up their original beliefs, but shifting from a static freedom-fighting faction to be involved in the dynamic political process — given the current conditions at Gaza Strip — required them to show kind of flexibility. This is especially that it is taking part in a political game with rules set by Western political paradigms in which Hamas should work harder to overcome any isolation imposed on the movement.

Following the 2011 Arab Revolutions, Hamas’ old governmental relations became more strengthened. After almost losing the Iranian and Syrian back-ups, a drift that might affect the degree of involvement of Russia on behalf of Hamas in any expected international event, Hamas started working on consolidating its relationships with a number of new Arab governments, particularly that of Egypt.

Last but not least, it cannot be said that the ceasefire ended in bringing the rights back to Gaza and the killed people, but merely a ceasefire. The war ended up in loses on both sides, political loss on the Israeli side — as Israel insists upon showing its violent face to the global public opinion — and a materialistic loss on the side of Gaza — loss in lives, and still the Strip is under siege. But again, despite the continuous global political pressures on Hamas, and the Israeli continuous use of violence, with the aim of degrading Hamas’ reputation among the Palestinians, despite all these, still the Palestinians showed no refusal at all to the Hamas politicians following the 2012 war, but rather celebrations after the truce took place.

Related Links:
Gazans to Hamas: No Blame
Myths and Facts About Gaza
Hamas Frees Captured Israeli Soldier
Hamas Seeks Palestinian Ascendancy
Hamas and the Brotherhood: Reanimating History
Karim Khashaba is an Egyptian political analyst and researcher studying for MA degree in Political Science at Duisburg-Essen University, Germany. He is concerned with political theory and the linkage between culture, religion, and poltics.

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