Hamas and Syria
The future of Hamas can be read through the past of Fatah. There are so many similarities between the two movements.
It can be maintained that both Fatah and Hamas supervised the creation of repressive and mismanaged mini-police, non-states in the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
The political rhetoric of Hamas – like Fatah – started being clear and categorical and has become vague, ambiguous, and convoluted. We really don’t know now whether Hamas stands for recognition of Israel or not, or whether it wants to have peace with Israel (hudna or no hudna) or not, or whether Hamas will accept a state on the West Bank and Gaza territories only.
It is safe to say that Hamas is characterized with the political opportunism that long characterized the Fatah movement.
But Hamas is the birth child of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that movement has been steeped in the art of political opportunism and in the vulgar political rhetoric. The Muslim Brotherhood has vomited vile anti-Jewish speeches and statements over the years and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, may have been the first Arab to threaten to “throw Jews into the sea” (the statement has been deliberately falsely attributed by Zionist propagandists to Ahmad Shuqayri and other PLO leaders), as cited in Al-Musawwar magazine from 1948.
Yet, the Muslim Brotherhood today sends reassurances to Israel and the US about its respect for the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. The new Egyptian president mentioned Palestine not once in his inaugural speeches but managed to send many peace gestures to Israel.
Hamas is now doing a dance toward the Syrian regime. The organization has been a close ally – if not client – of the Syrian regime for long years and yet now its wants to pretend that its years of alliance with the Syrian regime never ever happened.
Hamas wants to have it both ways: it wants to take the easy road by waiting the Syrian crisis out, hoping that it would inflict little political damage on its fortunes.
To the Syrian opposition, Hamas can claim that it did not support the Syrian regime and that its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, once made a generic and general statement about support for the Syrian people. This is the claim of support for the Syrian uprising by Hamas.
For the Syrian regime, Hamas can note that it has not made explicit statements against the Syrian regime and that it has not expressed any support for any of the armed opposition groups inside Syria.
Hamas wishes that the Syrian crisis would end so that it can easily pick the side of the victor. It has been waiting for all those months hoping for an early outcome. The prolongation of the crisis has meant that Hamas can prefer to be mostly silent.
But the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in several Arab countries has made Hamas more obligated to pay homage to the mother organization. Mahmoud al-Zahhar even cast a ballot in the Egyptian election.
But if Hamas wants to identify with the Syrian opposition and its armed groups – in the event that its side wins, it should say so and it should state that clearly. But if Hamas were to do that, it would be obligated to explain and justify its long years of support for the Syrian regime.
And if Hamas wants to identify with the Syrian regime – in the event it succeeded in crushing opposition in the country – Hamas would be obligated to explain to the regime its months-long silence on Syria.
The position of Hamas vis-à-vis the Syrian crises reeks of political opportunism. Al-Quds Al-Arabi even cited Khaled Meshal as stating that he would abandon the Iranian sponsor if another financial backer can be found.
Hamas has been sending delegations to GCC countries but Saudi Arabia has rebuffed repeated requests by Hamas for meetings with Saudi officials. Saudi Arabia has been requesting that Hamas cut off ties with Iran.
It is likely that Hamas will maintain its policy of wait-and-stay-silent on Syria until a victor emerges. Only then will Hamas resume its tone of staunch support for the Syrian regime, or it will manufacture a new tone of support for its enemies. It all depends on the outcome.