Friday, December 02, 2005

Hamas

Hamas announced plans to contest the parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza next month. It had boycotted the presidential elections this year but did well at the municipal elections. Hamas had won a third of the local authorities at the expense of the PLO. It had defeated the PLO in several student council elections. Hamas has a significant constituency amongst the Palestinians, one developed over the years through its welfare network and audacious attacks within Israel.

Hamas, which means zeal in Arabic and violence in Hebrew, is an Islamic fundamentalist organization committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas claims that "Allah is it's target, the Prophet it's model, the Koran it's constitution and Jihad it's path". It considers the entirety of Palestine as an Islamic waqf (trust) that can not be conceded. It opposes the secular politics of the PLO, and hits out at both Israeli civilian and military targets through terrorist attacks.

Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood founded in Egypt. It is a clandestine organization organized into small discreet cells with multiple leadership structures that can be swiftly replaced in the event of an assassination. It's welfare network includes schools, health clinics, soup kitchens, sports clubs and mosques. Israel had encouraged its expansion in 1987 to undermine the PLO. Little did Israel realize the cost of such a short sighted policy. Hamas launched a wave of suicide attacks. Israel was quick to respond. It initiated a policy of targeted assassinations that included amongst others the murder of two Hamas leaders i.e. Sheik Yassin in March 2004 and al-Rantisi in April 2004. The organization retains its base in the occupied territories given the stalled peace process and corruption within the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority. The Sa'udis and Iranians finance it while Syria currently hosts its leadership.

This said, Hamas' options are increasingly limited. Israeli policy under Sharon is to disengage from Arab populated areas in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is in the process of completing a physical barrier to separate it from Palestinian territories. Hamas had earlier attacked Israeli convoys and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. It despatched suicide bombers into Israel. Such tactics would now become unfeasible with Israeli disengagement and improved border defence. Israel would be effectively insulated though yet vulnerable to long range artillery. Israel is better equipped to neutralize such conventional military threats. Hamas therefore is no longer a real danger to Israel despite its appeal amongst the marginalized and destitute Palestinian populace.

The prospects of an intra-Palestianian civil confrontation between the PLO and Hamas will serve Israeli interests. The Muslim Brotherhood is poised to challenge the political monopoly of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt as the legislative elections in that country reveal. Hamas is likely to challenge President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority as well. In so doing, it would lock itself into a corner where the only losers would be the Palestinian Arabs.

4 comments:

cynical nerd said...

Think EU recently listed the Hamas along with Hizb-Ul Mujahedeen as terror groups. There was already an article on how EU funding devoted to Palestenian development ended up with Hamas. Now with this ban, lets see if they can run their 'charity' services.

libertarian said...

Jaffna, that's exactly right - Hamas is a nuisance and is hurting the cause of Palestinian nationhood. It provides the Israelis with perfect PR cover for some of their "military operations". They're still glorifying this "shaheed" stuff simply because they have no option. Several years of research have yielded the Al-Qassam rocket. It has been fired about 2000 times and has casualties in the single digits. With Sheikh Yassin and Al-Rantisi, Israel has amply demonstrated that they have Hamas' number.

Afzal said...

Libertarian, hamas might have its faults and might not be relevant anymore; but it did succeed in making israel rethink its place in the west bank and gaza. it succeeded to that extent.

Primary Red said...

Afzal:

We think Israel's actions in Gaza were quite unilateral -- i.e., not due to Hamas. Indeed, after the wall was built, Hamas lost much of its terrorist potency.

There is no reason to ever attribute any political success to terrorists. Such attribution only encourages others elesewhere to consider such inhuman tactics as legitimate and effective. This is the last thing any of us should want.

Best regards.

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