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Guest Analyst

Hamas Now Has to Answer for Itself

By Zaki Chehab

On the brink of civil war, alarm bells ricocheted through the tiny and beleaguered Gaza Strip. Last Thursday, senior Hamas leader Dr. Nazar Rayyan announced that his immediate ambitions were to hold Friday prayers at the beach-side Palestinian Authority headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- and convert the city’s Fatah-run Palestinian police headquarters into a Grand Mosque. This provocative statement awakened latent fears that Gaza was about to become a mini Taliban-style Islamic state, something Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was critical of when I interviewed him in the presence of his then adviser, Ismail Hanieh, the newly-deposed Hamas Prime Minister, two years before Yassin’s assassination.

Political advisers and leaders of Hamas’ military wing supported Rayyan’s rhetoric. They boasted that Gaza’s years of secularism led by Fatah were drawing to a close, prompting widespread speculation that the Palestinian issue can no longer be considered in geographical isolation but must be viewed as part and parcel to a much wider international conflict. Hamas has strong ties to Tehran and the prospect of Iran’s ayatollahs gaining influence over the Arab-Israeli conflict has given rise to concern among moderate Arab governments such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They fear that the losses made by Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement are also a defeat for themselves, diminishing their influence in the region in favor of Iran.

The defeat of Fatah by Hamas fighters for control of Gaza will force the Hamas leadership to implement its political and social charter. Hamas, as an authority in its own right, will have to become responsible for the activities of all its members. And it will need to explain actions such as the targeted closures of video and Internet shops, even restaurants and coffee shops which sell alcohol.

Gazans worn down by years of conflict will as usual stoically continue their daily routines in their besieged strip of contested land. In the coming few days, they will wake up to the reality that it is Hamas, not Fatah, who will now call the shots and handle issues of concern regarding Israel. The principle issue is the regular launching of Al-Qassam missiles into Israeli territory. Will Hamas respect a ceasefire; should a third party be involved in the mediation? What will be the reaction of Hamas leaders if members of Islamic Jihad or any other splinter group fire missiles against Israeli settlements following a third party-brokered ceasefire?

The timing of Hamas’ military victory over Fatah has raised questions as to how far Hamas coordinated with or consulted with Tehran and possibly Damascus. It has also shown that the support given to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah organization by Washington and other Western leaders was impotent. Widely-covered media reports that Abbas’s security forces had received substantial U.S. financial and military support was nothing more than mere press speculation -- despite congressional approval of substantial amounts, they were never delivered.

Without external financial support, the security forces were unable to defend their positions in Gaza. Fatah’s military prowess pales in comparison to the sophistication of the Hamas arsenal -- supplied by Tehran or bought on the black market and smuggled through the labyrinthine underground tunnels which connect the Sinai desert in Egypt with Gaza.

The Israeli government’s decisions to release Palestinian funds held frozen in Israeli Banks and the calls by the White House and other world leaders to help Mahmoud Abbas’s authority should have been made long before Hamas won the Parliamentary elections in January 2006, and certainly long before they were made on Friday.

Zaki Chehab is the London Bureau Chief of AL Hayat/LBC and author of “Inside Hamas: The Untold Story” published by Nation Books in New York and IB Tauris in London.

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Comments (38)

Stephen Hoover:

oppositious protosiphon keel preallusion nemocera empyreumatical pickthankness highest
Putin pledges 'constructive dialogue' with Bush
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ug.html

Steve Salt Lake City:

Hamas has dug its own grave.

Israel should do everything in its, and its allies, power to shore up whoever can rule the West Bank in its interest, and do the deal here and now for Palestinian statehood.

Israel, and its allies, should do everything possible to further isolate the Hamas vipers nest in the grave of Gaza that Hamas has so stupidly prepared.

Ivan Groznii:

Why would Hamas have to answer for itself? Good, gawd! Isn't that the point? Hamas answers to nobody but Hamas ...not to Fatah ...not to the Palestinian people ...not to Israel ...not to the West ...not to the world.

Asim:

Zaki,
U are way off the mark:
1/// If there is a US-Israel axis,and unlimited US support for Israel and its brutal occupation, militarism, billegernce, intransigence and the state of apartheid it is imposing on the besiged Palestinians especially Hamas, why on God's earth can not Iran or the devil help Hamas??
2/// What moderate Arab states? you mean the brutal dictatorships who always succumb to US/Israel policies or otherwise the US threatens them with "democracy" and "human rights." If u agree with Bush and Israel you are a moderate but if u don't then you are a radical and a terrorist.
3/// When I started reading the article I thought the issue was about building a Grand Mosque in Gaza-what is one mosque compared to thousands of jewish settlements built on stolen Palestinian land-and financed by US taxpayers mone. Why don't u show some objectivity and stop your warmongring and insihgting the world against besiged Gaza.

Paul:

All this talk about Hamas is fine, but when it comes to Palestinian problems, Hamas is more of a symptom than a cause. They only came to power because Fatah proved itself incapable of governing.

While I agree with Rafi ben Negev (and JRWHalley, despite his mindless nationalistic rantings) that Arafat and his successors are to blame for much of the Palestinians plight, I practically laughed out loud when I read:
"With the tax purse strings untied, and unqualified aid from Europe, the West Bank can become a paradise compared with Gaza."
I have two problems with this statement - 1) everywhere on the planet is a paradise compared to Gaza, already, and 2) you forget that they're giving the money to Fatah, you know, the ones who failed to do any good with it when they were getting it in the past.

So, before you go cheering about how Hamas has stupidly isolated itself, ask yourself the question: "How does this change the fact that Fatah is useless?"

SAM:

PALISRA could be the magic word.
It is a sad situation that both Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting and killing each other for more than 60 years now and unfortunately, no light could be seen at the end of this dark tunnel.

The geography and demography of the area that extends between River Jordan and the Mediterranean indicate the complexity of the current situation. Every party is trying hard to grab by mere force what is in the hand of the other. Many wars have been staged and thousands of innocent lives have been shed for this purpose.

Nowadays, almost everybody is talking about setting up two countries for both Israelis and Palestinians. This simply means that the land of historical Palestine will be divided between the two parties, Israelis and Palestinians.

I doubt very much that either party will be satisfied with his share of the cake. There are chronic problems like Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water resources that nobody on earth can sort out to the satisfaction of both parties.
The short vision of setting up two separate states could sow the seeds for more bloody conflicts in the future. Nobody can guarantee or secure permanent and lasting peace under this proposition.
A far better viable solution that should satisfy both parties and put an end to all complicated issues is available. It is the establishment of one country for all on the whole territory of historical Palestine that includes the West Bank and Gaza besides Israel. Jerusalem will remain united for both parties, settlements could remain where they are now provided an appropriate compensation is made to the original land owners, natural geographical borders are already in place for the whole country, and the issue of refugees could be settled by allowing refugees to return home and to be compensated for the 60 myears of misery they had to spend at refugee camps. All citizens of the new state, PALISRA (Palestine +Israel), would enjoy equal rights and bear the same responsibilities.
The newly established state, PALISRA will emerge as a prosperous and safe country within a very short period of time, and citizens of this state will learn how to respect and even cherish each other. PALIRA will become a key player and an integral part of the Middle East as yesterday's enemies will become today's friends and allies for ever.

Iftakhar Malik:

It is sad to observe the people who were treated worse than even animals should be treated by Natzi regime feel no inhibition in calling their fellow humanbeings animals sixty years later and continue to deny the basic human right of living in dignity to the Palestinians who were terrorised(the modern day word used for subjecting the innocent and unarmed to pyhsical and mental violence) to become refugees by the oppressed of Natzis.
The law of nature will ultimately change the tide for the presently oppressed against the oppressed of the past who do not let the world forget the oppression happened sixty years ago.

JK:

Mr. Chehab reveals the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict when he refers to towns and cities in southern Israel as "Israeli settlements". Chehab and his fellow Arabs simply won't accept Israel's existence. In their minds the violence or "resistance" must continue, for generations if necessary, until occupied Palestine (Israel) is liberated.

Sophia, Beirut:

It upsets me to watch on the news the killings and violence between the Palestinians specifically between Fatah and Hamas fighters. I fear that this horrifc scene would live long enough to witness another 60 years of injustice being exercised against those unfortunate population.
It saddens me to read in this article ‘…Hamas’ military victory over Fatah….”, that one Palestinian faction has defeated another.
Wake up Palestinians; you have been digging your hole for as long as I remember and that is a long time, don’t lose the track of the real enemy that has and is still benefits from your schisms. Don’t become your own enemy. You are fighting for everyone’s interest but yours. Stop deluding your people away from the real cause. The Palestinian people deserve much more from you. They have every right to live like the majority of the world’s population in peace and prosperity.
I don’t share Zaki’s view that calls for Washington’s support. I don’t think that any Palestinian faction is in need of Washington’s financial support to purchase arms to overcome one another. Neither any military assistance is needed from Tehran. Those weapons have only served to instigate more bloodshed and violence in this so-called scared land. It is about time to break this vicious circle of self-inflicting torture and attend efficiently to the actual day-to-day needs of the people. It is about time to drop the imported arms and raise instead alternative arms of education, culture, science, art…It is the most if not the only effective weapons that can defeat hatred, racism and terrorism.
P.N. Mr. Ivanhoe, the few lines you have posted here are full of anger and hatred. Maybe you have all the right to feel outraged, who knows! However, if you are against what Hamas represents, with all respect, your choice of words does not place you far away from those you have called animals.

sandyt:

DAVE! -
Thanks! Clear and excellent example of imperial arrogance!

Do you think you are making a point by throwing bin Laden at me? "By my logic" we would have to deal with bin Laden as an elected head of state - exactly so. Why not, if the election is fair? He and we both want to destroy each other, but so what? For years we refused to recognize the USSR. We repeated the performance with China. Both regimes wanted to destroy us, we wanted to destroy them, but we wound up having to deal with them, even though neither of them was elected. We tried the same with the ANC, but now they run a country and we deal with them too.

I have two points to make here.
Point One, Hamas wants to destroy the Israeli state. But Israel wants to prevent the Palestinian state too, and routinely elects governments pledged to that end. We expect Palestinians to "deal with" such governments, which is a legitimate expectation. By the same logic, Israel should be expected to deal with Hamas. Both parties are ill-served by a US policy that mindlessly supports one side only. There are, after all, two peoples on the same land, and neither is going away. US policy guarantees continued suffering for both.

Point Two, the US has no mandate to rule the world, or to ignore the results of legitimate elections. Bush and his enablers in the media should just quit claiming they believe in democracy. They have proven that they don't, so they should please just quit insulting our intelligence.

Dave!:

Ted Nicholas,
"Sooner or later, both Israel and the US will have to deal with Hamas and negotiate a just settlement for peace." Faulty logic. What would induce Israel to negotiate with Hamas, whose reason for being is the elimination of the Jewish state? The only negotiation Hamas could do with Israel is a discussion of how fast the Israelis could get out of the middle east. That is not in Israels best interest, to say the least. Read the Hamas charter.

Dave!:

SANDYT,
"...but all our rhetoric about wanting democracy in the Middle East is hypocrisy if we won't deal with them." Wrong. Democratic elections have results that matter. Just because an election is democratic does not mean that everybody HAS to deal with the results of it - they just have to accept the results. By your logic, if Bin Laden was democratically elected to head some government, we would be "hypocritical" if we did not "deal" with him.

sandyt:

Mr. Chehab is mistaken, and so is everyone else on the thread who didn't notice it. Hamas' election victory was in January 2006, not 2005.

This cavalier attitude toward the facts is not unusual in conventional reporting and analysis about the Middle East. For example, it is asserted that the funds should have been released before Hamas' victory. True enough. Israel and the US should also have made meaningful concessions to Fatah rather than humiliating it at every opportunity. They should, for example, have lived up to the Oslo Accords and ceased expanding and "thickening" their settlements in the West Bank. They should have followed up on the promising work at Taba in January 2001. And so on.

Fatah lost the elections because it was ineffectual and corrupt. It didn't deliver for the Palestinian people, who turned to Hamas instead. We don't have to like them - I don't - but all our rhetoric about wanting democracy in the Middle East is hypocrisy if we won't deal with them. I am chilled by the barbarous rhetoric on this thread, and I fear worse things are in store for both Jewish and Palestinian people.

Mike B:

To Muhammad:

The Iran government might hate the Taliban, but you can't deny the similarities in their governing styles. I think "Taliban-style" was just short-hand for "repressive theocratic dictatorship" - at least that's the way I understood it. (Somewhat related to this subject: right now, a lot of people in Poland are using the word "Taliban" as the ultimate insult for certain conservative religious groups in their own country - even though those groups are Catholic Christians.)

Anyway, it's a moot point. The Hamas government in Gaza will implode long before they're able to do anything meaningful. I feel sorry for the regular people in Gaza who'll have to suffer the consequences.

jrwhalley:

If the US and it's proxy agent, Israel, had the good graces to recognize the rightful representatives of the Palestinian people (Hamas, by an overwhelming majority), this would probably not even be a matter of discussion today. The track record of Fatah has been excreable since their military defeats in the 60's. Arafat was a compelling, charismatic warrior leader in his youth, but turned into a figure who would sell out the best interests of his own people, and collaborate with his stated enemies to insure the continuance of his personal power and comfort in his old age. His cronies and associates in Fatah have demonstrated a similar mindset along with incredible waste and corruption in their previous 'government'. Arafat could not give the promised military victory over the Zionist occupiers of the Palestinian homeland, as well being a failure as a civil leader . We need to remember that the majority of Palestinians alive today are the 4th or 5th generation survivors of disposession, deprivation, and constant (though sometimes low-level) genocidal warfare; and will not go into submission willingly.

Katyali Man:

The creation of a Palestinian state does not augur well with the separation of Gazza and West Bank of which Bush and Olmert sees as an ample opportunity, to get to isolate Hamas, and lately give independence to WB, i doubt if anybody realy understand that Palestinian statehood belong to all Palestian irrespecteive of their mindset,,if Hamas is smart enough they will see development and sees the oportunity to manipulate event in their favour by either giving up their hold on power and retake it later when the money are provided by the American so lets us not undersetimate the volatility of the ME and think that we are seizing artificial and temporary oprtunity to bolster temporary governing authority

Ted Nicholas:

Hamas was propped up by Isreal to weaken Arafat. They also won in a well monitored democratic election. Anybody that knows the truth of what is going on among the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and everywhere else will admit that Hamas truly represents the majority of the people. The majority are not Muslim fanatics. The majority are pragmatic people that realize that bowing down to the Israeli and US wishes will get them nowhere. Sooner or later, both Israel and the US will have to deal with Hamas and negotiate a just settlement for peace.

M Abbas is finished. He never amounted to anything. He will elected in a wave of sympathy for the dead Arafat. The people turned against him when it became obvious to them that he was a US puppet that is interested in accumulating his own wealth!

The talk of Palestinians as "animals" in one of the posts clearly shows the racist nature of Zionism. It is just as bad as the hate talk of Jews by a samll number of Palistinians. It will not help anyone -- not even the Israelis -- in the long run to view the Palestinians as less than human. They are fully human people who have aspirations for justice and peace. Sooner or later the US and the rest of the world, including the majority of the Jewish people will realize that without true justice to the Palestinian people there will be no peace.

mike in nyc:

want to get the "real" story about hamas? check out http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/

www.voteforbrad.com:

If you have ever played chess, you may be able to understand what I am saying here. There sometimes comes a moment in a chess match when one realizes that they have been relatively oblivious to the strategy of the opponent, and that the opponent has put themselves into the position of being a very serious threat. Hamas, Iran and Syria are three major pieces now mounting a huge threat to the peace and stability of the region. Swift and decisive countermeasures in the form of both tactical maneuvers and strategic adjustments must immediately be implemented in order to neutralize this threat. Otherwise, like in a chess match, the sinking, gut-wrenching realization that you are playing desperation catch-up to force a stalemate hits you hard, and that is an untenable position to allow oneself to wake up in.

Brad Lord-Leutwyler
www.voteforbrad.com

Responsibility:

Reponsibility rests with the Palestinians and with Hamas. Period.

Why this people enjoys the eternal privilege of pointing the finger at others I will never understand.

Hamas is now knee deep in their own sh*t.

Yehudi Amitz:

Supposition: Palestinians have enough power and be able to politically control a bi-national state. How long do you think will take till they will begin to throw Jews from the rooftops as they did with ease to other Palestinian?

as in wash dc:

I hope the best for the new “government”. Maybe they will bring peace and prosperity for their people and land. I doubt it though, but I do pray for peace. One thing I find interesting is that if they or anyone starts trouble with Israel, or houses terrorists, the will be taken out. Israel has demonstrated that. And so has the US… at least until the Democrats get back into office. Then we’ll be back to letting them set up shop just like Afghanistan when Clinton was in office. I’m not some big Bush/Republican supporter, but at least the message was sent that the US will not tolerate being attacked. But when the elections come and someone new is elected, I wonder what the message is going to be to this new “government”? Will we be running out of Iraq because we think we are losing? Or will we be staying and saying that we are committed to securing peace to a region that needs our help?

I also agree with the person’s comment that the West was in a no win situation with support and weapons and as such could not do much from stopping this.

Muhammad:

It is very easy to overstate the influence of Iran in Palestine. While the media is hysterical about shi'a-sunni divisions in Iraq, they seem to gloss over them when it comes to Palestine. Hamas gets much of its financial support from religious individuals in the Arab Gulf (Kuwait, Saudi, UAE). Iran is just a full-fledged political entity that supports Palestinians militarily.

The author writes that Gaza might go "Taliban-style" and then plays up Iran's influence. It cannot be both at the same time -- Iran hated the Taliban, and vice versa. Please stop trying to use Iran as the catch-all boogeyman in the Middle East. We are smarter than that!

Marc Morrelli:

Hamas have been hijacked by Tehran and are now a puppet orginisation promotiong Iranian ideals to promote the new jihad.The Battlelines have been drawn and Iran will provoke a war on israel from Lebanon and Gaza in an attempt to unify Islamic tensions. The unous is on the moderate arab states and Israel to unite and librate the besiged Plastinians

Rafi Ben Negev:

As Ruben said "damned if you do, damned if you don't." More overt aid to Fatah by the US and Israel would have made Abbas look even more like a stooge. Also, don't blame Hamas for the last six years of chaos and violence - Arafat gets to own that. In any case, looking forward rather than backward, Abbas now has an opportunity - free of Gaza - to play to his own and Fatah's strength. With the tax purse strings untied, and unqualified aid from Europe, the West Bank can become a paradise compared with Gaza. Then, the Israelis will not have to destroy Hamas, the Gazans will do it themselves.

Marcus Morley:

Hamas have been hijacked by Tehran and are now a puppet orginisation promotiong Iranian ideals to promote the new jihad.The Battlelines have been drawn and Iran will provoke a war on israel from Lebanon and Gaza in an attempt to unify Islamic tensions. The unous is on the moderate arab states and Israel to unite and librate the besiged Plastinians

Peter Sheya:

The American must just realise that if you put a lion in a small cage it will try to free itself from the shackles, so it's time also for Israel to realise that putting more pressure on Hamas will not bring about a long term solution as event unfold you will realise it was better to first wait and see as event unfold in or out of your favour..

Nathan Darus:

Not only that, but if the U.S. had openly supported Fatah it would have strained U.S.-Israeli relations. And of course, it wouldn't look good for the "war on terror" if the US backed a Palestinian regime.

In the end, American support for a free Palestinian state is a lot of empty words and sentimentality. America aided Israel in its creation of a free state, what would have been so wrong with helping the Palestinians years ago, welcoming them into the international community with open arms, rather than worrying about pissing off Israel?

Bob:

Hamas remind me of legions of barbarians destroying the bridge that separate them from their enemies but also from the rest of the world.
Now there is no bridge so the enemy is no longer threatening them and they are safe and scream for victory...
The only problem is now totally isolated in you own pool of nothing how are you going to survive?

Hamas should use their brain before their weapons but that wont happen before at least the next century...

A.B. from Brooklyn, NY:

Exactly what 'Israeli settlements' are the terrorists from Gaza firing on?
This is the first I've read of Mr. Chehab's writings; I suspect he's an apologist for Arab terrorists.
To clarify, the vermin Ahmed Yassin was not assassinated- he was eliminated.
Sderot and the communities in the Negev are not 'settlements', with all the negative connotations Mr. Chehab wishes to attach- they are parts of Israel proper.
Then again, I wonder if Mr. Chehab feels that any Jew in the Middle East is fair game for Arab terrorists. . .

Pete, Austin:

Hamas has overplayed their hand.
Now, whenever a missile comes flying over the border of Hamastan toward Israel, the Israeli army won't have to worry about who to attack. Since the entire state is governed by Hamas, any institution or arsenal in Hamastan will be fair game.

Pete, Austin:

Hamas has overplayed their hand.
Now, whenever a missile comes flying over the border of Hamastan toward Israel, the Israeli army won't have to worry about who to attack. Since the entire state is governed by Hamas, any institution or arsenal in Hamastan will be fair game.

Pete, Austin:

Hamas has overplayed their hand.
Now, whenever a missile comes flying over the border of Hamastan toward Israel, the Israeli army won't have to worry about who to attack. Since the entire state is governed by Hamas, any institution or arsenal in Hamastan will be fair game.

Steve:

I don't think that you can say the funding was never delivered to Fatah without citing sources. The Hamas attack was quite sudden--Blitzkrieg-esque--and Fatah may not have had the opportunity to employ the funds or the military counter to prevent the overthrow. Fatah would also have to deal with the action of fighting its own brethren, no matter how crazed their actions have been; by staying on the defensive, they remain the victims and have most of the world on their side.

Jack Ivanhoe:

It looks as if Hamas has won the battle with Fatah for the title of Palestinian entity most isolated from reality. Hamas in Gaza is still the most dangerous entity to Israel therefore NOW would be the perfect time for Israel to rip up that entire organization by invading, using the IAF and navy and kill the largest numbers of the animals possible.

Jack Ivanhoe:

It looks as if Hamas has won the battle with Fatah for the title of Palestinian entity most isolated from reality. Hamas in Gaza is still the most dangerous entity to Israel therefore NOW would be the perfect time for Israel to rip up that entire organization by invading, using the IAF and navy and kill the largest numbers of the animals possible.

Ruben Misrahi:

If Israel and the US had supported Fatah, Hamas would have used that as proof of external intervention of internal affairs, and both the US and Israel would have been criticized for it. Moreover, given the lack of motivation of Fatah police, all those weapons would be now in Hamas' hands.

Damn if you do it, damn if you don't.

Bruce in Atlanta:

"Hamas, as an authority in its own right, will have to become responsible for the activities of all its members. And it will need to explain actions such as the targeted closures of video and Internet shops, even restaurants and coffee shops which sell alcohol."

Explain? These people murder Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the streets. Why should they feel obligated to "explain" why the international press can't get a snootful at the local bar anymore?

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