Hamas Breaks with Syrian Regime

The Muslim Fundamentalist Palestinian party-militia Hamas, based largely in the Gaza Strip has abruptly broken with its long-time patron, Syria.

The leadership has scattered from its offices in Syria to elsewhere in the region, especially Egypt and Qatar.

Hamas, although considered an international terrorist group by Washington, is actually just a local, organized resistance movement on behalf of the Palestinians (who are stateless and rights-less).

The startling development could signal a further evolution of the organization away from violent tactics, and toward a firmer alliance with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, under the impact of the Arab Spring. In turn that move implies cooler relations with Syria and Iran.

The USG Open Source Center had translated an article on Hamas and Syria from the leftist Lebanese newspaper as-Safir; this article is suddenly outdated by Friday’s break between al-Assad and Ismail Haniyeh.

“Al-Safir Cites HAMAS Leaders on Syrian Crisis, Internal Issues, Regional Changes
Report by Qasim Qasir: “HAMAS Reorganizes the Islamic House After the Arab Revolutions; What Is Happening in Syria Is Painful and There Is Coordination With Hizballah”
Al-Safir Online
Monday, February 20, 2012
Document Type: OSC Translated Text

Leaders in the HAMAS movement do not hide their concern about what is happening in the region despite their satisfaction with the fall of a number of Arab regimes and the arrival of the Islamic movements to advanced positions of power in a number of Arab countries, especially Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia. They, however, believe that the battle “is continuing and the transitional period is going to be long and may take several years, and so it is premature to judge the new Islamic experience and its performance and positions.”

These HAMAS leaders are following “with pain what is happening in Syria” and they stress that they have not spared any effort to contribute to addressing the Syrian crisis over the past few months, but they have not received an adequate response. Nevertheless, they say “we are always ready to contribute to any effort that hastens an end to the crisis and puts things on the right track because the continuation of the Syrian crisis is in the interest of the United States while ending it as soon as possible is in the interest of the resistance forces.”

What draws attention here is that the movement’s leaders are still committed to the position expressed by the HAMAS leadership at the beginning of the Syrian crisis. That position emphasizes “the importance of the role played by Syria in supporting and embracing the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine” while stressing commitment to what the Syrian people decide in terms of reform and change. Therefore, they prefer not to announce any new positions on the level of the Syrian crisis, except for the recent positions expressed by Isma’il Haniyah, prime minister of the dismissed Palestinian government, who wished a quick end to the crisis…

With regard to the changes taking place in a number of Arab countries after the Islamists’ arrival to power and with regard to the position the Palestinian cause occupies in their programs, the HAMAS leaders say that during the past years these countries faced many problems on the level of development and economic conditions, loss of freedoms, and imbalance in building the political and constitutional institutions. Therefore, it was not strange that the Islamists in these countries gave priority during the first stage to the internal economic and social aspects and to the reorganization of their relations with other countries, but this will not be at the expense of the attention given to the Palestinian cause. Positions or statements inconsistent with the principled positions on the Palestinian cause and the Zionist entity may have been made, but efforts are currently under way to address these issues with the leaders of Arab countries that have witnessed change.

The movement’s leaders say that an integrated memorandum has recently been prepared on the position of the Islamic forces and movements on the Palestinian cause, adding that this memorandum has been circulated to all the Islamic forces and movements that have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood so that it will serve as the background from which to proceed when talking about the Palestinian cause as this will prevent the occurrence of any problems, especially in the wake of the changes taking place in a number of Arab countries.

The leading figures in the movement emphasize that “our relationship with Hizballah and the Islamic Republic of Iran continues and there is permanent coordination and cooperation on the level of the highest leadership positi ons. Dr Isma’il Haniyah’s visit to Tehran and his participation in celebrations on the anniversary of the victory of Islamic revolution and the positions he declared there are the most powerful response to all those who are trying to cast doubt on this relationship or to say that the movement is reorganizing its relations within new axes, although it is more correct to say that rearranging priorities is linked to the practical (technical) conditions and not to the firm political positions, especially on the resistance.”

On the recent agreement reached with PA President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) in Qatar, the leaders in the movement say that this agreement “is the fruit of contacts and meetings that have continued for some time and it does not mean there are concessions but rather an attempt to strengthen the role of the resistance, address the Palestinian people’s suffering under the siege, and contribute to putting the Palestinian house in order in preparation for holding new parliamentary and presidential elections and reorganizing the status of the PLO. As for objection to this agreement by some HAMAS leaders, this will not lead to any problems because the issue will be addressed within the framework of the internal HAMAS house.”

The leading HAMAS figures confirmed what was recently published about the desire of Khalid Mish’al (Abu-al-Walid), head of the Political Bureau of the movement, not to run again for the post of head of the Political Bureau at the end of the current session as part of the effort to renew the leading cadres, but they explain that no practical measure has been taken so far and “all options are open and the issue is up to the leading institutions in the movement and this has nothing to do with changes in the region.”

The leaders of HAMAS say that the biggest risk facing the Arab revolutions and the countries of the region is sedition and, therefore, “work is needed to confront this sedition and prevent the occurrence of any sectarian or political differences, and search for an Arab and Islamic plan that is in harmony with the circumstances of the Arab countries without importing other models from abroad, but instead benefiting from all the Arab, Islamic, and historical experiences.”

In conclusion, the leaders of the movement say: “We are facing a variable phase, which may last several years and we must follow up what is happening carefully and accurately because the United States and the West have made several plans to prevent, disable, or absorb the revolutions. The Arab and Islamic forces should be aware of all the risks and respond to them with joint plans in order to protect the Arab interests, the role of the resistance, and the question of Palestine.”

(Description of Source: Beirut Al-Safir Online in Arabic — …)”

22 Responses

  1. What about Hezbollah? Are there signs of similar hedging/wavering vis-a-vis the Assad regime? The “mainstream” Levantine Shiites have never fully accepted the orthodoxy of the Alawites as Shiites. And there are twelver and other Shiite groups in Syria who are oriented eastward to Iraq and Iran. To what extent are these groups playing a formidable role in the insurgency and contributing the internal divisiveness of the opposition in and outside Syria? If the Assad regime starts to crack, might we fear that some kind of Hezbollah/Iraq/Iran Shiite “axis” will intervene?

  2. “Hamas, although considered an international terrorist group by Washington, is actually just a local, organized resistance movement on behalf of the Palestinians (who are stateless and rights-less).”
    This is more than I expected even from you, Prof. Cole. A local, organized resistance movement that carries out suicide bombings and fires rockets at civilians? Not to mention holding a hostage incommunicado for five years, in violation of all international law. And by implication this is not a terrorist group–only Washington would make such a claim? Shame on you!

    • Terrorism is a very subjective term, and is freely used by both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of course, according to the Israelis, anyone who opposes them is a terrorist, but one should look at the behavior of each side to see who really is a bigger threat to whom. The ratio of the number of Hamas and Hezbollah that have been killed by Israel is probably more than 100 to one, compared to the number of Israelis killed by either of those organizations.
      Hezbollah was formed after Ariel Sharon’s brutal war on Lebanon in 1982 in order to protect the Lebanese Shi’is. In that unprovoked war over 27,623 Lebanese were killed for 657 Israelis. The number of wounded Lebanese also ran into tens of thousands. The cities of Tyre, Sidon and Beirut were mercilessly bombed for days on end and huge destruction was caused. Meanwhile, thousands of refugees – men, women and children – were massacred in Sabra and Shatila camps by the Phalangists, as they were surrounded by Israeli forces that fired illuminating flares over the camps to assist with their gruesome task.
      During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, more than 1,300 Lebanese were killed for 121 Israeli. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese were forced to flee and during the last days of the conflict Israel fired millions of small cluster bombs in South Lebanon to make the area uninhabitable.
      During Israel’s barbaric attack on Gaza Strip in December 2008, at least 1,417 Gazans, including 926 civilians, were killed for 13 Israelis, ten of them by the so-called friendly fire. Israel used forbidden white phosphorous bombs and destroyed a huge part of Gaza’s infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. Israel’s siege and almost daily killing of people in Gaza still continues, mainly unreported by Western media.
      If you ask the Palestinians or the Lebanese they clearly have a different interpretation of terrorists than yours.

    • Sad about “hostages held incommunicado?” Can you say “Guantanamo,” where guess what, there are acknowledged innocents who’ve been there what, TEN years, and others who will be a lot worse Enemies if they are ever finally let go. And who’s that Wikileaks kid? Jonathan Pollard? Whoops, that’s the other guy, I was thinking of Bradley Manning.

      “We” got GIs who piss on dead “hajjis,” and some who kill them for sport. Before you get all exercised about “Hamas terrrrrorrrists,” you might view a bunch of YouTubes with nice sound tracks of GIs whooping it up over what often turn out to be Oopsies. Our Troops are on a meaningless mission, some refusing to “deploy.” Parts of the IDF smash people’s houses, have been doing the Hellfire assassination thing for how long now, and some IDF people are even refusing to serve in their occupied terrain, and we have Tim McVeigh and numerous War Lover types and they have their share of desperate and/or sociopathic and/or psychotic critters who get off on whoooshBANG or have no other way to resist displacement and subjugation.

      We are a shameful, shameless species. We insist on “analyzing” the conduct of Others by reference to glorious, wonderfully misleading reifications and hypostatisations, applying “logic” to claim privilege and purity for “our” tribe, whatever it happens to be. I’d offer that “calling shame” on someone like Prof. Cole, who works hard at shining a light on truly shameless behavior, and points to ways to do better, is a personal foul.

    • Resistance movements often are violent. Israel’s own was. Likewise those recently in Libya and Syria.

      Typically when Occupation ceases ruining people’s live s, the violence subsides.

      • “Resistance movements often are violent. Israel’s own was. Likewise those recently in Libya and Syria.”
        I have no problem with a resistance movement being violent. Examples: the American Revolution, resistance movements against the Nazis in France, Russia, etc. I have a big problem with those movements using the tactics of deliberate deadly violence directed against civilian noncombatants.

        • Most resistance movements have targeted civilians, as did Israel’s. Algeria is another example.

          Terrorism is a tactic. I disapprove of it. But it isn’t a social science approach to social movements to call a group a ‘terrorist organization.’

          Hamas is a local resistance movement that has used many tactics, including parliamentary politics (when it won, Israel attempted to destroy it and largely succeeded; that wouldn’t have been an encouragement toward that tactic rather than violent ones.)

    • The People’s Army of Vietnam, which defeated France, the United States, and the People’s Republic of China and drove them from Vietnam in 30 years, was a local, organized resistance movement that did some pretty damn nasty things, but they killed far fewer civilians than American tax dollars did. If it were my country being conquered by overwhelmingly powerful hostile aliens, Phud1, I’d consider them my role model in what I’d do. Ditto the liberation movements in Algeria, Ireland, et al. Because capitalist imperialists rely on private wealth and control the jobs the masses need, it is not possible to defeat them without attacking civilians.

      Thus the descendants of the Loyalists who were driven from America into Canada 240 years ago are still complaining about the atrocities committed against them by our Founding Fathers.

      • An article from the early ’80s, can’t find it unfortunately, tried to figure how much it cost to kill “the Enemy,” body count by body count, from WW I to Vietnam.

        “Coalition” forces,” including US, S. Korean and Australian, in McNamara’s War, “run like a business” in the bullshit phrase that our idiot polity mindlessly accepts as the best way to operate a very necessary government, killed several million “gooks,” and critics can quibble about the numbers (and do) but that’s not far off. As I recall it, the cost to kill one “gook,” by procuring, transporting, and logistically “deploying” ordnance, came to about $300,000.

        Match that with the current “like a business” estimate of $50 million, and again, quibble all you want: link to informationclearinghouse.info The article I recall concluded that it would have been smarter to use the B-52s to scatter tons of the little gold ingots that Vietnamese covet and save, on little parachutes all over the landscape, as a much more effective way to foment “democracy and regime change.”

        And then you have the tacit admissions of what “we” are really all about, in Notagainistan:

        Snipers are the most cost effective way of killing the enemy. Individual snipers routinely account for more kills than entire battalions operating in the same place at the same time, hit the target almost every time, and each bullet costs around €2. What’s more, snipers inflict a psychological terror on an enemy force that restricts its ability to operate effectively – when elite snipers are operating, they are invisible close up, and can strike from enormous distance, so nowhere is safe.

        link to gizmag.com

        And then you get to the true nature and ongoing expression of Milo-Minderbinderism, the fella who contracted with the Germans to bomb his own troops for “cost plus 10 percent:” link to blogs.reuters.com

        “War” is not a damn bit like the popular mind (sic) loves to think it is.

  3. Is firing rockets indiscrimately into Israeli cities as HAMAS has done repeatedly “resistance” or “terrorism”? What is the difference?

    • Same question re various items of ordnance “fired indiscriminately” into various parts of the areas our US forces are embedded, or is it “mired,” in. And we don’t get to pretend that there’s any “purity of arms” to what way too many of our troops do. Spend some time following the search term “Hellfire video” around in YouTubeLand. Oh, it is so viscerally exciting, watching the impact and the flying body parts, and then reading the comments of fellow voyeurs.

      Glass houses, and stones.

  4. The boot on the Palestinian neck may be Israeli, but the foot inside it is American. Is it terrorism to attack one’s oppressors, or is it only terrorism when the oppressor is your ally?

  5. I think Phudi and Ike are focusing too much on Prof. Cole’s statement as a moral judgment about whether Hamas can be described as terrorists, and missing the more important point: that this is not an organization with international reach of aspirations – like al Qaeda, for instance – but rather, a local organization driven by a very local motives.

    But I can see how you could have read the perfesser’s language that way.

  6. So maybe we’ll see an anti-Assad army made up of Hamas fighters, Saudis, Frenchmen, and Americans.

  7. Hamas’ break with Iran is a political and strategic decision by Hamas as they see which way the winds are blowing in Syria. Also, from the perspective of the Sunni-Shiite split, it brings Hamas into the Sunni camp as they will increasingly be relying on countries like Qatar and Egypt.

  8. The Hamas decision to shift away from backing the Syrian regime seems to be based on several reasons:

    As members of a group which says it is committed to democracy and freedoms, Hamas leaders were embarrassed by their support for Bashar Al Assad. They knew they will have to endorse the anti-Assad revolt sooner of later. Apparently, they found the time to be opportune now.

    Hamas leaders consider Egypt’s Sunni Muslim Brotherhood as their parent organisation (like Brotherhoods elsewhere in the Arab World). Now that the Brotherhood has emerged as the dominant group in post-rebellion Egypt and is also leading the rebellion against the Alawite — an offshoot of the Shiite branch of Islam – regime in Syria, it is only natural that the Hamas leaders close ranks with the parent group.

    One should not overlook that Egypt’s military-appointed government’s decision to recall its ambassador from Syria came mainly upon the insistence of the Brotherhood. That also means that the Brotherhood and ruling generals of Egypt have worked out a modus vivendi. We have to wait and see how Hamas will benefit more from the Brotherhood’s influence in post-Mubarak Egypt.
    Hamas does not really have to worry out the loss of Iranian funds. There are many in the Arab World to step in and help Hamas generously if the group makes it break with Iran permanent (as is implied by the Hamas endorsement of the revolt in Syria).

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