Hamas will not get involved in a possible military conflict between Iran and Israel over Tehran’s nuclear program, The Guardian quoted senior members of the Palestinian organization as saying on Tuesday.
Speaking to the British paper, Salah Bardawil, a member of Hamas’ political leadership in Gaza, said: “If there is a war between the two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war.”
Bardawil denied that Hamas would launch rockets into the Jewish state at Tehran’s request in response to a potential Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites.
“Hamas is not part of military alliances in the region … our strategy is to defend our rights.”
According to the Guardian, Bardawil’s comments were echoed by a Hamas leader who wished to remain anonymous.
The position highlights Hamas’s rift with its key financial backers, and its realignment with the Muslim Brotherhood and protests movements in the Arab world.
Speculation has been rife in Israel on how a military strike on Iran could result in a barrage of rockets fired into the Jewish state by Hamas in Gaza or the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both organizations are described by Israeli officials as ‘proxies’ of the regime in Tehran.
Speaking on the possibility of an armed conflict, Hezbollah deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem said last month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would set the entire Middle East ablaze.
But Bardawil said Hamas has never given “complete loyalty” to Tehran, pointing out that the Iranian population is majority Shiite Muslim while Gazans are mainly Sunni. “The relationship was based on common interest,” he said.
In February, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh visited Iran for a three-day trip. During his visit Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, “Iran will always be supportive of the Palestinian cause and the Islamic resistance in Palestine.”
However, analysts have stated that Iran is unhappy with Hamas for refusing to offer public support to its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is facing an 11-month long popular uprising.
Syria has been hosting the Hamas leadership in exile for the past 10 years.
According to a Gazan academic, Hamas’ lack of support to the Syrian regime has resulted in Iran terminating financial support worth $23 million a month.
“Iran is very unhappy about Hamas and Syria, so it is punishing Hamas,” Adnan Abu Amer of Ummah University told the Guardian. “They have stopped funding. Hamas has other sources – the Gulf states, Islamic movements, charities – but all of these together are not comparable to $23million a month.”
Bardawil however denies the sum is that large, saying “the money that comes from Iran is very limited. In the early days of the [Israeli] blockade [of Gaza], the money was very good, but it was reduced two years ago.” The cut in funding “is not because of the Syrian revolution,” he added.
According to Bardawil the Hamas office in Damascus is still open and functioning, despite politico bureau chief Khaled Meshaal relocating to Qatar.
The uprising against Assad has, however , put the Hamas leadership in a critical position, Abu Amer explained.
“For 10 months, Hamas kept silent in public about the Syrian revolution, neither for it nor against it. But inside Hamas, there was another revolution – arguments within the leadership over the killing of Syrian people,” said Abu Amer.
“The exiled leadership was frozen, because they had no other place to go. But others, in Gaza and elsewhere, wanted to speak out against the killings, especially the clerics. This was a burden on the leadership,” he added.
Also, the Muslim Brotherhood, which Hamas is an offshoot of, has been openly critical of the crackdown in Syria.
“Hamas has been part of the Muslim Brotherhood from the beginning. The leadership has a very tight relationship with the Brotherhood leadership.” The connection between the two organizations was based on ideology, Bardawil said, whereas the relationship between Hamas and Syria was strategic.
Abu Amer said Hamas now wants to be part of the Arab Spring. “The revolutions in the Arab world and the rise of Islamic movements affected Hamas. Hamas read it very well.”
The organization was realigning itself with ruling Islamist movements in the region which are more oriented towards elections and reaching out to the West rather than armed resistance. “Hamas cannot be asked to erase the history of 25 years in one day. But it’s coming.”
(Written by Sara Ghasemilee)