Israel’s weeklong aggression against Gaza finally ended with a cease-fire, leaving behind deaths (161 Palestinians, including more than 40 children, and five Israelis), injuries (more than 1,200 people wounded), indescribable sorrows and great destruction. I hope this cease-fire, which was brokered in a strained atmosphere that disrupted the balance in the region, will be long-lived and provide a means by which the efforts for the permanent settlement of the issue at hand are reinstated.
Now that the weapons are silenced, and, given the fact that Israel’s aggression -- indiscriminately murdering people -- has come to an end, at least for the time being, it has become obligatory for me to look at the other side of the coin. I would like you to read this article as a cool-headed assessment of the share of Hamas in what happened in Gaza during the last week.
The expansion Israel has been performing since its establishment has not left much room for Palestinians as the indigenous people of the region to live in.
Given the fact that their living space is being contracted every day, and, moreover, they are forced to live in the regions that resemble an outdoor prison because of ongoing Israeli blockades, sieges and obstruction, Palestinians can naturally be expected to develop serious reactions against Israel. In the face of the Israeli aggression and destruction of the whole infrastructure of the region where they live without giving them any relief, Palestinians may quite understandably see their reactions evolve into rage and hatred against Israel. But all this cannot make us refrain from discussing at length the methods Hamas has been employing. Rather, for the security and future of innocent Palestinian people living in Gaza, it is essential that we discuss the rights and wrongs of Hamas, which is supposed to act in a more responsible and rational manner.
As is known, Hamas, established by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Muhammad Taha in 1987 during the First Intifada, has ideological roots with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Egypt. Thus, there is an ideological affinity between Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and Hamas. Unlike Fatah, Hamas does not accept that Israel has the right to exist, and it has been known mostly for its more radical and violent methods. During the period between 1993 and 2005, especially when Israel's unlawful and arrogant attitude had peaked, Hamas drew the international spotlight on itself with its militants performing suicide attacks against Israel's civilian targets. Due to these attacks, Hamas and its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, were declared as terrorist organizations by many countries, including the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan and Australia.
Since its establishment, Hamas has been able to attract financial backing not only from Iran but also from Saudi Arabia and other rich Arab countries. Still, Iran’s ideological, political and military influence over Hamas has always been more pronounced. It was a turning point for Hamas when it entered the elections, described as fair and fraud-free by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in 2005. These elections and their outcome served as a litmus test for the sincerity of Israel and international powers.
Previously, Hamas had to maintain close ties with Iran because there was no other alternative to it, but the 2005 elections gave it another option. Hamas was very successful all across Palestine, and it won the overwhelming majority in Gaza in 2006. But, sadly enough, it was considered legitimate for Hamas to enter elections, and its election victory came to be perceived as an illegitimate act. Thus, Israel and international powers rushed to redefine Hamas as a “terrorist organization” immediately after it secured democratic success by entering elections. By supporting Fatah against Hamas, Israel and Western powers have managed to divide the Palestinian administration.
Furthermore, the efforts by Turkey, being the sole democratic power in the region, to save Hamas from Iran's radical and pro-violence influence, hit a wall of prejudices and blindness from the international community. Thus, neither Israel, nor international powers or the dominant dynamics of Turkish domestic politics, helped Hamas proceed toward democracy. Thus, like the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, Hamas was pushed toward Iran in its search for support. And in return Iran did its best to use Hamas as concrete evidence of its Islamist claims and propaganda and recast it as a front force in its proxy war against Israel. Ahmet Davutoğlu's 2006 initiative to drive Hamas away from the vicious cycle of violence, terrorism and radicalism was denied support or tolerance. Thus, Hamas was left to the arms of Iran, which feeds on violence and tension.
After it was bereft of any reasonable and commonsensical treatment and forced to draw closer to non-systemic regimes like Iran, Hamas failed to properly divorce itself from violence and radicalism. This failure came at a price not only for Hamas, but also for all Gazans. Just like the struggle Dzhokhar Dudayev-led Chechnya fought against Russia with complete ignorance of power balances and the current asymmetry of powers, the Hamas-chosen way brought more sorrow, deprivation, destruction and death. The methods Hamas employed or was forced to employ paved the way for its being perceived as the oppressor or assailant, although it was the victim.
The foregoing criticisms are well meaning in that they seek to make Hamas reconsider its violent methods, which have made no positive contribution to the settlement of the Palestinian issue. These criticisms have the risk of offending our grieving Palestinian sisters and brothers, but this does not change the fact that Israel is an expansionist state, as seen on the map, and that Palestinians are right in their cause. Still, our sole intention is to see Hamas adopt a stance in which it can promote its rightful cause freely in the international arena, as Hamas is an undeniable actor in the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
(Bulent Kenes is a writer for Today’s Zaman where this article was published on Nov. 23, 2012)