ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Hamas Ideals the Core Issue, Not Gaza

Hamas Ideals the Core Issue, Not Gaza

1 August 2014

By Yisrael Ne'eman.

In the overall Middle East context Gaza is not the central issue. Hamas is a serious terrorist threat but without the military potential to conquer Israel. A century from now when the history of the Islamic Awakening (or if we buy into the western media label "Arab Spring") is written Israel's battles with Hamas in Gaza will be recalled as an insignificant front in the global Islamist onslaught. Hamas will certainly be remembered for its well thought out antisemitic, anti-western, anti-secular Arab nationalist and Jihadi Covenant. All the Islamic movements follow in its footsteps. Hamas is in the theological and ideological vanguard of fanatical Islam even should its military power be quite limited. Hamas strength is in the hate filled consciousness it raises amongst millions of Muslims world-wide and not in its immediate military-political success.

Due to its commitment to Jihad Hamas failed to build a functioning mini-state in Gaza despite aid from Iran, Turkey and Qatar. With 500 - 1000 tunnels on the Rafiah border with Egypt importing military contraband and civilian goods into Gaza the supposed Israeli blockade over the last seven years was an abject failure in the political, economic and military spheres. Instead of aiding its population with construction materials (brought in legally overland or underground) Hamas built rockets to fire at Israel's cities and dug tunnels into the Negev in preparation for its next war with the Jewish State. Hamas, like the Fatah led Palestinian Authority before it, could have built a modern port and up to seven industrial zones to supply work and the hope of a peaceful future both with Israel and Egypt. No recognition of Israel was necessary. Instead Hamas, led by Ismail Haniya, Khalid Mashal, Mohammed Deif and others made a conscious decision in choosing Jihad. All those hudnas (Islamic cease-fires) by definition were instituted to rearm, retrain and restart the conflict. One must give Hamas credit for never veering from its declared goal of Israeli and Jewish destruction.

On the global Islamic battlefield Hamas holds one tiny sector against Israel. Although a military failure Hamas is an inspiration to Islamists everywhere embodying the example of an unyielding commitment to Jihad regardless of the cost. The real story of the last few years is not Hamas but the other Islamic uprisings. Hamas had its days of glory in 2007 when overthrowing the PA in Gaza.

The Middle East will continue to be transformed in face of the Jihadi onslaught. The big story of 2014 is the caliphate declared by ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) sweeping though eastern Syria and western Iraq. According to the New York Times they are beginning to develop a state infrastructure including a tax system, municipal services and a judiciary (Sharia Law) alongside its Sunni Jihadi military. There are no real borders even if a preliminary map is said to have been issued by these al-Qaeda types. Assad's Syria barely exists and can be expected to mesh with Lebanon in the long run even if unofficially. Both are Iranian proxies as is Nuri al-Maliki's eastern Arab Shiite Iraq rump "state" along Tehran's western border.

Three years after Gaddafi's overthrow Libya is plagued by never ending tribal, regional and factional violence. There is no Libyan state but just a land mass. The only possible unifying factor is Islam, Sharia Law and its export through Jihad. None should be surprised should an Islamist surge sweep Libya. Egypt may be ruled by a secular military regime at the moment (despite supposed elections) after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood led Morsi regime but Islamism on the Nile is far from defeated.

Iran had its revolution in 1979 and continues to play an activist role in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Other non-Arab Muslim players include Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the Americans complete their pullout from the former, the Taliban is stepping up its attacks on government forces and can be expected to retake the country in the not too distant future. The border with Pakistan barely exists, Taliban forces operate on both sides and once the US is gone cross border raids into Pakistan will be easier and more successful. A full erasure of the mountainous demarcation is not far off. There is no guarantee that Pakistan will not fall to an extremist Islamist regime in the future.

The analysis given decades ago by the Jihadi extremists Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam was and continues to be correct. The Muslim world is no place for western imposed nation states. The fulfillment of the Islamic mission can only come about through a full unification of the entire Muslim world. If this cannot be done peacefully then it will happen by force. The Hamas Covenant makes this clear in Articles 1 – 8. Article 11 speaks of the global need for Jihad to recapture all Muslim lands (waqf) and defines Islam as the only acceptable nationalism as opposed to the secular variety. All attempts at peace making are condemned (Art. 13 and 32).

So back to Hamas itself. It does not matter if the organization will suffer a total defeat and even be replaced by Fatah in Gaza. Such an unreasonable outcome is not expected, Fatah is still reviled by Gazans while Hamas retains a fair amount of support. Whether in power or not, Hamas does not accept state boundaries either. Israel is considered illegitimate and is to be conquered for Islam while Egypt is expected to return to the Islamist fold (through elections or otherwise). Hamas is not only a political/military movement, it is an ideal not confined to a specific land mass.

In the face of a supposed "defeat" what choices are open to Hamas? The moderate option is to buy into the Egyptian – Fatah/PA cease-fire proposal expounded by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. To do so infers surrender to the ascendency of Palestinian Arab nationalism over Islam and could lead to plans for a forced demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. This does not appear acceptable even if Hamas has its back to the wall. A moderate Islamist option is an alignment with Turkey's Islamist PM Recep Erdogan but then a continual Jihad is out of the question – the Turks are a NATO member alongside Europe and the US. Turning to Iran has been done before and may have temporary advantages but Sunni fundamentalist Hamas cannot betray its principles through a long term alliance with Shiite Iran.

The most radical option is some form of loyalty to ISIL. In the immediate future Hamas could realign itself with its most religiously fanatical right wing opposition. Theoretically ISIL claims Gaza and the entire Land of Israel (or Palestine) as its own even if its most recent "maps" do not indicate as such. Any true Islamic Caliphate must expand to include all regions ever captured by Islam. Would Hamas give up its independence for such an alliance? ISIL is busy setting up their own state in the midst of conflict with Shiite Iraq to the east and what remains of Assad's Syria to the west. ISIL cannot be of much help at the outset, but Hamas will enjoy an ideological boost. Secondly, one would expect the Islamic Jihad, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and ISIL opposition groups in Gaza to rally around the black and green flags together. Should ISIL consolidate power within a year or so, Hamas could rebound faster than expected. Moving from an extreme to a more fanatical position undermines the Fatah dominated PA and President Abbas, the Egyptian military secularists led by Gen. a-Sisi (sworn enemies of Hamas), the moderate Jordanian regime and joint American/European policy objectives. Outmaneuvered are the "practical" Islamist Turkish and Qatari regimes.

Finally Israel may be left with no policy options besides some form of "conquest" of the Gaza Strip, its accompanying re-occupation of Gaza for at least a year, steadily increasing casualties, international criticism and condemnation. After all, wide ranging discussions of Gaza Strip demilitarization are much positive sounding verbiage. Question – Who is to physically go into Gaza combing every structure (including UN facilities), bunker and sewer line? Is this job being left to the US/NATO, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, the UN or any combination of the above mentioned? Will Israel be involved or need to take action on its own? Somehow volunteers for a forced Hamas demilitarization will be hard to find.

Hamas remains the ideologically pure hero never having compromised its ideals. If pressured into accepting the Fatah/PA-Egyptian position demanding a cease-fire and some form of demilitarization Hamas will in all honesty explain the act as a hudna and certainly resist any attempts at being disarmed. Hamas ideals are deeply embedded in much of the Muslim world. As such one way or another Hamas will certainly live to fight another day, whether in Gaza or elsewhere.