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Hamas’s Lost Identity
Ismail Haniyeh (Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hamas’s Lost Identity

Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, September 25

Hamas presents itself as a Palestinian resistance movement against the Israeli occupation. It repeatedly declares its refusal to recognize Israel and has always criticized the Palestine Liberation Organization for signing the Oslo Accords. Despite its rejection of Oslo, however, and after Israel assassinated both its leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, the movement decided to participate in the 2006 legislative elections and won in a landslide it had not expected. Subsequently, in 2007, it staged a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority and seized the Gaza Strip by force, ushering in an era of Palestinian division that is still hanging over the heads and hearts of the Palestinian people. Hamas refuses to recognize the Oslo Accords and Israel, but by participating in the 2006 elections, which were mandated by the Oslo Accords, it de facto recognized Israel. Indeed, Ismail Haniyeh formed the “second reconciliation government,” which maintained security coordination and direct communication with the Israelis. When PA President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the launching of Hamas rockets at Israeli civilians, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar criticized the PA. However, when it was convenient for Hamas to reach a ceasefire with Israel, the same al-Zahar reprimanded smaller organizations, like the Islamic Jihad, for launching rockets toward Israel. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is demanding an end to the division in Palestinian society while it appears to be the biggest beneficiary. More than 70% of the population of Gaza is poor, living life without electricity and potable water while Haniyeh travels on a private plane and lives the life of wealthy heads of state in Doha and Istanbul. Both of his children have turned into wealthy businessmen who hold Turkish passports. While they go about their travels claiming to represent the Palestinian people, they are the ones who have launched rivalry and chaos within Palestine – much more, in fact, than Israel did. Hamas emerged as a resistance force to the Israeli occupation but came to see the preservation of Palestinian suffering as its only way forward. Hamas leaders talk a lot about Palestinian reconciliation but spend their careers increasing divisions and hatred in Palestinian society. Hamas does not want elections because it knows it won’t win them. When will the Palestinian Spring, which will put an end to all of this, finally come? – Abeer Darwish (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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