There is good reason for being sceptical of reports suggesting Hamas is shifting from armed resistance to non-violent resistance and will settle for a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders.
For instance, in an article by the Guardian‘s Phoebe Greenwood – run in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday – Taher al-Nounu, a spokesperson for Hamas PM Ismail Haniya said: “Violence is no longer the primary option but if Israel pushes us, we reserve the right to defend ourselves with force.”
Greenwood wrote that: “The announcement on Sunday does not qualify as a full repudiation of violence, but marks a step away from violent extremism by the Hamas leadership towards the more progressive Islamism espoused by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.”
It is a mystery exactly how Greenwood could interpret the statement by Haniya’s spokesperson as more than mere semantics, or indicating that it will lead to Hamas’ acceptance of Israel.
As Greenwood herself acknowledged in the original article – but which the Sydney Morning Herald cut – Haniya told an adoring crowd of 100,000 Gazans on December 13 at a celebration for the terrorist organisation’s 24th anniversary:
“We affirm that armed resistance is our strategic option and the only way to liberate our land from the [Mediterranean] sea to the River [Jordan]. God willing, Hamas will lead the people… to the uprising until we liberate Palestine, all of Palestine”.
The quote offered to Greenwood falls into a much-loved tactic by various Palestinian leaders over the years to espouse non-violence and a two-state solution when speaking in English to Western audiences and the polar opposite in Arabic back home. Indeed, all the evidence would indicate that this is likely what is going on now.
Hopefully there are some Hamas members with good graphic design skills who can Photoshop the logo [top left] used to publicise the anniversary celebration – a map of pre-1948 Palestine in the background and a rifle emerging from the Dome of the Rock in the foreground.
Perhaps we should also interpret the press release put out by Iz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’ armed wing, boasting of its “achievements” since 1987 that its members have killed 1,365 Israelis, wounded 6,411 others in 1,117 attacks, carried out 87 suicide bombings and fired 11,093 rockets at Israeli targets as drawing a line in the sand.
Now that Hamas has renounced violence they won’t mind the seizure on December 18 of home made bombs in the Sinai that the Egyptian army said was destined for Hamas’ military wing in Gaza. The bomb factories that intelligence reports say Hamas is building in the Sinai Desert will now of course be abandoned.
And Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal will now have to break the promise he made in September after the prisoner swap deal was concluded to “take another Shalit captive, and another Shalit, and another Shalit”.
Suggestions of Hamas moderation received a boost on Saturday from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In an interview with Euronews, Abbas said that as part of negotiations for implementing a Palestinian unity deal “Hamas agreed with us that resistance will be popular and adopt peaceful ways, rather than military resistance.”
Considering that the mutual suspicion Hamas and Fatah share for each other’s promises has prevented them implementing the unity deal they signed in May 2011, ambiguous statements by Hamas should be taken with the proverbial.
– Allon Lee