A deal signed Tuesday between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas may or may not herald the end to the Gazan fuel shortage as discussed in my previous blog post on the subject, but a recent television interview with Hamas’ Minister of the Interior and of National Security Fathi Hammad offers a glimpse into the strain the situation was causing within Hamas:
(The interview, which was conducted on March 23 for Egyptian Al-Hekma TV and translated by MEMRI, has been making its rounds on many popular blogs, including Andrew Bolt’s.)
There’s a lot going on in the video. First of all, Hammad is simply unhinged. Even coming from a television culture that is not known for its soft-spoken or subtle qualities, Hammad is shouting and ranting his way through his points.
It’s interesting to recall what is sending him into such paroxysms – he is demanding that Egypt restore Hamas’ “right” to illegally smuggle subsidised fuel, intended for Egyptians, into Gaza rather than pay market prices for them as Egypt is now demanding after shutting down the smuggling operations. These fuels, it should be noted, were then taxed and sold as a revenue source for Hamas. Hammad is indignantly and angrily demanding that Egypt – which has its own very severe economic and fiscal problems – allow Hamas to continue engaging in a kind of theft from the Egyptian government.
And what about his arguments? First, Hammad makes the case that the population of Gaza represents only two percent of the population of Egypt, diminishing the requirements of Gaza compared to Egypt’s overall energy needs. (This is particularly insensitive to the fact that Egyptians themselves are enduring a lasting fuel shortage, which is beginning to create shortages in other crucial items, such as food).
He also appeals to Egyptians on idealistic grounds, but not out of humanitarianism – rather because Gaza is, in his telling, the “spearhead” of the jihad movement. We’re not begging for charity, Hammad essentially insists, but asking for material resources to continue to wage war against Israel.
Finally, much has been made on Hammad’s last point of appeal to Egypt, which is to argue that most Palestinians aren’t really Palestinians all, but Egyptians and Saudis by origin and as such deserve their support as part of one big extended family.
“Allah be praised, we all have Arab roots, and every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots – whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties. So where is your affection and mercy?…
Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called Al-Masri [“Egyptian”]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.
Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called Al-Masri, whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are a part of you.”
Don’t expect Hammad’s take on the roots of the Palestinian people to be entertained by the UN’s exclusive Palestinian refugee organ, UNRWA, or anyone else in the international community, anytime soon.
Ironically, Hammad views are somewhat similar to claims made by US Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich back in December.
Gingrich called Palestinians “an invented people” who are actually “in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community” – views that created some controversy at the time he said them.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the new PA-Hamas fuel deal is to import Israeli fuel for Gaza’s power plant – and to include elaborate mechanisms so that Hamas does not have any direct contact with the Israeli company. This again contradicts the oft-repeated lie that the the Gaza fuel crisis is somehow caused by the Israeli blockade.
– Ahron Shapiro