Sunday, 4 January 2009

Hamas has failed – it is time they stepped down

Regardless of the outcome of the barbaric Israeli Operation Cast Lead, one thing is certain; it is high time for Hamas to step down as the keeper of Gaza. This is where people will object and remind us that they were democratically elected. My answer to that is: Yes, but they are incompetent.

Most of us in the Middle East still believe that incompetence is a trait exclusive to dictators such as Muammer Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Jamal Abdul Nasser. However modern history has proven that democracy and incompetent governance aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, George W Bush and Mikhail Saakashavili were both democratically elected and yet they are responsible for disastrous wars.

Clearly, Hamas has not mastered the art of politics, and as the veteran British journalist Robert Fisk recently noted, they do not have the military discipline of Hizbollah. Hamas also baulked at the opportunity of reconciliation that was brokered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last year and didn’t mend the relations with Fatah that may have allowed them to take partial control of the vital Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Then there was the audacity of Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas supreme leader, who called for the launch of a third intifada from exile in Syria.

Mashaal wakes up in the safety of Damascus, turns on the television, reads the paper and then says live on Al Jazeera TV – where else? – that “we want armed resistance, a military uprising to face the enemy”. Couldn’t he smuggle himself into the Gaza Strip to be with his resistance fighters?

That resistance has for many years been funded by donations from wealthy Arabs in the Gulf, among others to cover an annual budget that the US Council on Foreign Relations estimates at $70 million. Despite such sums, Hamas has hardly managed to amass a significant arsenal or military capabilities.

All it has to show after all this time and money is little more than long-range fireworks that it launches into neighbouring towns but which do more damage to its own image than to any infrastructure in Israel.

Ultimately Khaled Mashaal, who declared from Damascus that the resistance “has lost very few people” as the body count approached 434, displayed the same arrogance as the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who unashamedly declared only last Thursday that there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.

Many thought that Gaza and the West Bank were inseparable entities until Hamas’s bloody takeover of the Strip in the summer of 2007 damaged that notion. Their 18-month rule is marred by lawlessness, extra-judicial public killings and gang warfare that is more reminiscent of Somalia than a civilised state.

Time magazine reported on the violence that followed the takeover then: “Gangs have tossed enemies alive off 15-storey buildings, shot one another’s children and burst into hospitals to finish off wounded foes lying helplessly in bed.”

Last week, Taghreed El-Khodary of the New York Times reported that Hamas militants in civilian clothing again resorted to killing wounded former inmates of Gaza’s central jail who were accused of collaboration with the enemy. These unproved “collaborators” were executed in public even though Palestinian Human Rights groups repeatedly claim that “most of these people are completely innocent”. Hamas seems to be either unable or unwilling to stop such extrajudicial executions.

Additionally, on the first anniversary of Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, the Christian Science Monitor found a lack of medicines in hospitals as well as of clean drinking water in the territory, and raw sewage streaming into the sea. And this isn’t because Hamas’s dignity prevents it from meeting the enemy.

Hamas’s vast propaganda machine around the Arab world mysteriously fails to report on the meetings between its members and Israeli government representatives. For example, after a 90-minute meeting with an official from the Israeli state electricity company in order to sort out the town’s electricity needs, the Hamas-affiliated mayor of Qalqilya told the BBC about the meeting: “It was civil, without any problem between him and I.”

Where do you think Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in the Strip, gets his electricity from?

By any standards Hamas has failed miserably. It has failed in peace, failed in governance, and moreover failed in war. In addition to Hamas’s ambiguous political agenda, their goal seems to be resistance for the sake of resistance, a quagmire where the journey really is the destination. It is time for Khaled Mashaal to step down and allow more competent leaders to emerge before he causes even more damage to his cause. The question is if Hamas leaves, what is the alternative?

In fact, probably the only good thing that can be said about Hamas is that they are not Fatah.

This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Sunday January 4th 2008


Mohammed said...

I really liked the last sentence
"In fact, probably the only good thing that can be said about Hamas is that they are not Fatah."
Fatah is known for its corruption. Is there an alternative within Palestine, I think no.

What about foreign intervention, i think
Sryia- No
Iran- Big No
Hezbolla- No No
Joint GCC - Better (especially Saudi, UAE & Qatar)

Sultan Al-Qassemi said...

I like the idea of a GCC peace keeping force

Anonymous said...
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Jill said...

Thank you very much for writing this post. I hope it is alright for me to comment here. I read your column because it showed up on a citizen journalism project called Nowpublic. And that linked to The National.

I didn't know anything about the GCC and am curious as to why here in the West I've heard absolutely nothing - nor have I seen any mention of it until reading it here. I'm glad to learn of it now.

Again, thank you and be well.

Anonymous said...

Well Sultan, I agree with you. Of course I feel sorry for the spilling of innocent blood, but I also feel angry at the attitude of Hamas.

We all know Israeli government is acting like a bully. And the sensible thing is to avoid the bully as long as you are weak. First make yourself strong & capable enough. Our problem as a muslim nation is that we are wasting our energies on unimportant things when those energies should have been spent on more productive things, like education for example.

Looking forward to your next post :-)

Dovid said...

It is really such a pleasure to read a group of intelligent Muslim intellectuals discuss the problem without calling for Jewish blood. The only point I have to add to the discussion is in response to the remark about Israel as the "bully". The Government of Israel sometimes acts like a bully against its own people, as it did in evacuating Gaza, and more recently in Hebron and other places within Israel, but in this case it was merely reacting to Hamas, which has been bullying Israel for the past 8 years. This is clearly self defense, and long overdue.

TheHelpersHelper said...

They're better than Fatah, but you want them to step down. Lol.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid it won't work. I'm not at all happy with it. But I am of a small nation, who was for many hundreds of years sqeezed by mighty surrounding empires, and the history of my people tells me that nobody helps you for free.

As far as I can tell, there are political forces in the region interested in the instability in Gaza and Palestine in general. Also, the people in Gaza were tormented so badly for so long, that their psyche is badly damaged. IMO, this is the explanation for the support they provide for Hamas - whether you like it or not, I think this support exists.

IMO, this international financial crisis is a good thing. People tend to play games at the cost of other people's lifes only when times are good, but tend to become more humane and caring when they are struck by bad luck themselves. Maybe this crisis will motivate the Arabic states to work towards solving the palestinian problem once and for all, rather than perpetuating it as a constant threat to Israel's stability.

On the other hand, the political forces which work towards perpetuating the crisis in Gaza and Palestine are short-sighted and stupid. A dog barking at a lion is not a threat, it's an annoyance, which eventually meets an exaggerated reaction. But if Arab states manage to become a critical provider of goods and/or services, their grip on Israeli policy and economy would be much stronger. IMO this is the direction Arab leaders should take, not a perpetual state of conflict in the region.

I remember a mongol story, and hope you don't mind me posting it on your blog - I think Arab leaders in the region shoujld think about it.

Once the sun and the wind decided to enter a contest, to see which of them is stronger. As they thought about a challenge, they saw a man walking. Wind says to the Sun: he who is able to make him take off his coat wins. Agreed? Sun agrees, so the Wind starts to blow. The stronger the wind blows, the stronger the man holds to his coat. Even as the man tumbles in the wind, he doesn't let go of the coat. The Wind gives up. The Sun just starts shining as bright as possible. After a few minutes of warming up after the strong wind before, the man takes off his coat.