Should Hamas be ousted?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Gaza’s Hamas rulers to be “brought down“, his strongest call yet for their removal.

Hamas has turned into a repressive movement. For Gazans, they are now deprived of free land as they are locked by Israel preventing them from free movement. From Hamas they are subjected to dictatorship as none can voice opposition without reprisal. As such Hamas shouldn’t stay in power till it ends its term. It was elected by the Palestinians when Fatah grew unpopular because of corruption. Hamas promised to clean the mess. To its surprise it found itself forming a government while Fatah humiliatingly lost power. The euphoria of Hamas success was thwarted by international response that required it to recognise Israel. But Hamas kept to its “three nos” to Israel: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.

The differences between Hamas and Fatah leading to total rupture between them is a signal that national unity is far from being reality in a very small land with very huge problems. Fatah has scored many points on Hamas by keeping having international support while Hamas international status is declining, among other things through isolation. While Fatah’s president Abbas is seen holding talks and carrying normal political activities, Hamas leader is seen foaming with anger, holding rallies and giving speeches that now sound empty to the hard hit Gazans.

Hamas is still holding the old principle of the “three nos” to Israel. This has put it even more isolated as the international community is giving its backing to the relatively moderate Fatah movement. Hamas has the drawback of having purely an Islamist agenda regarded by many as an encouragement to Islamic extremism calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. As such Hamas looks a threat to Israel as well as to liberal Palestinians who seek to deal with the Palestinian issue in light of international development playing on flexibility rather than on rigid dogma.

Today Hamas is also faced with other nos from the Gazans who’ve seen their living standards getting far worse than when they were under the direct rule of Israel before the establishment of the Palestinian authorities that recognised Israel and than when they were under the corrupt rule of Fatah. It should be both democratic and pragmatic by allowing the Gazans to choose who should rule them, Hamas or Fatah through fair elections.

Fatah looks more practical as it has managed to get international support sparing Palestinians in the West Bank the suffering currently undergone by their countrymen in Gaza. The reports show that Gaza is currently in dire crises at all levels. Palestinians there are relatively living in a collective prison. They aren’t allowed to get out Gaza because of Israel blockade. They can’t get access to basic commodities at fair prices and quantity. Politicians can have long-term projects and can wait for their policies to deliver. They equate them with the future of the state. Ordinary people seek the immediacy of the action. Gazans are now one of the poorest in the Middle East, if not in the world. Slogans are no longer an impetus to continue their struggle against Israeli occupation and totally acquiescing to whatever measure undertaken by Hamas at the expense of their welfare.

But as Hamas still have its supporters, it should be dealt with through negotiation. It isn’t just a political party as traditionally known in democratic countries. It is a movement with heavily armed militias. It won’t be easy to solve it just by a decree. Hamas should be democratic. So far if failed to deliver on its promises because of international isolation, Israel blockade, deep differences with Fatah amounting to exchanges of fire and deaths on both sides. It should agree to the holding of elections that diffuse tensions in this volatile region. As it maintains its legitimacy because it won the elections, Gaza and the West Bank will remain apart delaying the setup of a future Palestinian state. The suffering of the Gazans will continue in the face of intransigence on all sides. As many Gazans are ready to leave Gaza, this shows many Gazans want Hamas to go. Hamas surely won’t go as it can be under pressure from other sides like Iran that want it to remain a thorn in the side of Israel. Israel’s nightmare is Iran having nuclear weapons. Iran’s nightmare is Israel dealing a heavy blow to Hamas that can put an end to its influence in this region through Hamas.

As Hamas is growing unpopular, it shouldn’t prolong the suffering of the Gazans. It should agree to early elections although it knows it can lose them. This can diffuse the tensions in the region. Hamas staying in power in Gaza will simply create two sections of Palestinians, those under the rule of Fatah relatively enjoying normal living standards while those under the rule of Hamas are daily struggling to make ends meet. The situation in Gaza will just create more rift among the Palestinians who because of the history of their struggle and suffering need a united political front that take into accounts the current international reality and not keep living on dogmas that can never materialise. Hamas’s three nos to Israel and its intransigence internally especially with its opponent Fatah will just lead to its humiliating downfall in future elections. Hamas need to be wise before, not after, the event. It should at least hold a referendum to ask the Gazans if they still want it to be in charge of their day-to day destiny.

Can Hamas go? Hamas can go as long as it is let to go by outside players. As a thick-skinned political movement, it won’t look to the suffering of the Gazans, it will continue to put the blame just on Israel the occupier and Fatah “the traitor”.

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2 Comments

  1. Looney said,

    November 16, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Abdelilah, I am curious how you think of Lebanon and Jordan as they interact with the Palestinians. My understanding is that an illegal immigrant in the US will get better treatment than a Palestinian in either Lebanon or Jordan, but that is just based on hearsay.

  2. Abdelilah Boukili said,

    November 16, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I agree with you that Palestinians are paid just lip services in many Arab countries, especially in rich ones. Those living in Lebanon are considered less than second class citizens as they are denied many rights liker getting a job. They live in segregated camps, the most famous of which is Nahr al-Bared. see the link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahr_al-Bared


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