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Hamas: A Crisis of Leadership | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What is Hamas lacking?

Is it lacking a Hassan Nasrallah of its own, i.e. one leader in control? The movement is certainly not short of figures. There is Khalid Mishal who manages the Hamas movement by phone from the Syrian capital of Damascus where he lives. There is Osama Hemdan who is the most eloquent of Hamas’ leaders, whose personal safety cannot be guaranteed and is currently living away from Palestine in Lebanon. There is also Mahmud Zahar, Mousa Abu Marzuq, as well as others. Let us not forget Ismail Haniyeh, the most prominent symbol of Hamas in Gaza, who is personally involved in this war – he is not the movement’s commander but just one member of the leadership.

The multiplicity of the Hamas leadership is its weakness. On one hand, perhaps it has protected the movement’s leaders from being targeted by Israel following the assassination of its previous leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. On the other hand however, a number of Hamas figures have become far more renowned than members of other Palestinian factions owing to their rhetorical abilities and charismatic personalities. But they have all failed to unite behind one leader.

This void, whether deliberate or not, has become more apparent during the current crisis, with the movement failing to produce a name comparable to that of the Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose name lends weight to his party. He has become an important leader due to the strength of his personality, even to those who disagree with his ideology, position and party. The proof of this is that he has been forced to intervene personally to rescue the Hamas leadership in this war.

We do not want to get involved in internal divisions that have divided the movement in two; one camp in Damascus making decisions from afar and the other camp in Gaza which does not have full authority over its cadres. This war has revealed Hamas’s different faces and its occasional contradictory positions.

Egypt’s position is clear; it deals with the Hamas leadership in Damascus, not with the Gaza leadership that has lost a significant amount of official and popular Egyptian support following its unjustifiable attack on Egypt. Before this controversy, parties within Fatah also spoke out against Hamas leaders.

Today, attacks have been launched against the Saudi Foreign Minister [Prince Saud al Faisal] and the Arab League Secretary-General [Amr Moussa] because they took action within the UN to push the Security Council to pass a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire. Instead of thanking these two figures and the Arab delegation, the Hamas camp in Damascus attacked them because it was not consulted. It failed to show any consideration for the safety of the people in Gaza.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Hamas’s attack on Saudi Arabia will cause it to lose all of its support since the Saudis endured the political recklessness of some Hamas leaders who have foreign ties in order to avoid any dispute with them.

These peripheral battles that come at a time when Hamas is in need of everybody’s support demonstrate the extent of the crisis of leadership and the lack of a commander to take final decisions.

It is odd that the Hamas leadership is calling for an end to the crimes being committed by the Israeli killing machine and the genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza, and is condemning the Security Council’s procrastination. Yet when an Arab delegation together with a number of Arab ministers worked continuously for days in New York, pushing for a resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire, a number of Hamas officials attacked these people.

Contradictions, complete disregard for people’s safety, and political games for the sake of satisfying allies, have divided the Palestinians and even Hamas itself.