In his speech before the Israeli Knesset in 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed his concern about the growing security threats from the Gaza Strip. He warned of the phenomenon of suicide bombings, which had begun a year earlier against the backdrop of the terrorist attack in the Ibrahimi Mosque. In reference to Yahya Ayyash, a young Muslim Brotherhood affiliate who was considered the mastermind behind suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, and whose ghost continued to haunt the Israeli authorities, Rabin noted “I am afraid that Ayyash is sitting among us in the Knesset”.
With regards to recent events in Gaza, we must look to the modern history of the conflict to understand what is going on. The idea of “terrorizing the enemy”, which Hamas’ leaders use today to justify putting civilians at risk, was born more than two decades ago. At that time, Yayha Ayyash, nicknamed the “engineer”, and his colleagues in the “Brotherhood Military Commission”, later renamed the al-Qassam Brigades, decided that the shortest path to the liberation of the occupied territories was by resorting to means of suicide, in order to inflict the maximum damage upon their opponents’ daily lives. Ayyash was a bomb-maker and between 1992 and 1996, his devices caused the injury and death of hundreds of Israelis, both civilians and military personnel, while the lives of hundreds of Palestinians were lost in successive retaliations.
Hamas went on to spend nearly two decades carrying out suicide bombings, and what has been the result? Up until the end of 2008, Palestinian factions carried out more than 170 suicide operations. These operations killed more than 800 Israelis, but subsequent retaliations resulted in the deaths of more than 7,500 Palestinians. In other words, a hundred Palestinians were sacrificed in order to kill one Israeli.
In a United Nations report focusing on the second intifada’s impact on the Palestinians, only a small number of Palestinians died in the first weeks of the demonstrations in 2000, which were intended to replicate the 1987 intifada. However, Hamas and other factions decided to militarize the intifada through the use of suicide attacks, costing the Palestinians nearly 2,000 lives in less than two years.
In his press conference from Cairo on Monday, Khaled Mishal, head of the Hamas political bureau since 1996, boasted of his movement’s resistance to Israeli attacks, and with a smile said that Israel is the one calling for a truce, not the people of Gaza. This is despite the fact that a hundred Palestinians have died and what remains of the dilapidated infrastructure there has been destroyed. What was particularly noticeable in Mishal’s speech was his assertion that the region has changed after the Arab Spring, calling for some countries to review their positions.
Unfortunately, Hamas under Mishal’s leadership is known for having close relations with men like Bashar al-Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, Muammar Gaddafi, Imad Mughniyah and other infamous characters. Nowadays, rather than Hamas attempting to atone for its subordination to the Syrian-Iranian axis, some in the movement want to continue its false “resistance” rhetoric, even after the magnitude of crimes committed in its name has been exposed. For example, from Khartoum, Mishal vowed to avenge Sudan for the Israeli attack there. Yet this attack targeted Iranian weapons that were being smuggled through Sudan, something the Hezbollah media acknowledged itself, and even a number of Hamas figures have admitted to using Fajr-5 missiles, a model most probably supplied from Iran through Hezbollah.
There is no doubt that the region has witnessed a change, as Mishal pointed out, but the fact is that he and his party are not part of this change. His moqawama rhetoric and “resistance” logic, which is in fact terrorism in disguise, belong to a bygone era. In a speech before the Justice and Development Party conference in Turkey last month, Mishal said: “There is no contradiction in our adoption of democracy and reform, and our support of the resistance”. However, it is clear that there is a contradiction between this statement and Hamas’ alliance with two regimes that have undermined the rights of their citizens and brutalized them.
It is no coincidence that the jihadist groups sabotaging the truce in Gaza are Iranian funded. However, at a time when Hamas is supposed to be pursuing Salafi groups in Gaza, the movement did not condemn their attacks, rather its leaders talked about the victory that was achieved through the missile fire. There is no doubt that igniting the Gaza front directly serves as a means of distracting attention away from what is happening in Syria, where every day for the past two years more have died than the current Gaza death toll. Here I do not mean to belittle the deaths of those in Gaza, but those who want to draw attention to the victims in Gaza must also draw attention to the victims in Syria who are falling at the hands of Hamas’ former allies. Furthermore, we see Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and likewise Hezbollah, warning against arming the Syrian opposition at a time when Hezbollah is boasting of supporting the Hamas “resistance” with arms.
The leaders of “the resistance” have committed grave errors against regional peace, and have caused irresponsible destruction to the countries of the region. They have jeopardized the future of the Palestinians in order to serve the interests of malicious regimes. Despite all this there has not been any sort of review of the Hamas leadership, even though its key figures today have become leaders at the expense of the blood of unarmed civilians.
In one of his final interviews, Ayyash said: “We need to exert more pressure, make the cost of the occupation that much more expensive in human lives, that much more unbearable”. However, the result has been the opposite; life for the Palestinians has become unbearable, while the leaders of “the resistance” have spent their days in the hospitality of Damascus and the southern suburbs of Beirut.