Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Hamas and the Iranian life-line | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Has Iran begun to reap the fruits of its support for Hamas? Some observers believe that the recent conversion of several Gazans to Shiism represents one of these fruits. The Al-Arabiya website, citing a report published by the Arsiran website – which is affiliated to a number of conservative groups in Iran – published a story claiming that the Shiite doctrine is beginning to spread in Gaza and that the number [of converts] reaches into the hundreds. Abdul Raheem Hamad, a Gazan convert, also expressed the same point [in this report].

Anybody familiar with Hamas literature and its intellectual roots cannot imagine that the group could be content with the spread of Shiism, let alone that it would accept “Shiite missionary activity” in the Gaza Strip, as a trade-off for Iranian support. If that is the case how is it possible that Hamas was not aware that the preaching of the Shiite doctrine in the Gaza Strip would most certainly have been one of the hidden agendas that the “ideologically-driven” Iranian government aims to fulfill?

Through simple arithmetic the hundreds of Palestinians who have become Shiite will come to represent thousands and then tens of thousands and they will demand a political and sectarian presence. This converted group will represent a thorn in the side of the sectarian harmony known by the Palestinian people. This was emphasized by the “convert” Abdel Raheem Hamad when he said that Palestinian Shiites will play a prominent role in running this region in the future!

It is within the rights of the regional states to be concerned about Hamas-Iranian rapprochement, which led to the strengthening of Iranian influence in an ultra-sensitive region and then to Shiite missionary work. However the pivotal question here is: did Hamas turn to Iran out of choice? It is well known that Hamas is not accepted by the key states of the Middle East even though it surpasses all other Palestinian organizations in terms of popularity, organization and military strength, including Fatah. However due to this lukewarm relationship with Hamas, the Middle Eastern states refrain from [providing] the organization with financial support. Consequently, Iran exploited the opportunity and filled the vacuum and so Hamas has been suckled by the Iranian breast until it is able to cover its obligations to its own members, and the Gaza Strip which it governs, and there is no solution to this except to wean Hamas from this Iranian support.

But weaning Hamas from Iran requires the provision of an alternative [to Tehran] and at present we do not expect to find any alternative. Despite the fact that Hamas surpasses [other organizations] in terms of popularity and military strength, the Palestinian Authority, which is affiliated to the Fatah movement, continues to be recognized internationally. This takes us back to square one which is the continuation of Iranian support [for Hamas], and the continuation of Iran’s political and doctrinal influence [on the Gaza Strip], unless the regional states take it upon themselves to deny Iran this opportunity by establishing and normalizing relations with Hamas and pushing it towards [normal] political operation by allowing the organization to obtain its political share, to be determined by the forthcoming legislative and presidential elections.

Let us go back to the Shiites in the Gaza Strip. After my last article in which I warned against the Iranian expansion in Egypt, and after others also warned against this and against Iran’s missionary activities that resulted in the conversion of hundreds of Egyptians to Shiism, Shiite intellectuals objected and asked: is it not Iran’s right to “preach” its ideology and engage in the marketing of ideas and doctrines? Fundamentally the answer is yes but we said “no” to Iran because it always plays the tune of Islamic unity and claims there is no difference between Sunnis and Shiites, but if that was the case then there would be no need for allocating large sums [of money] to missionary activity and “correcting” the beliefs of the Egyptians and the Palestinians, not to mention the vile exploitation of Hamas’ need by stabbing the Palestinian people in the back and shattering their sectarian unity.