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Hamas and Raising Slogans - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Are there any social or ideological slogans that have not been contaminated by political calculations at some point during the process? Can one claim that holy or profane action exists in politics or is politics another field altogether where morality and principles do not apply?

Everybody claims to be a person of principle and to have political prestige whilst practicing politics, which is immersed in the calculations and tactics of loss and gain.

Let us look at take some of the numerous examples; Hamas, for instance, from the outset has acted as a representative of Palestinian purity in the world of resistance and as a divine representative of the Palestinian cause. From the beginning, Hamas suggested that it was different and superior to the stupidity of Palestinian struggle movements that deal with the cause from an earthly perspective in contrast to Hamas, which deals with matters from a celestial standpoint and with a pure soul, in the words of Abdullah Azzam who was one of the founders of Hezbollah and who wrote ‘Hamas: Historical Roots and the Charter.’ For a long time, Hamas continued to use this kind of discourse, benefiting from the pure revolutionary portrayal of its symbols such as that of Yahya Ayyash, nicknamed ‘the Engineer’, who became a legend as he wore his Palestinian keffiyeh and deceived the Israeli enemy. This is the case with every “pure” movement that must create its own legends and symbols.

After the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Fatah movement returned to Gaza and the West Bank through the Oslo Accords (1993), and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas further elucidated its distinction from the contaminated political course and stressed its loyalty to the pure Islamic Palestinian revolution and not to the Fatah revolution and secular movements that lack the light of religion. Hamas played the role of the armed opponent that stood against any agreement or negotiation reached by the Palestinian Authority with the Israelis, accusing Arafat’s associates of being traitors and guardians of Israeli security.

Not long after its victory in the legislative elections in January 2006 and its assumption of the premiership with President Mahmoud Abbas, who sponsors negotiation and peace with Israel; Hamas executed a coup and took over Gaza based on the pretext of purity of the revolution. After a change in circumstances since Hamas now has real power in its hands and Olmert’s government has shown determination in carrying out a strong military strike against the state of Hamas in Gaza, Said Siyam, Hamas Interior Minister and strongman, threatened Fatah’s groups that launched rockets into Israeli settlements. Those who launched rockets against Israel, who were formerly known as “Mujahideen” in the language of Hamas, are now harmful to national interests. Siyam was praised by the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for his rationality.

Has the government of Hamas taken over the role of Israel’s guardian from Fatah?

The truth is that Hamas does not protect Israel just as Fatah never acted as a guard for Israel. These are smear campaigns aimed at embarrassing and tarnishing the opponent. These are accusations of “morality” in a world of politics that is only concerned with interests as mentioned before.

As such, Syria, the country of resistance, which described its opponents in Arab countries as “products of Israel” and not real men, is today “trotting” towards Israel, in the words of Nizar Qabbani and other Arab intellects and writers who today remain silent over Syria’s dash. This can all be understood under the banner of “political deceit” that is common in our Arab region. The same can be said about Iran and the Khomeini revolution, which accuses whoever merely mentions America or Israel in public, and stirs up conflict everywhere based on this and underhandedly does everything that is dictated to it by Iranian interests but uses a different language with the West during roundtable discussions.

Neither Syria nor Hamas nor Iran is blamed if “morality” plays a part in their political discourse and if they follow the concepts of good and evil and right and wrong in achieving their political interests. Instead it is those who believe the propaganda and in the sincerity of politics and politicians towards moral content who are blamed. All countries, organizations and parties − from America in the West to our flourishing countries and parties in the Middle East to the East where the former Soviet Union that once preoccupied the world with its slogans about social justice and the workers’ revolution − did not in any way share this kind of extremism whereby state interests were endangered.

It is a historical common practice that political interests are prioritized before raising any slogans regardless of what they represent. The more that this or that party or state talks about slogans the more one should realize that this clamor merely conceals another movement that contradicts these slogans!

Historically speaking, we can find a lot of evidence that verifies this everlasting truth that interests are more important than slogans. When the Ayyubid ruler Al Kamil (1180-1238) conflicted with his brothers Al Muazzam and Al Ashraf, the nephews of Salahuddin, over power of course, Al Kamil sought the help of the crusade emperor Fredrick II at the expense of his brothers. The deal involved the Muslim king ceding Jerusalem to Frederick II. According to historians, the two leaders reached a deal in 1229.

When Andalusia was on the verge of falling as a result of the devastating military campaigns launched by Christian rulers in Spain before the fall of Granada in 1492, the Muslims of Andalusia quickly turned towards the Ottomans and Mamluks in Istanbul and Cairo for help after they had lost all hope in the exhausted countries of the Arab Maghreb. The Sultan of the Mamluks did nothing but send a threatening message to King Ferdinand whilst the Ottoman sultan apologized as he was preoccupied with his war with his Mamluk opponents who threatened his kingdom, and his dissident brother. He was satisfied with sending a few ships to take part in a fruitless military skirmish. Meanwhile, some European kings stood by the Ottoman sultan during his wars against some emirates or European kings in the hope that they would benefit or out of fear that they were also under threat; in either case, it was in their interest to take part.

If we look at modern history, Iran relinquished its support of some groups in the Gulf after it saw that there were no benefits in having tense relations with some of the Gulf countries; it left those who believed in the purity of its slogans to meet their fate. Perhaps this is what will happen to some of those who raise the revolutionary slogans of Iran today if the Iranian state sees that its interests lie in deactivating or changing these slogans. When a conflict erupted between the government of Azerbaijan and the Armenian secessionists, the Iranian government stood by the Armenian Christian movement against the Azerbaijani government that represents a nation with a Shia majority. The reason behind this is that Iran took its own interests into consideration.

Every revolution or political moral movement begins vigorously and defiantly, eradicating anything in its path that advocates a different discourse because it is a movement that wants to wipe the slate clean and establish a new dynamic in history. Then after the waves of the revolution settle within the core of society and within the contents of political and economic daily activity, the revolution is tamed and becomes a domesticated horse upon which the state rides led by interests, the calculation of loss and gain and so on and so forth.

Does this mean that the concept of morality and principles does not exist in politics? Does this also mean that all politicians belong to one sect? Not exactly; political movements and orientations are ultimately expressions of the culture and thoughts of a society. For example it is impossible to imagine a Marxist movement succeeding in ruling the United States or that a movement that is hostile towards religion could rule in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula or in many other Arab countries.

The idea is that politics, regardless of the society, culture or identity in which it exists has its own language and calculations. The language that is uses may vary and examples of craftiness are numerous; yet the result is always the same. As long as there are those who will raise slogans, the political fire, which always wants more, will continue to burn.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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