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The Image of Hamas - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is clear that the ousted Hamas government has been doing whatever it takes to capitalize on the release of the British reporter Alan Johnston to improve its image and to demonstrate its capability of controlling security in Gaza.

Therefore, it was not unusual to see Ismail Haniyeh and his ousted cabinet ministers having breakfast with the British reporter who had been kidnapped by the Jaish al Islam [the Army of Islam] group. We have become accustomed to seeing similar images with Western prisoners since Saddam Hussein’s era, for example, the release of the British Royal Navy personnel a few months ago in Iran. We have also become accustomed to Haniyeh making the most of the cameras as he prayed alone on a rooftop in front of the cameras and had his photos taken as he played football and so on and so forth.

However, will these pictures improve the image of Hamas? I think not! When the British reporter was kidnapped before the coup, Hamas was in power and its militias were on the ground, enjoying the same power that they now show in the Gaza Strip. Why did it not attempt to free him at that point? Is it reasonable that the government of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] knew the whereabouts of the hostage-takers and made no effort [to free the hostage], especially as Hamas’s spokesmen have tried to make it appear as if it were Fatah forces that controlled security where Johnston had been held?

If this Fatah power and influence on the ground were real, would Abu Mazen’s men allow Hamas to hide the kidnapped Israeli soldier until now?

It is not yielding to foreign pressures but rather serving the interests of its people that would improve Hamas’s image. Each and every citizen dreams of a means of livelihood and security. Rather than following the whims of Iran, Syria and others who have narrow interests, if Hamas had adopted a realistic policy that would have provided the Gaza population with the breakfast that it offered the British reporter, its image would have been better, it would have obtained real internal and therefore Arab support, and the world would have had no choice but to deal with it.

However, Hamas preferred to have a face-lift rather than act in a way that serves the interests of the citizens. After all, ideology will not provide sustenance, pay one’s bills or cure a patient. Unfortunately, we did not see the same level of zeal shown by Haniyeh and his companions in dealing with the case of the British reporter as on the day of the infamous coup when people were killed and the pictures of leaders were trod on.

The real problem is that Hamas returned the British reporter to his family without regaining the trust of the international community and that it did not notice that the Arab world is in a state of shock and does not trust any of the Palestinian factions and leaders following the fighting in which they took part. This is the truth even if the Palestinians are not aware of it.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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