Saturday, August 1

Are There Signs of Moderation in Hamas?

These days it is quiet on the Israeli-Gaza border. There has been a cessation of rocket fire into Israeli towns in the south. Is it because of the lull before the storm or is it because Hamas is changing its tactics? Maybe it is neither or a mixture of both. The war in Gaza has had some effect on the tactics of the Hamas rulers in Gaza.

The war had weakened Hamas considerably.
More than 1 400 Palestinians were killed including at least 900 civilians, and over 5000 wounded in the offensive. Some 3 000 homes were destroyed as well as many government buildings, schools, universities, mosques, hospitals and factories.

In retrospect, a pointless war achieved nothing as far as the Gaza Palestinians are concerned. For Israel, it has heralded a temporary cessation of Hamas hostilities and an unofficial cease-fire. No matter how many investigations are carried out, there is evidence that
serious war crimes were carried out by both Israelis and Palestinians. However, much of the blame is due to Hamas's intense missile firing into Israel resulting in severe damage, injury and deaths to Israeli citizens living in towns relatively close to the Gaza border.

Another factor is the unrest in Iran which is involved in suppressing the uprising of its own citizens against President Ahmadinajad who, by proxy, is Hamas's “godfather”. Iran has been involved in supplying weapons to Hamas. Now the emphasis is on solving internal problems rather than focusing on arming Hamas for its terrorist activities against Israel's population in the southern towns.

Hamas has been weakened by Israeli military actions against it as well as the difficulties of weapons smuggling via tunnels linking Gaza with Egypt.

Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, who resides in Damascus, has also had the wind taken out of his sails by the civil unrest in Iran. The movement of Syria towards the US and its desire to improve its relations with the US will steer Syria away from Iran. The consequences of this are still uncertain as far as Hamas is concerned.

Perhaps this could result in Hamas moderating its tactics towards Israel without losing face by giving up the "armed struggle" against Israel as their leadership puts it. As the situation stands now, PM Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza has stated that Hamas will not oppose the two-state solution. Surely we are a step closer to Hamas recognition of Israel even though we are still very far from this.
Hamas, in its desperation, has issued a decree that woman attorneys who appear in court must dress modestly and wear the
hijab to cover their faces in public. The people of Gaza are mainly secular and this decree will drive many Gaza Palestinians against Hamas. Hamas will not tolerate opposition to its policies. It is not a democratic movement by any stretch of the imagination nor is it a movement fighting for Palestinian human rights or personal freedoms. It survives on hate, clericalism and dogmas.

The serious dispute between Hamas and Fatah does not help much either.
One must also remember that Israel was instrumental in strengthening Hamas against Fatah in the early years of Hamas's establishment.

The intense poverty, unemployment and lack of progress in the economic spheres have taken its toll on the Palestinians in Gaza. The Palestinian People are beginning to realize that Hamas is no godsend. The hopelessness of the Palestinians somehow is grist to the mill of Hamas's survival. While the situation in Gaza remains bad, no foreign aid will be forthcoming. This could also result in Hamas moderating its stand towards Israel in the end although this may not be so evident at this stage.

On the other hand, it could be resorting more towards Islamic fanaticism in desperation as its power in Gaza shows a decline, an example of which is its attitude towards woman attorneys as mentioned earlier in this article.

It also remains to be seen how the unrest in Iran will affect the relationship of the brutal Ahmadinajad regime on Hamas rule in Gaza. If Ahmadinajad is deposed and a more liberal regime replaces this dictator it could move Hamas towards a more moderate and pragmatic position vis a vis Israel. The moment Hamas loses its support from extremist Islamist regimes this could result in drastic changes which would affect the region of conflict positively.

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