Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Khalid Al-Bari

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Should We Criticize Hamas in the Midst of Crisis?

The crisis in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is not a simple one. It embodies the problem of ethnic “discrimination” within Israel, which is not one of individual behavior or a political decision. The problem is with the law, the judiciary and the course that the supposed justice has taken.

What is meant by discrimination here is that laws apply to some but not others, whereby Israel has the right to utilize the law to expel Palestinian citizens from their homes based on ownership deeds that go back to before 1948. Meanwhile, it does not do the same for Jewish citizens who seized Palestinians’ homes and property during the same period. When justice is biased, you can imagine what oppression is like!

But allow me to speak my mind:

This crisis is totally different from the conflict led by Hamas, which is pummeling rockets at Israeli residential areas and dragging the Palestinians in Gaza to a tragic cycle made worse by their transformation, the victims, into oppressors being punished for their aggression. The foundational injustice is disregarded by the global media and replaced by a new narrative that undermines the struggle against it: A terrorist group that is capable of launching thousands of missiles in a short period of time at civilian targets on one side and a state defending itself on the other. As a result, world leaders are racing to express their support of the state defending itself, and as we have seen, they have forgotten about Sheikh Jarrah.

The question remains: should we criticize Hamas amid the crisis?

Hezbollah emerged standing on the shoulders of the resistance to Israel in southern Lebanon, and it was able to maintain a monopoly on framing the narrative of this issue for 18 years, not to mention its monopoly on resistance and its pursuit of the Lebanese who want to deprive it of this honor. The end result is a monopoly on both arms and honor. They have also managed to monopolize political framing, whereby there is now no tolerance for criticizing the party though it is at the heart of the crisis. Those who do so are portrayed as having stabbed the “righteous fighters” in the back. How did that turn out?

Good morning. I come to you from the future to show you what we had come to know about the righteous fighter. Good morning again, sorry, I have just found out that I am, in fact, not from the future. Indeed, it was in the epoch we share that we both witnessed what Hezbollah has done and continues to do in occupied Lebanon in favor of a segment of its populations, monopolizing decisions of war and peace, comfort and struggle, and determining foreign relations. It makes all of these decisions on the whims of an expansionist regional state. We saw where Lebanon ended up.

The real project that Hezbollah had been laying the groundwork for - under the banner of resistance - was exposed for us all to see. We also followed Hezbollah’s expansion to neighboring and far countries, shaping their peoples’ fate. It also showed us that it is a divine party, one that only traitors who deserve physical or character assassination oppose and criticize.

Nonetheless, I am torn. Though we are not from the future, we all know what happened, so why are we repeating what we had done with Hezbollah with Hamas?

We tried, it seems, to address foolishness and have become infected with it. Pardon my honesty. We decided once again to remain silent in times of crisis, to be struck by the same stone and driven by the same narrative. Righteous fighters...

This is a grave mistake. For criticism is only of value when it is expressed at times of crisis. Refraining from expressing it is not a noble act but one of political shortsightedness that disregards peoples. Abstaining from criticism indicates an absence of the courage required to stand in the face of thunderous masses and pre-packaged smear campaigns of accusations of treachery, led and by prominent figures from the world art, football and literature. It is often accompanied by blackmail and claims of honor and purity, and sometimes personal insults are even hurled at detractors.

I do not know why reasonable people sympathize with a movement that we have already seen - not through analysis or speculation but through its actions - do what it has done in the area it controls. We have already seen - neither through analysis nor speculation - how it deals with its Palestinian political rivals. We have already seen - neither through analysis nor by speculation - its plans for Egypt. We have seen its regional sympathies, the puppet master moving it from above. We have seen how it invests its share of the popularity it seized from the Palestinians’ initial path.

Your criticism of Hamas during times of peace is worthless. Hamas relaxes its muscles on its own, without the need for your criticism. Hamas does not rely on peacetime or what goes on during such periods. Instead, like its Lebanese counterpart, it grows and thrives, garners its strength from what goes on during times of crisis. Only then does your criticism have significance.

If you conflate support for Hamas with support for Palestinians, then you should reexamine your politics and your ability to form a grounded opinion. Because criticizing Hamas is in the interest of the Palestinians, today and tomorrow. Leaving Hamas out of the discourse supportive of Palestinians and their attainment of their rights strengthens this discourse and frees Palestinians from the burdens brought on by the group.

Solidifying Hamas’ ability to shape public opinion through the Palestinian cause strengthens extremist elements, adds to their prestige, and turns them into a player that cannot be bypassed in the world’s eyes. It is also a disgrace to the pro-Palestinian movement, as it amplifies the voice of Islamic extremism over that of typical Muslims, not only their image but their real consciousness, behavior and worldview.

When you spend years fighting extremists and extremist rhetoric and stand with them, rushing to their side at the first sign of crisis, you undo all that you had done in an instant. During crises, the soundness of minds is revealed, and under pressure, the solidity of reason is tested.

Finally, your criticism of Hamas will not affect your country’s political position. Egypt will continue to support the Palestinians for a thousand reasons, the simplest being the natural, cultural and human geographical links between the two peoples. Palestine, for Egypt, is a national security issue that it cannot ignore. On the contrary, your country’s position garners strength and credibility when it is combined with popular criticism of Hamas. You should understand it is not an acquiescence to pressure, an endorsement of behavior, or a blank check. Your criticism of Hamas is a message that raises awareness, encourages caution and warns of the dangers of its organizational and regional affiliations and their impact on popular consciousness.