At the close of a decade of the Hamas movement’s rule over the Gaza Strip, Palestinian author and journalist Majed Kayali, who lives in Syria and writes for the London-based daily Al-Hayat and the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, harshly criticized Hamas’s government of Gaza in the past ten years, saying it has been rife with flaws and failures. He wrote that Hamas has been revealed as a movement with no political acumen or ability to contend with the complexity of the Palestinian problem; that Hamas’ takeover in Gaza helped Israel by creating chaos, entrenching the rift in Palestinian society, and justifying the siege on the Strip, and that Hamas did not manage to sustain its position as a resistance movement and exploited democracy merely as a means to attain power. Kayali concluded that Hamas doesn’t know what it’s doing in Gaza, and that what has occurred there is proof of the disintegration of the Palestinian national movement.
The following are excerpts from the article:
Majed Kayali (Image: Alarab.co.uk)
“No political movement has ever been faced with the range of problems, frustrations, and doubts that Hamas has had to contend with since its ascendance in the Palestinian [political] arena, when it defeated the Fatah movement in the elections to the Legislative Council (in early 2006), and when it attained power or became a partner in it and then unilaterally took control of Gaza (in 2007), while excluding [Fatah], and [began] governing over some two million Palestinians.
“Who would have believed that a decade would pass with the Palestinian entity split into [two parts], the West Bank and Gaza, following the dispute and the fighting between Hamas and Fatah that took place this very month, ten years ago? Who would have believed that there would be two entities, or two rival Palestinian regimes, that oppose one another: Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, each of them possessing its own security apparatus, and each supplying the public with services, while both are subject to the occupation and the siege, or Israeli rule? Who would have believed that all the efforts of the Arabs and all the [reconciliation] agreements [between Fatah and Hamas] (in Mecca, Cairo, Sana’a, and Doha) would not succeed in restoring unity to the Palestinians?
“Of course, many of the failures and lapses can be attributed to international and regional circumstances, or to internal disputes (with Fatah) and to the existence of two different political outlooks. It would have been naïve to assume from the outset that the international, regional, and Arab players would applaud Hamas, or be satisfied with it, or support its survival without any recompense. It would have also been simplistic to think that Fatah would make it easier for Hamas to rule, when [Fatah] suffered from the policies of that movement [Hamas] when [Hamas] was in the opposition.
“All this notwithstanding, these excuses or assumptions do not help Hamas, but emphasize that the movement lacks political acumen and any knowledge or experience [that would help it] to cope with the complexity and the complications of the Palestinian problem, and takes an approach based on wishful thinking…, disconnected from reality, from existing opportunities, and from the prevailing circumstances.
“Therefore, it is the Hamas movement itself that is responsible for the situation in Gaza – although we understand that Israel bears the main responsibility for everything that has happened to the Palestinians, specifically their tragic situation in Gaza, especially after three destructive wars that it waged against it (in 2008, 2011, and 2014). And so, there is no point in hoping, and it would be unrealistic to expect, for example, that the donor countries would continue to finance Hamas without demanding anything in return, as if they were nothing but charitable institutions, when they were [actually] established to finance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
“In addition, it would be unreasonable to expect Israel to ease the siege on the Hamas regime and on the Palestinians over whom [Hamas] rules in the Gaza Strip. It is Israel that laid the siege and continues to maintain it and to bring pressure to bear on the areas of the Palestinian Authority, [as it has done] since the end of 2001, so as to impose its dictates and perpetuate the occupation and the settlements. [But] Hamas has completely forgotten that its takeover of Gaza (in June, 2007) and the consequences in the Palestinian arena are exactly what Israel hoped for when it planned its unilateral withdrawal from the Strip (in late 2005), i.e. to entrench the division, the dispute, and the chaos in the Palestinian arena.
“Hamas has [also] completely forgotten that with this takeover it hurt its own legitimacy in the Palestinian [street, so] that the Arabs and the world cannot maintain reciprocal relations with it. It also helped Israel justify its efforts to tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip and evade its obligations to seek an agreement with the Palestinians, which is [indeed] what happened. The experience of the past decade proves that Hamas has failed in several areas. For example, it failed to achieve a balance between its existence as a political movement and as a religious movement. [This is apparent] in its management of the situation in Gaza, in many explicit and implicit statements by its leaders, in the culture that its security apparatuses impose [on the Gazans], and in the behavior of the members of these apparatuses.
“It is evident that Hamas also failed to maintain its standing as a resistance movement after assuming power, as if it found itself in the same awkward position that (its rival) Fatah experienced in the past, when it [too] failed to maintain its position as a resistance movement after it gained power, with all the attending limitations and constraints.
“As a political Islamic movement, Hamas failed the test of democracy and administration of society, when it didn’t manage to instill confidence in the ability of Islamic movements to change and become democratic movements that respect the other, enrich diversity and pluralism in society, and accept the principle of the orderly transfer of power… To date it seems that Hamas doesn’t know what it’s doing in the Gaza Strip and whether it wants Gaza to be a base for liberation or a base for resistance, or a piece of territory where a model for wise Palestinian administration should be established.
“The experience of a decade of Hamas rule in Gaza can lead to several conclusions, the most important of which are [the following]: The Palestinians failed to take advantage of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and to transform it into a cumulative national achievement that could be built upon. This achievement evaporated, in [complete] disregard of the large number of victims sacrificed to reach it, and Gaza became a place of dispute, division, and wars, and not a worthy model for the birth of the Palestinian entity. The fighting [between Fatah and Hamas], followed by the split, transformed the orderly democratic elections from a source of Palestinian pride to a misfortune and a disaster for the national movement. The Gaza experience showed that the Palestinians failed to settle [the conflict] or to create a [political] entity. They also failed the test of democracy and of creating a national movement. The Hamas experience again raises the suspicion that the movements of political Islam in the Arab region exploit [democratic] elections as a means of assuming power, rather than as a means or an approach to managing a regime, a political [system] or a society.
“What happened in Gaza and is still happening is further proof of the disintegration of the contemporary Palestinian national movement, especially since it became a government under occupation.”
Al-Arab (London), June 19, 2017.