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Political thought and strategies of Hamas in light of the Arab uprisings

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In August 2010, AMEC published the English translation of an interview with Khalid Mish’al, head of the Political Bureau of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).

The interview laid out the vision and strategies of Hamas at the time. A few months later, uprisings began in North Africa and spread across theMiddle East and North Africa, changing the nature of politics and the balance of power in the region. In November 2012, the Beirut-based Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations hosted a conference with the theme ‘Islamists in the Arab World and the Palestinian Issue in Light of the Arab uprisings’ at which Mish’al presented a paper outlining the views of his movement regarding the uprisings and how they affect Hamas’ plans for the future. The paper was rewritten by Mish’al, published in Arabic by Al-Zaytouna Centre and translated into English byMiddle East Monitor (MEMO). We publish an edited version here, in terms of a partnership agreement with Al-Zaytouna, in order to expose English-speaking audiences to the views and strategies of Hamas, a critical player in the Palestinian-Israeli context. The paper is an important document reflecting the views of an important player in Palestinian and broader Middle Eastern politics and is therefore an important reference document. It explores Hamas’ vision and the practical application of its strategies.

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Beneficent

I begin by thanking Al-Zaytouna Centre for holding this important conference at this critical time. God willing, this conference will result in important conclusions that will guide the Arab Spring, evolve its position on the Arab-Zionist conflict and produce two advantages: first, the advantage of an internal structure based on new foundations of freedom, democracy and combating corruption; and second, the advantage of a strong, coherent, and independent foreign policy that maintains its decisions and improves Arab and Islamic performance in relation to Palestine and the general issues of the ummah (nation).
The importance of this conference lies in the following:
    Its timing. It is being held in light of the Arab Spring and the progress of the people’s will, their political role and their control over decision-making.
     
    1. It is the result of the evolution of the role of Islamists and their rise to power in some Arab countries.
    2. It is being held out of consideration for the growing role of the region’s resistance movements, especially following the decline in their official role over the past decades, and in light of their growing national roles, as well as their significant achievements.
    3. It takes into account the decline of the Zionist project, despite its continued military and technological superiority in the region. This entity is undoubtedly declining and its image in the world deteriorating. It has not achieved any victories for a long time, and perhaps what happened during the eight-day Gaza War in which the Palestinian resistance emerged victorious is a significant indicator of this.
    4. The report we are presenting today in this conference on the vision of Hamas and its positions addresses the reality and not just an anticipation of the future. Hamas has been working and striving for the past twenty-five years, and although it may slip up sometimes, it usually gets it right, and we ask God to accept our deeds.
     
    Hamas’ vision for the Palestinian question
    This section perhaps represents the fundamentals and declarations that are well known and familiar. However, a reiteration of these basic principles is always important. When we speak in this context, we do not only speak of Hamas as an Islamic movement, but also as a national liberation movement. . Some of what we articulate here fall under the category of fundamental principles, and some under policies and positions.
     
    1. Palestine, from its [Jordan] river to its [Mediterranean] sea, from its north to its south, is the land of the Palestinian people; it is their homeland and their legitimate right. We will not relinquish an inch or any part of it – for any reason or under any circumstances or pressures.
     
    2. Palestine, in its entirety, is an Arab and Islamic land. It has Islamic and Arab affiliations and is considered a blessed and sacred land. Moreover, it has a special place in the heart of every Arab and Muslim, and also has a status and respect in all religions.
     
    3. We will not, in any way, recognise the legitimacy of the occupation. This is a principled political and moral position. We do not recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, nor do we acknowledge ‘Israel’ or the legality of its presence on any part of Palestine, no matter how long it remains – and, God willing, this will not be long. All that has occurred in Palestine, including its occupation, settlements, Judaisation, the changing of its landmarks and the falsification of facts in favour [of the occupation] is wrong and must end, God willing.
     
    4. The liberation of Palestine is a national, domestic and legitimate duty. It is the responsibility of the Palestinians, the Arabs and the Islamic ummah. It is also a responsibility for all human beings in accordance with the values of truth and justice.
     
    5. Jihad and armed resistance is the correct and authentic means for the liberation of Palestine and the restoration of all rights. This battle must, of course, be accompanied by all forms of political, diplomatic, media, national and legal resistance, as well as the investment of the entire nation’s energies and the summoning of all the various strengths we possess.
     
    6. Resistance is a means and not an end. If we had any other way to liberate the land, end the occupation and regain our rights without the shedding of blood and other painful sacrifices, we would have taken it. However, the experiences of nations throughout history have proved that the only option available to expel the occupiers, counter aggression and restore the land and rights of the people is resistance in all its forms, starting with armed resistance.
     
    7. We are not fighting the Jewish people merely because they are Jewish. We are, however, fighting those who are Zionist occupiers and aggressors. We will fight anyone who tries to attack us, seize our rights or occupy our land, regardless of their religion, affiliations, race or nationality.
     
    8. The Zionist project is a racist, hostile and expansionist project based on murder and terrorism. Hence, it is the enemy of the Palestinian people and poses a real threat to them, as well as to their security and other interests. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is a danger to the security of the entire human community, its interests and stability.
     
    9. We hold onto Jerusalem and its Islamic and Christian sacred sites. We will not give them up, nor will we relinquish any part of them. They are our right, our essence, our history, our present and our future. Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and is cherished in the hearts of Arabs and Muslims as a sign of their status and pride. ‘Israel’ has no legitimacy or right to Jerusalem at all, nor does it have any legitimacy or right to any part of Palestine. All Israeli actions in Jerusalem, such as Judaisation, entrenchment of settlements, falsification of facts and attempts to usurp our history are unacceptable.
     
    10. We stand firm on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees and displaced individuals, and their right to their homes from which they were expelled or were prevented from returning to, whether in the occupied territories of 1948 or 1967 – that is, to all of Palestine. We refuse to compromise on this right in any way. At the same time, we reject all land resettlement and alternative homeland projects.
    Brothers and sisters, this is an opportunity to pause at the ‘symphony’ that plays from time to time; there were once fears of resettlement in Lebanon, Jordan or an alternative homeland, and nowadays it is the Sinai. To the Palestinian, there is no compensation for Palestine but Palestine itself. The actions of our people in the recent Gaza War and wars of the past, as well as in the ongoing intifadas and revolutions is proof of this great nation’s insistence on, and attachment to, its land.
     
    11. The unity of the Palestinian land: The West Bank (including Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, and the occupied lands of 1948 are all one land, one unit with no part separated from the other. It is, as a whole, the homeland of the Palestinian people. The current situation in Gaza is an exceptional case that has been imposed upon us. We cannot accept that Gaza will be separate from the West Bank, for they are one, and together they are a part of the Palestinian homeland.
     
    12. We stand firm on the unity of the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians, and all its intellectual, political and ideological elements, as well as its resistance, militants and political forces and factions.
     
    13. The unity of the Palestinian political system and its institutions and the unity of its national authority through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which needs to be rebuilt on valid grounds to include all Palestinian forces and components. The current division does not reflect our origin, nor does it reflect reality. This division has been imposed upon us after international and regional forces rejected the results of the 2006 Palestinian elections in which Hamas was victorious. However, the unity of the Palestinian political system is imperative and we are sparing no efforts to achieve this, God willing.
     
    14. Liberation first, the state later. A true state is the fruit of liberation, but a state that is the fruit of an agreement is merely a symbolic entity or a self-governing authority. Call it what you will, but a real state is the fruit of liberation first, and there is no alternative to establishing a Palestinian state with true sovereignty over the entire territory.
    On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority is a reality we want to manage through a national partnership with others to serve our people, their rights, and their liberation project in a manner that is consistent with their national principles.
     
    15. Independent Palestinian national decision: This is a principle that is based on non-dependency or reliance on any other country or party in the world, whether it is friend, ally, enemy or opponent. However, this does not mean, nor can we accept it in the context of limiting the Palestinian issue to the Palestinians and terminating or weakening the Arab and Islamic roles. The issue of Palestine was, and will remain, not only an Arab and Islamic issue, but also a humanitarian issue.
     
    16. The establishment of national Palestinian institutions and authorities should always be based on democracy, starting with free and fair elections with equal opportunities. Moreover, the principle of partnership and national coalition work should be present in every phase, regardless of the chances of success, with emphasis on the fact that opposition is a legitimate right for everyone, provided that the opposition is constructive. In addition to this, everyone must refer to the results of the ballot boxes and respect the will of the people, as well as accept the peaceful change of authority. We must also be reminded that we are a special and unusual case since we are still living under occupation.
     
    17. We will not intervene in the affairs of other countries, and we will not engage in debates, conflicts or alliances with other nations. We have adopted a policy of opening up to the different countries of the world, especially Arab and Islamic countries. We certainly strive to have balanced relations, the scale and standards of which will be in the interest and service of Palestine and its people and will support their steadfastness and determination. The criteria for these relations are, of course, the nation’s interests and security and the rejection of dependency on any country or party in the world.
     
    18. The unity of the nation, including all its ethnic, religious and denominational elements. It is one nation in its interests and history – present, past and future – and we deal with it accordingly. As we acknowledge the diversity and variety in our ummah, we realise the need for everyone in our nation to distance themselves from incitement and conflict, as well as to avoid taking sides on this basis. Instead, we must coexist as we have in past centuries. Moreover, everyone in this nation must know their limits and claim their rights without violating the rights of others. The greater good of the nation must outweigh any sectarian or factional interests.
     
    19. Any progressive tactical or detailed political programme must be in line with national Palestinian principles and may not contradict them. Moreover, every partial or full judgement must be subject to this principle, and, therefore, we reject any projects, agreements or peace settlements that diminish these fundamentals and principles and affect Palestinian national rights.
     
    As you can see, this last point on the matter of fundamentals, policies, attitudes, and principles is an important summation of what has been mentioned thus far.
     
    Practical application of principles and positions
    Some may wonder what the reality of this strong rhetoric is. Where is its application on the ground?
     
    We say that the movement’s performance on the ground is similar to the performance of all humans: it may be right or wrong. However, as a movement, our performance has mostly been right, thanks to God. Our performance is largely in line with our announced principles and values. Occasionally, there are gaps, mistakes, or sometimes ambiguous images that suggest there are contradictions or conflict with what is announced. However, we clearly say, even if we have a lapse in judgement, or if some images are misleading, that our standards are identical to the principles, fundamentals, policies, and attitudes
    we have mentioned.
     
    I will give four examples to illustrate this:
     
    1. Resistance: This is a primary principle and our strategic choice. Some have had doubts that talk of a truce means giving up on the resistance; this, of course, is arbitrary. In short, the path of resistance, in terms of its preparation, organisation and performance for the liberation of Palestine is a path that cannot be interrupted. In addition to this, the management of the decision of escalation and truce, as well as diversifying our methods and manners, all fall under the process of managing the decision, and not the principle of the decision, as the principle cannot be changed.
     
    Moreover, while the enemy and the settlers are out of Gaza, Gaza cannot be taken out of the circle of the conflict, even though necessity calls for a change in its role in the battle by virtue of its circumstances. Thankfully, Gaza is still a source of hope, not only for Palestine but for the entire region. We have just emerged from an aggressive war on the Gaza Strip, which ended with a victory for the Palestinian resistance, and succeeded in ending the war on its terms.
    In the case of the West Bank, the absence of the resistance for several years does not change the authenticity or principle of resistance. The absence of resistance in the West Bank has been the necessary course for our people because of the massive security pressures from every direction, both close and distant. We consider the decline of the resistance role in the West Bank as inevitable and a forced reality that we strive to overcome by maintaining our intention and preparing for a new start. God willing, the resistance will return to the West Bank, reassuming its effective and essential role in every phase of the Palestinian struggle, as the enemy will not withdraw from our land without the pressure of resistance.
     
    2. Participation in the Palestinian Authority: Doesn’t this contradict the movement’s position on the Oslo Accords? This is a legitimate question, and there is no doubt that the matter is vague on the surface, but we believe the answer is clear. Our positions on Oslo and all the agreements of surrender are decisive. However, there are obligations that compelled us to enter the authority to change its role and combine the service of the people and the management of day-to-day affairs on the one hand, with the right to resist the occupation on the other. Today we are an authority in the Gaza Strip, while we resist and develop and strengthen this resistance, with the realisation that it is difficult to practically combine all these considerations. However, our support of the principles and our commitment to them allows us to mould the reality to our principles and not the other way around.
         3. Agreeing to a state on the 1967 borders: Some people worry that this is following in the footsteps of those before us and that, eventually, the bigger dream will shrink. To this we say ‘No’. We are not necessarily convinced that the liberation of the occupied territory of 1967 is a practical goal. Personally, I believe, in terms of the prevailing reality, that anyone who can liberate the territories occupied in 1967 is able to liberate the rest of Palestine. Furthermore, there is a need to unify the Palestinian as well as the Arab stance on a common position and vision, regardless of how the programme to achieve that vision may vary from one party to another. This is what drives us, the Hamas movement and other resistance movements, to take this political stance – as long as it is not at the expense of the rest of the Palestinian land and does not contain any abandonment of our rights on any part of our land, nor includes any recognition of ‘Israel’.
     
    4. The matter of the division: This is also a reality that has been forced upon us; we did not choose it. As everyone knows, it was imposed on us in 2007 when several international and regional parties rejected the results of the 2006 elections. I attest, at this historical moment, that the division occurred on 13, 14 and 15 June 2007. On 15 June I called the Egyptian authorities and informed them we were ready to settle the matter and reconcile, because the division was not our choice and had been forced upon us. Since then, we have been continuously working on putting an end to that outcome, and striving to achieve reconciliation on national foundations that ensure the rearrangement of the Palestinian internal situation within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and PLO, and the adoption of a national political programme that aligns with Palestinian fundamentals, rights and national interests.

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