By Barry Rubin
At last, the ideal slogan for the Hamas government has been given us by one of the group’s main leaders, Mahmoud Zahar, buried in a speech he gave at a rally in Damascus.
“Palestine in its entirety is our land,” he explained. Not much new there.
But then he continued with a marvelous turn of phrase that explains the Hamas government and strategy, as well as the limits of its phantom “moderation”: “This does not mean that if they [Israel] withdraw from any inch of land, we will refrain from spreading our rule over it. ‘Every inch of land, without relinquishing an inch.’ This is our goal and our motto. We will never give it up.”
Those who don’t get the point might consider the pristine irony of the following transposition.
In late April, Palestinian police near the Israel-Gaza Strip border got into a battle with gunmen in two cars trying to cross the border for a terrorist operation. Three police and two gunmen were wounded and thee terrorists arrested.
The terrorists shooting at Palestinian police and trying to murder Israeli civilians were members of the Popular Resistance Committees.
WHAT A coincidence. For that organization is headed by Jamal Abu Samhadana, who is also the man chosen by the Hamas government to run all the Palestinian security forces. In other words, the terrorists and police firing at each other — the regime supposedly maintaining a cease-fire and the terrorists breaking it — are all part of one big happy family.
And even there it does not end.
For the same Popular Resistance Committees is the group that three years ago deliberately attacked a US diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip (which was there to interview Palestinians for scholarships) killing three American security officers. The US government demanded that the Palestinian Authority arrest and punish those responsible for the terrorist attack, but it never even tried. Here’s a crime solver’s tip for Palestinian Authority detectives. If you want to track down the main culprit, take a look in the Ministry of Interior office.
Finally, after an April 18 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, in which nine people were killed and about 60 wounded, Hamas and PA officials publicly endorsed the murders. The situation makes the PA the only open and direct terrorism-sponsoring regime in the world.
By showing its true face Hamas is sabotaging its own public relations campaign. For example, the Washington Post and New York Times, which have tried desperately at times in editorials to find some way to declare Hamas moderate, condemned it.
In the Post’s words, “Hamas chose to side with the suicide bombers” and “put [itself] on record as an outlaw.” The only way the Times could salvage its world view was to call the behavior of Hamas “not just immoral, but stupid as well,” because it delayed the creation of a Palestinian state.
It has to be understood, however, that Hamas’s goal is not to raise Palestinian living standards or create an independent state, but to fulfill the kind of program presented by Zahar. Even the Europeans have had to acknowledge this reality far more than might have been expected.
With the exception of a small grant promised by Russia, no European state is funding the PA. Japan has also cut off aid.
While Hamas has been trying to raise money, the effort has been a miserable failure so far. Only about $100 million has been pledged by Qatar and Iran. That’s not $100 million a month, mind you, but the total, enough to fund only about three weeks’ payroll for the PA.
Undoubtedly there will be more money, raised with official support in Saudi Arabia, for example, but the international Muslim support for the Hamas regime has not been impressive and Arab banks are said to be reluctant to handle PA business lest they face American retaliation.
IN TERMS of domestic Palestinian politics, tensions between Hamas and Fatah are rising. The Hamas regime can avoid problems pretty easily on this front, but the price will be doing very little. For instance, it cannot fire any of the estimated 60,000 employees of the security forces since they are virtually all Fatah supporters. The same applies to the media and all other institutions the PA controls, which in some cases have been grabbed by Fatah and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas despite the complaints of the Hamas-dominated parliament.
This is part of the logic of Abu Samhadana’s appointment. His group seems to be a coalition of Hamas and Fatah gunmen, and it is no doubt hoped that he will persuade the latter to accept Hamas leadership. That ploy will not work, though.
In addition, Hamas can pretend to be a non-terrorist group observing a cease-fire while financing and helping both the Committees and Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks.
It would be nice to say no one would be stupid enough to fall for this type of transparent trick. There are still plenty of Western politicians and intellectuals who belie that hope, but far less — and certainly far fewer national leaders — than there might be had Hamas taken lessons from Yasser Arafat on the cultivation of useful idiots.
We already knew there was little likelihood of Hamas changing its ways. Now we know it is not very good at even appearing to moderate.