FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Hamas or Al Qaeda?

Beirut, Lebanon.

In his speech to the Foreign Policy Centre last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the war against Al Qaeda and its associates as a battle “between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence.”

Blair’s emphasis on empowering and supporting “those in favor of uniting Islam and democracy, everywhere,” highlights the difficulties posed for western governments by the recent electoral victory of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Though Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU for its attacks on Israel, some believe the success of Hamas’ electoral participation could reduce regional support for groups like Al Qaeda which reject popular participation in government.

They describe a growing schism between reform-minded Islamists like Hamas and its parent group the Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to Islamize their societies through the democratic process, and those, such as Al-Qaeda, who refuse the democratic political system altogether, attempting to force a radical transformation through the use of violence.

Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and security advisor to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, believes there is now real animosity between the two Islamist currents.

“I think it’s a war; it’s more than just a growing division, we’re talking about a fundamental struggle for the future of Islam.”

Regional polls suggest Muslims overwhelmingly favor elections, but according to Crooke support for groups like Al Qaeda is not insignificant, “The vanguard [of Al Qaeda] have got some way with it but they are starting to find it quite difficult.”

Hamas, which recently rejected calls by Al Qaeda to renounce the democratic process and resume its attacks on Israel, warns the US and EU governments that they are now facing a fateful choice.

“It’s time for the West to decide whether it wants to deal with Hamas which believes in reform and want to have good relations with the whole international community or with the people of this kind [Al Qaeda] who don’t believe in those kind of relations and believe in burning the whole system,” says Osama Hamdan, Hamas’ senior representative in Lebanon.

The Hamas government has until now faced obstruction from the US and Israel, supported by Britain and the EU, with threats to financially isolate the new Hamas-dominated Palestinian cabinet unless it renounces violence and recognizes the state of Israel. Hamas has so far rejected both demands.

Al Qaeda is also believed to oppose the electoral success of the militant group.

On March 4, Al Jazeera aired a statement by Al Qaeda’s number two Ayman al Zawahiri, in which he fiercely criticized Hamas’ participation in the electoral process. Some observers have interpreted the message as a challenge to Hamas whose success in party politics could seriously undermine regional support for the extremist tendencies of Al Qaeda.

“Al Qaeda are saying ‘We’re sorry, Hamas but you won’t succeed, the West will never allow it.’ Hamas is saying ‘we can succeed even against the policies and the attitudes of the United States and Europe,'” says Crooke.

Others see Zawahiri’s message as evidence of collusion between Hamas and Al Qaeda. These suspicions were strengthened when, just days after Zawahiri’s appearance on al Jazeera, Palestinian president Mahmmoud Abbas told the Arab daily Al Hayat of reports Al Qaeda had set up base in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas insists the reports are false and says Zawahiri’s agenda is distinctly different from its own.

“His [Zawahiri’s] idea is to burn the whole system managed and led by the United States. But we believe in Palestine we will show the whole region that through the democratic process and through reform you can work for the benefit of your people while maintaining good relations with the international community,” says Hamdan.

Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American task Force on Palestine, describes several diverging constituencies within Hamas, some more inclined to Salafism than others, but says none of them would support relations with Al Qaeda.

According to Ridwan Sayyed, a professor of Islamic studies at the Lebanese University and an expert on Salafist militancy, Hamas has grown increasingly wary of Al Qaeda and is now actively trying to avoid a clash with the group.

In fact Al Qaeda is generally considered to be more concerned with waging war against its Muslim counterparts than against the countries of the West.

“Al Qaeda’s priority is to confront domestic enemies, be they Shiites or reformists who are accused of being contaminated by western ideas,” says Amal Saad Ghorayeb a specialist on militant Islamism at the Lebanese American University, “They consider them more pressing than tackling the US and Israel head on.”

Ghorayeb believes Hamas’ emphasis on defining and confronting American interference in the region and its active role in resisting Israel enables it to compete better with Al Qaeda for regional Muslim support than less militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood who focus more on religious dogmatism.

“Hamas represents a popular and legitimate alternative to Al Qaeda in that it has the militant credentials of the other group, but at the same time it is also fully integrated into its society, which enables it to be a political player and interact with the international community
This gives them a huge edge vis-à-vis the Salafi Islamists.”

Crooke believes if the Palestinian movement is able to succeed in government, groups like Al Qaeda that don’t accept the path of the “reformers” will be reduced to marginal, isolated movements without any ability to affect the situation.

“It may not work out but if it does this is going to have a tremendous effect on what I call the revolutionary groups that believe you can just burn everything, Hamas might do it without burning and then there won’t be popular support for the other groups.”

CLANCY CHASSAY lives in Beirut. He can be reached at clancychassay@hotmail.com

 

 

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
Thomas Knapp
Pork is Not the Problem
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming and Solar Minimum: a Response to Renee Parsons
Jill Richardson
Straight People Don’t Need a Parade
B. R. Gowani
The Indian Subcontinent’s Third Partition
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: The Black Body in LA
Jonah Raskin
‘69 and All That Weird Shit
Michael Doliner
My Surprise Party
Stephen Cooper
The Fullness of Half Pint
Charles R. Larson
Review: Chris Arnade’s “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America”
David Yearsley
Sword and Sheath Songs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail