Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Legitimize Hamas?


by Khaled Abu Toameh

In recent weeks Hamas leaders are beginning to show signs of optimism. Since the late May incident involving the Turkish flotilla of aid ships, some Americans and Europeans have been campaigning in favor of engaging Hamas.

Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists around the world all have their eyes set on the Gaza Strip. They are waiting to see if Hamas manages to win recognition of the international community.

A victory for Hamas is a victory for Islamic fundamentalists not only in the Gaza Strip, but in many different places, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq.

EU foreign ministers who are planning to visit the Gaza Strip need to make sure that their tour is not used by Hamas to win recognition as a legitimate player in the Middle East.

Ever since it seized control of the Gaza Strip three years ago, Hamas has been desperately seeking recognition and legitimacy. Until now, Hamas's efforts have been unsuccessful.

Since the January 2006 parliamentary election that resulted in its victory, Hamas has stubbornly refused to accept conditions set by the international community. These conditions include renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist and honoring previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hamas's position today remains unchanged. And it does not seem that Hamas has any incentive to change its position amid increasing calls in the West to "break" the isolation of the radical Islamist movement.

On the contrary, talk in the West about the need to launch dialogue with Hamas has only to toughen their stance.

Not only is Hamas unwilling to accept the three conditions of the Quartet members, but it has also adopted a tougher policy on the issue of reconciliation with Fatah. Until recently, Hamas seemed to be more willing to make concessions.

The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, as well as the boycott by most of the world, had finally begun to undermine its standing among Palestinians.

For the first time in several years, many disillusioned Palestinians were beginning to question Hamas's strategy and policies. For a while, it even seemed as if Hamas were beginning to lose its grip on the Gaza Strip, especially after the Egyptian authorities launched a ruthless and massive campaign to destroy hundreds of underground tunnels being used by Hamas and its supporters to smuggle weapons, food and cash.

Today, however, Hamas has less reason to be worried as a growing number of voices in the West starts talking about ending the movement's isolation. Hamas believes it is winning the battle for public opinion, particularly in the mainstream media and on university campuses in North America. Those who want to talk to Hamas today will soon find themselves facing calls to talk to Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood.

Don't all these groups, after all, share a common goal – namely, to spread and impose their dangerous version of Islam?


Khaled Abu Toameh
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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