Now Syria's Foe, Hamas Still No Friend

Islamists Still Have Long Way To Gain Mainstream Acceptance

Hamas Still Outside: The Islamist Hamas movement has had a major falling out with the regime in Syria. So far, the spat has not led to a rapprochement with the U.S. or Israel.
getty images
Hamas Still Outside: The Islamist Hamas movement has had a major falling out with the regime in Syria. So far, the spat has not led to a rapprochement with the U.S. or Israel.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 04, 2012, issue of March 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In foreign relations, it is a longtime maxim that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But despite its recent shift against the regime in Syria, that rule has done nothing, so far, for Hamas with the American government.

The abrupt smashing of a decades-long bond between Hamas, which is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, and Syria, a family-led dictatorship, is unlikely to facilitate Hamas’s rehabilitation, experts say, despite current efforts by the U.S. to assemble a wide coalition against the Syrian regime.

Hamas’s decision to turn its back on embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and side openly with those seeking to overthrow him may, for the first time ever, give the group a common goal with the United States and the West. But American officials have made it clear that as long as Hamas fails to disavow terrorism and refuses to recognize Israel, it is not a welcome partner in the international effort to replace the Assad regime.

Long headquartered in Damascus, Syria’s capital, Hamas, an Islamist group that controls Palestinian-populated Gaza, is now seeking a new haven for its external leadership. As this search goes on, some within Hamas are calling for a more moderate approach toward Israel and toward the Palestinian Authority, led by the more secular-oriented Fatah faction. But others believe that changes brought on by the Arab Spring should embolden the group against outside pressure to moderate.

“Hamas feels that the region is coming their way,” said Robert Danin, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that revolutions in the Arab world had brought to power parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent movement. “They feel they are on the right side of history,” Danin added.

While Hamas has controlled the governing apparatus in Gaza since ousting Fatah in a 2007 coup there, Hamas’s external leadership has been based in Damascus since 1999. The Assad regime in Syria offered its top political leaders, Khaled Mashaal and his deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, freedom of action in their violent struggle against Israel after Jordan expelled the group in 1999.

But as Assad’s crackdown on opposition demonstrations has grown more violent in recent months, Hamas began quietly reducing its presence in Damascus. In late February, Mashaal moved to Qatar and Abu Marzouk settled in Cairo. ”Practically, we are no longer in Syria because we couldn’t practice our duties there,” Abu Marzouk said in a February 26 interview with The Associated Press. He added: “We are not with the regime in its security solution, and we respect the will of the people.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.