Crafty Electioneering

Reading Hamas

By Hussein Ibish

Published April 30, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

While the Forward’s unprecedented interview with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook didn’t demonstrate any shift in Hamas’s policies, it provides some insight into Hamas’s internal politics. The organization is now badly divided because its Political Bureau, including Abu Marzook, had to abandon its long-standing headquarters in Damascus. The external leadership has been attempting to reintegrate Hamas into the mainstream Sunni Arab political sphere by cultivating ties with states like Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. The Gaza-based Hamas leadership has been strongly pushing back against these efforts and attempting to keep ties open with Iran.

Hamas’s de facto prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, was elected head of the Gaza Political Bureau in a secret vote this April. The secret election for membership in and leadership of Hamas’s external and politically pre-eminent Politburo is scheduled to take place soon. Abu Marzook may well have been doing some crafty campaigning by speaking to the Forward, and in the positions he adopted.

Highly controversial moves by the external Hamas leadership have been closely associated with current Politburo chief Khaled Meshal. He angered many in the movement, particularly in Gaza, by seemingly abandoning the relationship with Iran in favor of closer ties with Arab states; cutting a Qatar-brokered deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on terms highly favorable to the P.A., and repeatedly invoking the virtue of “popular resistance” as opposed to armed struggle.

Abu Marzook may well be trying to position himself as a compromise candidate between Gaza-based leaders, whose policies wouldn’t be appealing to most Arab governments, and Meshal, who is seen by many as having gone too far too quickly. In his interview, Abu Marzook presented himself as pragmatic and flexible, and ready to reach out to the West, including Jewish Americans — positions that would appeal to Arab governments and relative moderates in Hamas. But he was categorical in insisting on Hamas’s core positions of not recognizing Israel, not seeking a conflict-ending agreement but rather an open-ended truce, and the centrality of armed struggle — stances that would reassure hard-liners, including Gaza-based leaders.
The Forward noted that he was “at pains to knock down suggestions in numerous media outlets that Hamas is preparing to abandon armed resistance against Israel in favor of mass popular resistance.” Given the sharp contrast with some highly controversial comments in favor of popular resistance by Meshal, Abu Marzook may well be trying to distinguish himself from his former deputy and send the message that while he recognizes the need for Hamas to adapt to new realities, his approach will be more palatable to the leaders in Gaza and to the hard-liners.

Meshal has said he won’t run for re-election as leader of the Political Bureau, but most observers expect he will. If Meshal does run, Abu Marzook might be trying to position himself as a compromise candidate. If Meshal doesn’t, Abu Marzook might be presenting himself as simply the most important and visionary of Hamas’s current leadership. Either way, it reads very much like some pretty crafty electioneering.

Hussein Ibish is a senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and blogs at Ibishblog.com.


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!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "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?
  • 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.