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!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • 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.