Face to Face with Aditi Bhaduri
June 22, 2021
Dr Hichem Karoui is a Tunisian French sociologist and author of several books on the MENA region and international relations. He serves since January 2020 as Director and Senior Researcher at the London-Based think tank: The Gulf Futures Center. He spoke to Aditi Bhaduri on the larger politics of HAMAS and it’s recent war on Israel:
In the recent Israel- Hamas war, were Palestians as a whole involved? Was there widespread support for Hamas?
In any kind of war, the population is not involved, although it becomes a victim of exchanged violence. Neither the Israeli population was involved in the recent conflict nor the Palestinian. Yet, damages and casualties don’t spare civilians on both sides.
Now, as you ask me whether there was widespread support for Hamas or not, the correct answer would start with defining Hamas. If you know who they are, you will understand better who supports them. Hamas is not just a Palestinian national entity but a segment of a broad organisation that has cells and representatives and militants in many countries of the world, including the Western.
Hamas is just the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in Arabic, Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun. The MB was initially an Egyptian religious-political terrorist organisation founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, on the model of the Fascist militias. Today, despite the repression undergone under the regime of [Egyptian President] Nasser, following their failed attempt to assassinate him, they have developed into a tentacular powerful worldwide organisation, with branches in every country they could reach. Palestine is one of them.
Muslim Brotherhood has access to governmental resources in Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, etc.… In other Arab countries, it has been banned. In Western countries, a controversial debate is going on about whether, yes or no, it should be considered a terrorist organisation. The Western paradox consists in singling out Hamas as a terrorist entity while leaving the other branches in peace! To come back to your question: consider how many affiliates and sympathisers the MB could have in all the world countries, and you would understand who is supporting Hamas. Every time Western (or other) legislators consider the MB should not be listed as a terrorist organisation, they support Hamas.
Hamas has emerged far stronger than it was in 2014. What are the major factors for this evolution
Why Hamas seems more potent now than ever before? First, because of the worldwide support it could gather from the MB affiliates, sympathisers, and sponsors. Second, some of the sponsors are immensely rich (like Qatar). Some others are powerful because they are still protected by the Americans (like Turkey), and some others, like Iran, are supporting Hamas out of defiance. Third, Hamas may be a small organisation on the local level. Still, it has access to the resources of the governments that support it. Fourth, Hamas has become powerful because the Palestinian Authority (PA) has become weak and lost credibility. Fifth, when Israel killed the peace process, it has signed with the only Palestinian leader who could offer real peace to a divided country since 1947 (i.e. Yasser Arafat); it weakened its partners in the peace process (i.e. the PA). Therefore, it made Hamas gain ground, popularity and credibility.
Was the war also a message that Hamas was sending to other Arab countries that had minimalised relations with Israel, vis-a-vis Abraham Accord?
Yes, Hamas probably intended to send messages to all parties involved, including Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and primarily to Israel and the West. To all of them, Hamas says: we are here, and we are not giving up the armed fight against Israel.
Actually, in going to war, Hamas was trying to return the Arab population against their rulers. Hamas’s leaders know how deep the Palestinian plight is still touching the Arab people, and they will always try to get ground roots essential support.
Is Hamas turning into another proxy like the Houthis?
No. It is, as I said, a branch of a larger world organisation based in Qatar and Turkey. Suppose you consider that the branches of the same organisation in the USA, the UK, France, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc.… are proxies. In that case, you need to answer another question: to who? We are talking of an international organisation, which elects its leaders following the spirit and tradition of Islamic “Bay’a” (i.e. allegiance, pledge). Every branch of the international organisation has its own decision-making on the local level. We cannot say that Rached al-Ghannouchi, in Tunisia, is a proxy of the Egyptian or the Sudanese or the Kuwaiti “Murshid” (spiritual guide). And much the same for the leaders of Hamas. They are locally independent. However, without support from the outside, they could be easily defeated. So, it is a tricky question because without money from Qatar, weapons from Iran, and other support from Turkey etc.… Hamas could not survive.
Can Gaza become the stage for another proxy war in the region? If yes, amongst whom?
We are talking of asymmetric war. Like any other place where militants have been involved in such a conflict, from Afghanistan to Somalia and beyond…
Gaza has become the place where the states of Israel, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and maybe others, undercover, lead an armed struggle using the local branch of the MB. Such a conflict could persist for decades ahead, with a bit of cease-fire now and then.
It could also last even after a diplomatic solution is implemented. Why? Because of the religious ground upon which Hamas and Israel are leading the conflict. Both pretend to have the right to the same land for the same reason: God gave it to one of them, as they believe or want to make people believe. You cannot find a diplomatic solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on religion. Even the so-called Abraham Accords did not get rid of such a paradox. They still try to convince us that religions are made to coexist peacefully with each other. But every time we look, we find that religious creeds are behind bombs, explosions, suicide attacks, targeted assassinations, and vast armed conflicts.
If you want peace, forbid religion from involvement in public affairs. You need to fight for secularism because without secularism, there is no democracy and no justice, and therefore, no peace.