Gaza is a strip of land with an area of only 360 kilometres square, in contrast to the West Bank which is 5,500. The Gaza Strip is poor. It is totally lacking in resources and it is inhabited by around two million people, the vast majority of whom are refugees expelled from their homes in 1948 or displaced for a second time during the Israeli aggression in June 1967. The strip is very densely populated. It had been under Egyptian administration from 1948 until the Israeli invasion of 1967. Israel was not happy to occupy Gaza; it tried to export its responsibility to Egypt on a number of occasions. Prime Minister Golda Meir did not disguise her dislike for Gaza and her desire to shed obligations to it. She once said that she would like to wake up and find that Gaza had been swallowed by the Mediterranean.
Gaza had long been a centre for the national resistance. The first Intifada, in December 1987, was launched from there. It is also where the Islamic resistance movement Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, was born. It was the Muslim Brotherhood’s bid to catch up with and simultaneously to hijack the resistance train. The Palestinian national resistance and the so-called Hamas Islamic resistance should not be confused.
They are two entirely different things.
The Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood had been frequently accused of aiding and abetting the occupation because it refused to take part in the resistance. Muslim Brotherhood leaders held that the group’s vision was to “build the Muslim individual, family and society first” and that to take part in resistance actions would put their project at risk. Some critics went so far as to accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of actively coordinating with Israeli security agencies which, in turn, facilitated the group’s access to weapons in order to fight the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) which the Muslim Brotherhood saw as a threat to its Islamist project. The PLO espoused a nationalist and pan-Arab nationalist ideology, which the Muslim Brotherhood condemned as “secularist” (signifying heretic in the Muslim Brotherhood lexicon) and loathed because it was the antithesis of its own vision. Therefore, its leaders felt that the more harm they could inflict on the PLO, the more they would be able to promote their Islamist project until it became the only alternative. Israel naturally encouraged this thinking. If it could defeat the secularist nationalist and democratic Palestinian factions that made up the PLO it will have scored a major victory since this was the sole effective resistance movement in Palestine.
When the first Intifada erupted, the Muslim Brotherhood realised that it was time for an image makeover. Hamas was only unveiled 15 days after the Intifada eruption. Yet, it claimed that it had initiated the uprising. It would go on to wreak disaster after disaster for the national resistance movement and for Gaza and its people. The Hamas mode of “resistance” was to vie with and undermine the unified national leadership of the Intifada which was made up of the actual resistance fighters on the ground and factions under the PLO umbrella. If the Intifada leadership called for a general strike throughout the occupied territories on a particular day, Hamas would tell people to go to work that day and go on strike the next day.
The Hamas stratagems worked. It succeeded in sapping the influence of the unified national leadership, creating a rift between Palestinians and delighting the occupation authorities who quickly seized upon this gift of a sharply divided and weakened resistance. The tragedy of the Palestinian people in general, and Gaza and its people in particular, would grow increasingly dire thanks to the self-serving policies of Hamas that bases its calculations from the standpoint of a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, as opposed to a Palestinian faction, as is the case with all Muslim Brotherhood branches or affiliates, which pay allegiance to their organisation, not to the nation or the state.
The foregoing background is important because the time has come to address the question of the Hamas-Egyptian relationship frankly and openly, because of its direct bearing on Egyptian national security. Therefore, bluntly, Hamas has been a blatant threat to Egypt since 2010. It has threatened our borders. It has threatened the security of Sinai. It has attempted to undermine domestic security elsewhere in the country. Before readers accuse us of being unjust, here are some facts:
- It has been proven with concrete evidence that Hamas had been using the Rafah-Gaza tunnels to smuggle arms, drugs and contraband goods since 2008.
- It has been established that Hamas poured some 50 million forged dollars into Egypt through the Rafah tunnels. The dollars had been printed in Gaza with a money-minting machine procured from Iran, which is why they were called at the time “Iranian dollars.”
- It has been proven that Hamas-affiliated special forces units infiltrated Egypt to take part in attacks against prisons and police stations in January 2011.
- Hamas is known to have training camps to fill the ranks of the “Quds Brigades”, which eventually became the troops of the IS-affiliated “Sinai Province”.
- The Egyptian authorities have as yet undisclosed evidence of fighters, documents, ammunition and funds linked to Hamas.
- There is evidence that Hamas’s monthly budget is supplied by Iran and Qatar.
- Turkey is Hamas’s chief logistical supporter.
- Last week, Qatar announced that it would finance the repair of electricity generators in Gaza to the tune of $12 million.
Egypt cannot continue with the policy of remaining silent and patient as Hamas delivers one slap after the other. We need to confront the Hamas leadership directly and openly.
The irony is that Hamas points an accusing finger at Egypt because Egypt shuts down the Gaza-Sinai crossings after every terrorist attack in Sinai or Cairo. But contrary to Hamas propaganda, it is not the Egyptian authorities who have no heart or conscience. Hamas’s actions have cost Egypt considerable losses in life and material damage. Hamas’s “resistance” has killed more Egyptians than Israelis. That is the painful truth. Egypt must take a firm and resolute stance on the question of Hamas.