Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the street in December in Gaza to mark the 29th anniversary of the establishment of Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement that governs the besieged strip. A military parade of Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, thrilled demonstrators as Hamas leaders delivered speeches affirming the group’s ongoing commitment to military resistance against the Israeli occupation as the only way to liberate Palestine. However, this year, the anniversary came amid mounting challenges facing Hamas on the domestic front and within the international arena.
The Palestinian community is still plagued by the internal division between Hamas and its rival Palestinian liberation movement, Fatah. This year has witnessed many desperate attempts to bridge the fences between the two sides, but none achieved significant progress or made a breakthrough.
Faiez Abu Shamalah, a Gaza-based commentator, said that achieving internal unity is a pressing need for Hamas that should not be overlooked.
“The Palestinians and their fair cause have fallen victims to this split. We have lost a lot because both Hamas and Fatah refuse to show flexibility or make concessions for the sake of achieving internal unity and reconciliation,” Abu Shamalah said.
He went on to note that Fatah continues to completely dodge its responsibilities toward Gaza, also exacerbating the situation further by contributing to Gaza’s acute unemployment and electricity crisis. Fatah’s obstinacy propels Gaza’s woes to drag on indefinitely, and the people of Gaza have already paid a heavy price.
For Hamas, its conditions for achieving reconciliation are guarantees from Fatah to completely recognize the workers in the public sector in the besieged territories. It does not seem that these two main obstacles are about to be resolved.
“Both have to show mutual zeal to restore the international unity, and not to abide by their narrow private interests,” Abu Shamalah pointed out.
The Palestinian internal split dates back to 2007 when Hamas and Fatah battled each other at streets in Gaza after Fatah refused to recognize the results of the 2006 legislative elections that Hamas won by a landslide. Since then, Hamas has continued to run Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority (PA) governs Palestinian sections of the occupied West Bank.
Since the beginning of the so-called “Arab Spring,” Hamas has been confronted with the additional challenge of international and regional isolation. Hamas noticeably lost the support of Syria and Iran when it refused to participate in the atrocities perpetrated by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people. Hamas leadership was then expelled from Syria in 2012, and Iranian financial and military support has dried up.
Two years later, the movement has reduced the strain of this dilemma by opening new channels with more countries which adopt friendly positions toward the Palestinian cause.
Khaled el-Kadomi, a Hamas official said that his group is seeking unconditional support that aims to strengthen and consolidate the Palestinian resistance and provide the beleaguered Palestinians with financial support amidst a plummeting economy and soaring unemployment.
“We have worked tirelessly to maintain Hamas’s international and regional relations to garner adequate support for the Palestinian cause, and to encourage solidarity toward Gaza’s ordeal,” he added.
El-Kadomi noted that there are countries that agree to unconditionally support the Palestinians, while other countries choose to keep their support private. In addition, there are some Arab countries that he did not name that are still reluctant to talk with Hamas. What is essential, said the official, is to seperate Palestine from the ongoing conflicts in the Arab region.
He admitted that as violence ravages in the region, the Palestinian cause is no longer seen as a core issue. However, Hamas, he added, looks forward to seeing the Arab World united and in peace to support the Palestinians again in their liberation mission.
It is noteworthy to say that the last year has witnessed some attempts from Hamas to restore relations with Iran, which has included high-ranking delegations of Hamas members to visit Tehran. Hamas officials refuse to talk in detail about the development. Iran used to be the biggest financial and military strategist supporter for Hamas, and it seems that the group has failed to fully compensate for the Iranian loss.
Hamas is expected to elect a new head and members for its political bureau in the coming months. This was driven by increasing calls from the group’s adherents but it remains unclear whether the new political bureau will adopt new tactics and be more capable in responding to the growing challenges that confront Hamas.
However, the most pressing need for Hamas at the current moment is to improve the work of its government in the Gaza Strip. The joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade and the suffocating restrictions imposed against Gaza to punish Hamas have taken a heavy toll on the people, and Hamas has to exert more effort to make their life easier and reduce the blockade’s strain.
Hamas has succeeded in building an internal infrastructure of charities in Gaza to support impoverished people, but more can be done to delegitimize the collective punishment of the siege. Hamas has shed light using its media presence on how awful and inhumane the blockade is, but that does not exclude the need for diplomasuccessessses to garner international support and lift the siege once and for all.