Palestinian president is meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday to discuss the upsurge in violence in the region. Earlier Abbas generally recognized as the Fatah leader and successor to Yasser Arafat, who died under mysterious circumstances 10 years ago, said Hamas, an Islamist group in control of Gaza, was behind a series of recent explosions which targeted Fatah leaders in Gaza. Abbas has also accused them of fomenting violence and attempts "to destroy" efforts to broker national unity.
Says Valentina Colombo, Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, Brussels:
Last July there was a poll made by the Pew Research Center in the States about the feelings in the ME about the radical Islam. And as far as Hamas was concerned, that poll or that survey said that in Gaza, for instance, Hamas was much more hated and unsupported, rather than, for instance, in the West Bank.
So, it means that people who know Hamas, they don’t like it. They know that Hamas, which is a part (we know it from the Article 2 of their Covenant) of the MB, they are the Palestinian branch of it, Hamas is felt as a problem, or at least as a bad unreliable reality, especially in Palestine, especially in Gaza where Hamas is in power.
So, I totally share this view. And I must admit that since the last July, the attacks that have been launched from Gaza on Israel and the Israeli reaction, the feeling around the Arab world, that we know is usually the anti-Israeli feeling, the message sent from many different countries, from the governments, from individuals – intellectuals, journalists – was that the problem was Hamas. So, something is really changing in the Arab world. They started opening the eyes. They can say that there is a problem with Israel, but, at the same time, they say that Hamas is a more dangerous for the Palestinian people than Israel.
Could Hamas go as far as support the IS?
Valentina Colombo: Well, I think that it could be a possibility, in a sense. We know that the IS and the MB in general are one versus the other. They both share the same aim – the caliphate – but in two different ways. And as far as the IS is concerned, when in the last June Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the IS and the self-proclaimed caliphate, the first reaction was from the International Union of Muslim Scholars headed by Yusuf Qaradawi, who is the main theologian of the MB.
And the International Union headed by Qaradawi said – we want the caliphate, but we do not want your kind of caliphate, because your caliphate (referring to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s one) is a top-down caliphate. You came there, you proclaimed yourself a caliph, you announced the caliphate, but what about the people? Qaradawi and the International Union of Muslim Scholars said – we want a caliphate, but a bottom-up caliphate. Which is – we work on the ground, we work in the field, we prepare the people that at a certain point will act for our caliphate. The caliphate for the MB is not a caliphate with a caliph, but it is just a political power. So, in this sense they are one opposite the other.
But we know for sure that in case of danger, in case of certain situations the policy of the MB changes, because they are very pragmatic. So, what can happen? If Hamas is put into a corner, they could use the IS people, or at least the people sharing the IS’s ideology and the ideology of jihad, to support them. This could be, even though Hamas – we have to remember this and take this into account – has its own weapons, has its own soldiers, its own mujahedeen.
So, they could not have the necessity of going to the IS and asking for help, but it is possible. It is one of the possibilities that Hamas could use to remain in power, at least to scare people inside the Palestinian authority and outside of it.
What kind of trouble does that spell for Europe?
Valentina Colombo: We know that the MB is a global movement and the fight we are watching in the ME is a fight that could have here in Europe as well. Just an example, a few days ago Yusuf Qaradawi issued a release on his website or a call to the Arab and Muslim peoples. And the title of this call was “Save al-Aqsa”, of course, meaning the mosque in Jerusalem where there were troubles in the last days with the Israeli people.
And the most important and interesting part in this call was not just the usual call – go and save al-Aqsa – which is normal, but at the end of the statement Qaradawi quotes Hadith, which is part of the Article 7 of the Covenant of Hamas. And this Hadith, which is a saying of Muhammad, says – “The time would not come until the Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh, Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!” This will not apply to the Gharqad tree, which is a Jewish tree”.
So, what is the meaning of this? The meaning of this is that Qaradawi, who is the main theologian of the MB, is calling to help the Palestinian people in Israel but he is also calling to kill Jews. And this is very important, because Yusuf Qaradawi is not only the main theologian of the MB, is not only the President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, but he is the President of the European Council for Fatwa and Research based in Dublin. So, he is part of the European context.
And if a person like him calls to kill the Jews, we do not know what can happen next Friday in mosques or in the next days in the streets of Europe. We have had some cases in Brussels, in some other towns in Europe, the cases of tragic anti-Semitism. And a statement like this by a person who is involved in Europe and in the Muslim world could be really dangerous.
Vyacheslav Matuzov, political analyst, Chairman of the Russian Society of Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries:
Now Hamas is inspired by the entire situation in the ME – by the growth of the IS in Syria and Iraq, by the spread of their influence in other Arab countries. They want to fight the Egyptian Government, the Egyptian community. I think that was one reason why Hamas doesn’t accept the suggestions from Mahmoud Abbas, because Mahmoud Abbas has suggested to put an end to all the efforts to split the Palestinian people into the Palestinians in Gaza, the Palestinians in the West Bank.
Mahmoud Abbas is the representative of the Palestinian people on the world arena, he represents the Palestinian people in the UN. More than 130 have the Palestinian embassies and more than 130 countries have acknowledged Mahmoud Abbas and Palestine as a state. They’ve opened the full-right embassies, including in Russia. And the last example is the acknowledgment of Palestine as a state by Sweden, by Stockholm.
I think that these developments don’t please certain forces in the ME. First of all, this is Israel, which doesn’t enjoy the enforcing Palestinian Government. They don’t like that the Palestinian people receive a world-wide support. And Hamas is an instrument in the Israeli policy, because all the extremist steps that we have seen over the past years, I think that this whole policy demonstrated by Hamas corresponded to the Israeli interests.
Back in 2005 the NY Times wrote that Hamas was established and created by the Israeli security forces to give a chance for Israel to beat the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip any time, because of the extremist activity of Hamas. And Hamas is acting according to the desire of the Israeli extremist elements in the Israeli Government.
Now we see growing tension between Egypt and Hamas. Why? Because Hamas is a branch of the MB. The MB is fighting Egyptian Government. They tried to keep their power in Egypt and the Egyptian army helped the Egyptian people to get rid of the MB in Egypt. They were the main supporters of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. So, to put it in a nutshell, Mahmoud Abbas is right striving to unite the Palestinian people under one Government, which is the Government of the Palestinian Authority represented on the international arena.
And now Hamas is rejecting this offer of the Palestinian Authority, and is trying to demonstrate their extremist nature, trying to receive the support from those who are fighting Israel and the Western ideas. I think it is the wrong way that is pushing the Palestinian people in Gaza towards a confrontation, towards inspiring the Israeli blow on Gaza Strip. They are suffering themselves.
We now watch the efforts of the US to fight the ISIS in Syria and Lebanon, and in Iraq. I think fighting the Syrian Government on the ground by sending extremists against the Syrian army it is erroneous. And now the US come to discover that all the allies in the Syrian opposition are extremists, they are terrorists, they are threatening not Syria, not Iraq, but other Arab states, including the Gulf states, including Egypt, including Libya, including Algeria, and even Europe, the US, and Russia, too.
So, I think that the failure of the US in their policy towards the ME is now obvious. And all the Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states are going to Moscow, going to seek support from the Russian Federation. And Russia is ready to be cooperative. Russia is ready to help the Arab states to get rid of extremism. Why? Because extremism is threatening the Russian interests, too.
In this connection the terrorist activity by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, is threatening not only the regional interests, but the interests in the international level. Suggesting a common government with Hamas and the Palestinian Government, Mahmoud Abbas is saying that they are responsible for the future of the Palestinian people. Hamas is ignoring it. I think that Mahmoud Abbas will find the full and unconditional support from all the Arab leaders: from Egypt, from the Gulf States and in Syria, and Iraq, and Jordan.