Alsharq gives young Palestinians the opportunity to argue which party they would support if there were elections to be held in Palestine. The opinions voiced do by no means express the views of the Alsharq-Team. Today, Mohammed Ayoub Najjar explains the support for Hamas amongst young Palestinians.
A few days ago I was walking in Al-Irsal Street in Ramallah, one of the most prominent cities in the West Bank and the site of the headquarters of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. I was heading to Birzeit University to attend a show within the activities of the Birzeit Summer Festival, when I saw an old friend who spent three years in Israeli prisons for charges on political affiliation to Hamas. I asked him about the updates and his life and he informed me that two significant events will be taking place soon: first his marriage after the holy month of Ramadan and second the hopefully upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, in which Hamas will take part when reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is concluded and an elections date is set. My friend is seeking to recruit as many citizens of the West Bank as possible to vote for Hamas and rebuild the movement that suffered from the occupation and the Palestinian Authority since 2006.
I thought thoroughly of the reasons behind this deep commitment. It amazed me that after suffering incarceration for three years at the age of 19 and participating in a hunger strike for more than a month, my friend was released from prison with even deeper commitment to Hamas. He perceived election day as fateful. How come my friend is still committed to his opinion even though he was arrested by the PA five times after he was released from prison and was once electrocuted? This made me wonder, who is Hamas? What is the secret behind its immense popular base among the Palestinian people? And what is its vision with regards to the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict?
The friend clarified to me that as a member of Hamas, he believes that this resistance movement is in disagreement with Jews not because they differ in their religion; it is in disagreement with them because they are occupying Palestine, refuse the return of the people who were displaced and are still committing crimes against the Palestinian people. Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, one of Hamas‘ founders, expresses this in simple words: “We do not have a problem with Jews because they are Jewish. We do not disagree with Jews living in Russia, Switzerland, Morocco or otherwise; our disagreement is with those who occupy our land, kill our people and displace our women. If it were a Muslim who did that we would kill him alike”.
Military work within Hamas represents a strategic approach to face “the expanding Zionist project that is based on occupation of land in light of the absence of a holistic Islamic and Arabic liberation project”, as stated by Shaikh Ahmad Yassin. This approach is developed in light of the failure of the negotiations that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (lead by Fatah) have pursued for more than 20 years. Negotiations have not changed anything on the ground and rather pushed the Palestinians to give up on matters previously considered unconditional national principles.
The year 2005 marked a prominent shift in the history of Hamas, when it decided to participate in the parliamentary elections. This decision stemmed from its belief in the need to serve the Palestinian people from a decision-making position and end the exasperated corruption of the PA. Hence, its slogan in the electoral campaign was “Change and Reform”. In January 2006, the results of the elections that were praised as transparent and fair were published: Hamas accomplished a great victory when it secured 76 out of the 132 seats of the Legislative Council, while the rest was distributed among Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, other leftist parties and independent candidates.
When parliamentary elections were taking place in Palestine in January 2006 and Hamas decided to participate in these elections, it was able to create a new model that combined political rule and armed resistance raising the slogan “One hand builds and the other resists.” Following the victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections, it was asked to form a Palestinian government that was boycotted externally and internally; this eventually lead to Hamas‘ enforcement of rule 17 months later in the Gaza Strip. During its rule in Gaza, Hamas succeeded in governing in spite of the numerous challenges and external and internal conspiracies. Hamas was able to administer the security, economic and political matters of the Gaza Strip while continuing to perform armed resistance. One of the most prominent resistance operations was capturing the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, which resulted in the release of 1024 Palestinian prisoners in one of the largest deals in the history of Palestinian resistance.
Israel, in return, tried to topple the rule of Hamas in the West Bank by arresting more than 40 members of parliament and disable the Palestinian Legislative Council under the so called “Administrative Detention” allegations, which violate international law. It also imposed a siege on the movement in Gaza for six years in cooperation with its previous ally, the former Egyptian president Husni Mubarak. In light of the siege of Gaza and its people, surviving the 2009 and 2012 Israeli military attacks, the steadfastness of the movement grew stronger than ever.
Today, Hamas presents itself as a Palestinian, Islamic, Nationalistic and Resistance Movement; it derives its legitimacy from its national, Arabic and Islamic dimension and presents itself as the spearhead of the military resistance to the Israeli occupation after Fatah took a backseat in this.
Hamas is preparing for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections and is basing its presentation on four components. The first is a commitment to national principles. This comprises Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees, full sovereignity of the state over historical Palestine, the release of all Palestinian political prisoners and the right of civil resistance until termination of the Israeli occupation. The second component is annihilating corruption and a commitment to the rights of PA-employees in payment of wages on time. The third is choosing humble ministers and a compatible leadership that is committed to the cause of the Palestinian liberation. The final component is armed resistance until the termination of the Israeli occupation.
For all of the above, Hamas enters the upcoming elections with complete faith in the Palestinian people that they will choose correctly in spite of the attempted propaganda and detainment of activists and supporters at the hands of the Government of Israel and the PA. Hamas enters these elections while knowing that it will not give up the choice of armed resistance until the termination of occupation and the establishment of the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.
At least this is what my friend and others think, and I think they are numerous.
Read in the first part of our series Tamara Tamimis plea for Fatah.