Monday, March 12, 2012

Tests and contests: Hamas without Syria

The political dynamics of Hamas are shifting as it seeks to reconcile its geopolitical power base away from Syria.

By Larbi Sadiki

".....Certainty is noted by its complete absence in all things Palestinian, especially the dream of statehood. Ideology has ceased to provide certainty in terms of how to frame the struggle for Palestine. Those Palestinian factions who once embraced Marx and Lenin have turned to the patronage of mortal political leaders, self-styled demi-gods, who could provide money and weapons. And those whose "god" was Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat's nom de guerre) are today left only with the skeleton of a "temple" devoid of ideology or a sense of purpose. In fact, perhaps the only certainty is the fluidity that has marked their cause.

The only arena where Hamas challenges "post-modernism" is in its stolid religiosity - it has cemented Palestine to one God. It has premised its struggle, the rationale for it, its core values and manifestos, and its continuity, on this religious basis. It is that continuity that equips Hamas with the kind of durability that other organisations - whose lesser mortal "gods" die or err - today find only in short supply....

Post-Syria Hamas is undergoing tests that inevitably impose new contests of adaptation to the new realities on the ground: Dispersed de-territorialisation, multi-vocal and diverse leadership, and dispersed constituency.

Hamas' leadership and political and diverse civil societies have historically endured the tests of statelessness and geographical permanence through dispersion, not concentration. They have maintained existence, if that is possible at all, within the "void" - not firm and fixed political geography. It is in the cracks between absence-presence and between the inside and the outside that they play out their politics.....

Note the relocation of leaders from the now vacated Damascus politburo, with Musa Abou Marzouq - owing to strong knowledge of and family connection with Egypt - settling in Cairo. Meshaal has become a roaming leader - based in Doha but now with access to Amman (facilitated by the Qatari Crown Prince Tamim), Cairo and Gaza. Muhammad Nazzal settled in Jordan, which gave the green light for the return of Hamas (after a four-hour meeting concluded between Meshaal and King Abdullah II in February, again with Prince Tamim's mediation). Khalid Al-'Alami returned to Gaza.

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar openly favours the return of all leaders to Gaza. Fixing Hamas to a single centre or geography - apart from security considerations - would weaken Hamas.....

Very generally, the inside is rigid in its political management, conditioned by the harsh milieu of a five-year embargo after a deadly war in December 2008 to January 2009. Gaza views itself as the new political centre and the pivot of the organisation's polity. It has the numbers, the guns, the constituency and a record of sacrifices. Al-Zahhar alone lost two of his sons in the Israeli bombing of the Strip in 2008 to '09. Political weight is more or less measured by the high political price paid by the local leadership, which includes kidnappings and imprisonment by Israel.

The outre-mer tends towards resilience and even pragmatism - not denying that others in the inside can be pragmatic, such as Haniyyah, for instance. It has founded its legitimacy on being the foreign sounding board, flying the movement's flag abroad and more importantly, procuring funds, networking and setting up a diplomatic corps for Hamas...."

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