Monday, April 24, 2006

Mashal's discourse of failure

Is Hamas already showing signs of failure?

Manar al-Rashwani, writing in al-Ghad thinks so. He points to Hamas' political leader Khalid Mashal's recent actions and statements as a sign that Hamas has already begun to signal defeat.

Among these signs is Mashal's reliance on rhetoric that reverts to is based upon the movment's opposition to Israel, such as visiting and praising Iran's president not just for its nuclear program but also for threatening to wipe Israel off the map. Rather than strengthening Hamas' efforts to show it is and can moderate itself, these actions play directly into the hands of those who are trying to isolate and break Hamas.

More importantly though, are Mashal's statements about the Palestinian Authority. In a recent speech he asserted that it is he himself who is the leader of the Palestinian people, and went on to criticize every non-Hamas aspect of the Palestinian Authority, according to Rashwani.

This, Rashwani says, signals Hamas frustration and failure to deliver on its promises to do a better job in power than the secular PLO.

It also most likely a signal that Mashal is feeling marginalized and threatened by the rise of other leaders within Hamas, who are getting both the attention and credit for leading the organization. This is what happened to the PLO, when local leaders in the West Bank and Gaza emerged and threatened to asurp the authority of the exiled leadership of Arafat and company.

Hamas figures inside the territories tried to distance themselves from Mashal's statements. Haaretz reports that, "Nasser a-Din Shaar, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's deputy, tried Saturday to calm things down by releasing a statement that Meshal's declarations "do not necessarily reflect the position of the Hamas government but rather only of the Hamas organization."

Haaretz also reported that
the Palestinian Interior Ministry is trying to downplay the recent announcement of a new security branch by stating that "the security force was not a new one but was based on the Palestinian Police and would operate under its authority."

What Mashal's little tirade did, however, is to spark factional fighting withing the Palestinian territories between Fatah and Hamas supporters, raising both tensions and the stakes within Palestinian society. Rather than trying to maintain and build on the slim consensus that brought it to power, some Hamas leaders are instead asserting themselves to the detriment of Palestinian interests.

Palestinians who live under occupation tend to be much more reasonable than those who live outside. Those under occupation have to deal with the reality of Israel in a much more concrete way, both literally and figuratively. They are much more accepting of the idea of some degree of coexistence if Israel would just end the occupation. Those on the outside have the luxury of not having to really face the impact of the linkages of the Israeli and Palestinian economies, or of dealing with Israelis in dozens of little ways just to negotiate their daily lives.

If Hamas has any hope of surviving past the next six months, they better get their act together, both internally and externally. For Rashwani, this means that exiled leaders like Mashal out to basically keep quiet, no matter their political weight or significance in Hamas.


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