Hamas' Iran Connection: Asset Or Liability - Palestinians Assessments

26 Feb 2012

By Khalid Amayreh

The latest visit to Tehran by Hamas' prime minister Ismael Haniya raised many eyebrows  among Palestinians everywhere who viewed its timing as "problematic and unwise."

Critics argue that having  amicable audience and cordial meetings with the Iranian leadership at this time is bound to be interpreted by many Muslims as a brazen betrayal of the Syrian revolution, including the Syrian Muslim Brothers,  the Alawite regime's arch foe and ultimate enemy. 

Iran, which officially claims it doesn't interfere in the Syrian situation, is one of the Assad regime's ardent supporters. The same thing applies to the Lebanese militia of Hizbullah which is rumored to assist the Syrian army in its bloody crackdown on the freedom movement. 

The ruling Alawite sect in Syria is an esoteric branch of Shiism. In recent years, Shiite scholars tried to "rehabilitate" the Alawites, with some Shiite clerics issuing edicts that the Alawites were bona fide Shiites. 

The Alawites  are anthropomorphists who believe that the Prophet Muhammed's cousin and son-in-law Ali was God-Incarnate..

Syrian sources close to the anti-Assad movement have reported that Iranian fighters were spotted helping regime's forces kill peaceful  protesters, However, these reports have not be confirmed by independent or third-party sources. 

Until  fairly recently, Hamas resorted to  reiterating terse statements affirming its "absolute neutrality" with regard to "the situation" in Syria. 

Hamas' politburo chief Khalid Misha'al said during a recent aljazeera interview that "we support the Arab peoples' quest for freedom but we can't betray those who stood with us during hard times." 

Officially, Misha'al's remarks passed quietly as many ordinary Palestinians understood, though begrudgingly, that Hamas had to refrain from  burning  all bridges with Damascus or Tehran before knowing for sure  the direction of political winds in Syria. 

But this logic is not being widely and readily accepted,  especially among  the more ideologically-oriented Islamists who believe religion, not politics, must always come first. 

One veteran Islamist leader who had spent many years in Israeli jails told the Weekly that "expediency plays a role in  the formation of Muslims' positions, but not when Muslim blood is being spilled on a large scale in the streets and squares of Syria." 

The middle-aged Hebronite read a Hadith or saying of the Prophet Muhammed that "whoever aids or abets in spilling an innocent Muslim's blood will have no hope for God's mercy on the Day of Judgment." 

In their hearts, even supporters of the Gaza-Tehran connection swear they are with the Syrian people soul and heart. 

Ahmed Yousef, a former political advisor to Haniya, told the Weekly that "Hamas can't be a genuine Islamic movement while siding with murderous regimes against the people.  

"And it would be wrong to assume that the ostensible  ambiguity and ambivalence connote or denote  support for the regime in Damascus." 

Yosuf, none the  less, admitted that "occasionally, a free man must seek the friendship of an enemy for survival." 

In Tehran, Haniya was accorded a stately reception. He also had a cordial meeting with the Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenaei.  

It is likely that Iran tried to use  the visit to alleviate its isolation. Supporting  the Palestinian cause is always a winning card in Tehran. This is certainly the case ever since the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in 1978. Moreover, it is generally understood that the Iranian support  for the Palestinians is considered one of the main factors behind the sullen hostility shown toward the Iranian regime by Israel and her guardian-ally, the United States. 

It is uncertain how large is the amount of financial aid Tehran gives the Islamist regime in Gaza. Some Gaza sources point out that Iranian aid to Hamas was erratic and dwindling. However, Haniya's visit to Tehran, which was termed a "resounding success" by both sides, seems to have convinced the Islamist government in Gaza that this is not the time to scale down relations with Tehran. 

One Hamas' official, Ismael Radwan, lashed out at critics of Haniya's visit to Tehran.  

"What do the critics want. The Arabs, or most of them, are squandering their billions on their lusts and vagaries, but Iran is helping  us remain steadfast and resilient in the face of Israel." 

The Gazan Islamist leader further advised critics to examine their Islamic credentials, especially their obligations toward the Aqsa Mosque. 

"Look, Arab leaders are  not even raising the matter with foreign diplomats. So, what do these people really want? Do they want us to tell the Iranians that our civilians will die of hunger and lack of medical care because we don't accept Iranian aid." 

Apart from Hamas' decision to maintain liaison with Damascus, some Sunni Arab voices are worried that Iran might utilize its badly-needed financial aid to Gaza to convert Sunnis to Shi'ism. 

A few months ago, a small group of neophytes tried to hold a procession  in Gaza  to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the nephew of the Prophet. However, the move was suppressed before it began and those involved were charged with spreading schism and endangering social cohesion. 

Palestinian Muslims,  who constitute 99.95 of the overall population of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, are almost all Sunni who resent any notion of conversion to the esoteric Shiite sect. 

One Palestinian journalist wrote an article recently warning that "there should be no tolerance  for those who curse the companions and   wives of the Prophet, worship tombs and dead saints and bloody their bodies during Ashura," an allusion to the Shiites. 

Iran denies any sectarian motives behind its policy toward the Palestinians.  (end)



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