What really lies behind support for the Palestinians in the Muslim world.
Ismail Haniyeh, the putative prime minister of Hamas, headquartered in Gaza, has just visited Iran. That visit highlighted a growing division within Hamas between Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas politburo. Until very recently headquartered in Damascus, Mashaal has broken with Iran and relocated to the Gulf State of Qatar.
On February 12, the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khameini, expressing support for his guest, publicly declared that the Palestinian issue was an “Islamic cause.”
The “Palestinian issue”? This sounds rather as if Iran were promoting a Palestinian state. (This surface impression would coincide with the notion that the Arab/Islamic world would be less bellicose if only Israel would agree to a “two state solution.”) But it is far from the reality, and the Ayatollah’s words provide an excellent opportunity for setting the record straight.
Just as the Ayatollah is Islamist (perhaps heading the Islamist state “par excellence,” as it were), so is Hamas Islamist—a direct offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Islamist ideology is not nationalist, but, rather, is dedicated to the concept of the ummah —the entire Muslim world seen as a unity. As Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomein said, shortly after the overthrow of the Shah and his return to Iran from exile, “I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke. We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah.”
According to this view, any country, as a sovereign national entity, can legitimately be sacrificed in service to the larger goal of ensuring that “Islam emerges triumphant…” That triumphalism alludes to rule of shari’a (Islamic law). The ultimate to be aspired to in this regard is the caliphate, an institution of imperial Islamic rule that strives for global hegemony.
And what of the “Palestinian issue”? It’s all about the destruction of Israel and the banishment of Jews from the land.
This approach was very explicitly outlined by the Muslim Brotherhood in The Project, part of its charter adopted in 1982 (and described in detail on May 11, 2006 in Front Page Magazine).
Among the techniques it recommended was this:
• Adopting the total liberation of Palestine from Israel and the creation of an Islamic state as a keystone in the plan for global Islamic domination…
A similar approach is reflected in the 1988 covenant of Hamas, the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” which states:
• The Movement's program is Islam…
• The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine…
• The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders…
• The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [sacred trust] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day.
• Nationalism, from the point of view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, is part of the religious creed. Nothing in nationalism is more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Moslem land. Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Moslem…
No mention of a Palestinian state here and no emphasis on a distinct “Palestinian Arab people.” No commitment to Palestinian national sovereignty as a value unto itself. When leaders of Hamas speak of “resistance,” they intend only to banish Jews from a part of the land that ultimately belongs to the ummah.
The Palestinian National Charter, adopted by the Palestinian National Council (the legislative body of the PLO) in 1968, however, reflects a perspective that is decidedly more nationalistic than anything in the Hamas charter:
• Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people…
• Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit…
• The Palestinian Arab people possess the legal right to their homeland…
• The Palestinian people possess the fundamental and genuine legal right to liberate and retrieve their homeland…
There is not a single reference to Islam or Islamic in this charter, which has not been amended since 1968. And while there is a nod to Palestine as “an indivisible part of the Arab homeland,” there is clearly a readiness to demarcate a “Palestinian homeland” as separate.
The PLO is officially the body that negotiates with Israel; it (or more accurately, its head, Yasser Arafat), signed off on the Oslo Accords that created the Palestinian Authority.
Can we assume then, that the PLO, or the PA, aspiring to a Palestinian state, may ultimately wish to sign off on that “two state solution”?
Clearly not. For its charter defines the future Palestinian homeland as “Palestine within the boundaries of the British Mandate.”
For all their ideological difference, this is where PLO goals and Hamas goals dovetail:
When PA president Mahmoud Abbas and cohorts speak of “resistance,” they are also speaking of driving Jews from all of Palestine, no matter what pretense is advanced for Western ears.
In the end, it matters to Israeli survival not a whit whether the goal is a Palestinian national homeland or a caliphate based on Islamic law: the mutual intent of Hamas and the PLO is the destruction of Israel.
This shared objective is the underpinning of that recent PA-Hamas “unity accord”—the Doha Declaration—no matter what other practical considerations have also come into play or what dissension may ultimately render it not viable.
Abbas was willing to sign with Hamas. This should not be forgotten.
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