I don’t much like Hamas, nor do I like the Muslim Brotherhood, its parent organization. As readers of The Dreyfuss Report know, I consider both organizations to be reactionary, and I’m distressed by the fact that Palestinians—who are among the Arab world’s most sophisticated and educated populations—would support Hamas, whose leaders are Islamists and religious fundamentalists.
But Hamas as the Palestinian Al Qaeda? Spare me.
Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel says: “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.” That, of course, is utter nonsense. Whereas Al Qaeda is a nihilistic terrorist group whose philosophy is to strike at the United States and other Western targets that it considers enemies of its plan to create a global Islamic caliphate, Hamas is an Islamist organization, nationalist in outlook, whose focus is liberating Palestine from Zionism, and which has never conducted terrorist or military attacks against enemies other than Israel.
Egypt, which for years joined Israel in isolating and blockading Hamas’s stronghold in Gaza, will this week reopen the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah crossing, allowing goods and people to travel freely back and forth. No doubt Egyptian security forces will regulate border traffic and will try to prevent weapons and ammunition from reaching Hamas, but the Egyptian decision will make it easier not only for Gaza to rebuild its shattered infrastructure but it will undoubtedly allow Hamas easier access to military supplies, too. Still, it’s a sign that Egypt’s anti-Mubarak revolt, though far from complete, has caused a seismic shift in Egyptian foreign policy. Not only is Egypt opening the door to Hamas—which was a key plank in the accord that allowed Hamas and Fatah, the traditional leader of the Palestine National Authority and the PLO, to strike an accord—but Egypt, too, is planning to exchange diplomatic envoys with Iran. (Until now, the United States, Israel and Egypt were virtually alone in not having diplomatic ties with Iran.)
Last week, President Obama called for stepped-up US aid to Egypt, but Cairo’s friendliness to Hamas has sparked sputtering outrage from pro-Israel militants in Congress. Both right-wing Republicans and pro-Israel Democrats are making noises about cutting off or reducing both economic and military aid to Egypt. Reports Josh Rogin of The Cable in the Washington Post:
The chairman of the House Appropriations state and foreign operations subcommittee, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Nita Lowey (N.Y.), spoke at a Monday afternoon panel at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington. Asked by The Cable if they supported Obama’s new aid initiative to Egypt, especially if the Muslim Brotherhood has a large presence in the government, Granger said: “The answer for me is no. I don’t approve of it.” The crowd erupted in applause….