aside PRIMER ON MIDDLE EAST, PART X / HAMAS V HEZBOLLAH

HAMAS LEADER, KAHLED MESHAAL (LEFT) AND HEZBALLAH CHIEF, HASSAN NASRALLAH
HAMAS LEADER, KHALED MESHAAL (LEFT) AND HEZBALLAH CHIEF, HASSAN NASRALLAH

The concept of conflating the radical Islamist terrorist groups together is one that resonates with the republican neocons and with American republican conservatives. This is in part why the conservative intellectual radio host, Mr. Hugh Hewitt is questioning the republican presidential candidates about their knowledge of the players and their current understanding of the middle east complexities with the associated danger to our country and our main ally, Israel. The supposed radical Islamist international—one that spans several countries, includes Hezbollah; Hamas; Al Qaeda; ISIS; Al Nusra Front, in Syria; Boko Haram, in Nigeria; Al Shabaab, in Somalia; and other militant groups.

Mohamad Bazzi in his September, 2015 New Yorker article, titled: “Memo to Donald Trump: Here’s the Difference Between Hamas and Hezbollah.”explains how Donald Trump could have answered recent questions by Mr. Hewitt.” The following are some excerpts:

Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah

“Like so much else in the Middle East, the differences, and similarities, between Hezbollah and Hamas are complicated. They do not lend themselves to a radio sound bite or a pithy line in a televised debate. But that probably won’t stop Hewitt from asking such questions again, and conflating groups with varying histories and ideologies as an Islamist international of terrorism.”

“It’s easy to lump all Islamist movements together, as Hewitt did in his interviews, as a threat to Israel and ultimately to the United States and the West. There is a history of the George W. Bush Administration and Israeli leaders, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, conflating movements like Hezbollah and Hamas with Al Qaeda,ISIS, and other jihadists. In a speech before the Knesset, in May, 2008, President Bush portrayed the battle between militant Islam and the West in his usual messianic terms: as a struggle between pure good and ultimate evil. “They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis,” he said. “And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the ‘elimination’ of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant ‘Death to Israel, death to America!’ That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that ‘the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.’ ”

 Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and Syria flags
Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and Syria flags

“On August 20, 2014, hours after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, Prime Minister Netanyahu made a startling comparison: he declared that “Hamas is like ISIS. ISIS is like Hamas. They’re branches of the same tree.” He added, “And I can say that the entire world has been shocked by the atrocities of ISIS. You saw this, the beheading of an American journalist, Foley. It shows you the barbarism, the savagery of these people. Well, we face the same savagery.” It was the latest example of Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders purposefully conflating their Islamist enemies—Hamas and Hezbollah—with Al Qaeda and, more recently, ISIS, in order to gain ground with a Western audience that fears the threat of terrorism.”

Hamas Chief, Khaled Meshaal
Hamas Chief, Khaled Meshaal

“Hezbollah and Hamas offer a mixture of Islamist ideology and national-liberation rhetoric, with an emphasis on “national resistance” against Israel. (While Hezbollah is Shiite and Hamas is Sunni, those sectarian differences have mattered little in their shared nationalist, Islamic, and anti-Israeli narratives.) Both groups have a military wing that has committed acts of terrorism. Both also have an important social base, provide extensive social services to their constituents, and participate in electoral politics. As nationalist movements, they are categorically different from Al Qaeda and ISIS: they don’t rely on foreign fighters, and they have not advocated for the restoration of a pan-Islamic caliphate.”

Modern Middle East map
Modern Middle East map

“Inspired by the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic activists established Hamas in late 1987, at the start of the first Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Over the years, Hamas succeeded in positioning itself as an alternative to the corrupt, inefficient, and largely discredited leadership of Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone call in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Pete Souza
U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a phone call in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Pete Souza

In January, 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, and the United States and European Union quickly cut off aid to the Palestinian government, which had been dominated by the P.L.O. and its Fatah faction. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab regimes also halted their assistance and worked to isolate Hamas, fearing that its ascendance would embolden the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran had supported Hamas covertly for years, and after the West cut off aid Tehran publicly pledged fifty million dollars a year to the Hamas-led government in Gaza. “Without this Iranian money, we never would have been able to pay the 45,000 government workers in Gaza,” one Hamas politburo member told the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. Iranian funding continued until late in 2011, when Hamas broke with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime in Syria, which is allied with Tehran. Since then, Hamas has moved out of Iran’s orbit and has been dependent on financial and political support from Qatar and, to a lesser extent, Turkey.”

2009 PEW POLL/graph-view-o-Islamics-views-on-Hamas-and-Hezbollah.
2009 PEW POLL/graph-view-o-Islamics-views-on-Hamas-and-Hezbollah.

“When it battled Israel to a draw during a month long war, in 2006, the group’s popularity again soared throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. But, by early 2011, the party’s status began to wane after a United Nations tribunal indicted several Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had been the country’s most prominent Sunni leader. After its intervention in the Syrian war, fighting alongside the Assad regime, Hezbollah’s reputation has plunged. In the eyes of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds, it’s now just another sectarian militia working to advance Iranian interests.”

The cliff notes on Hezbollah (Shiite) and Hamas (Sunnis) describe both as terrorist organizations which have been sponsored by Iran with its main interests being pro-Palestine and anti-Israel. Hezbollah which had its beginnings in Lebanon in the 1980’s still works at the direction of Iran. Hamas (started around 1988) which originated as a branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is now backed by Qatar and Turkey. Both groups came into prominence by protecting Palestine from Israeli occupation.  This is a major reason as to why Israel has been against the 2015 US / Iran nuclear deal. After Iran complies with this agreement, then current sanctions will be lifted, which would grant Iran access to more funds to aid anti-Israeli terrorist groups. In my opinion, this is why it is in Israel’s national best interests to enter into a peaceful resolution between themselves and Palestine.

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