Hamas in Political, Financial Squeeze

August 24, 2011 7:38 pm 0 comments

Khaled Meshaal in a meeting with spanish journalists. Photo: Traangal.

Hamas’s rule in Gaza may face new difficulties, with reports emerging about the group’s potentially dire financial situation and domestic pressure on its sponsors, Iran and Syria.

“In a sign of a cash crunch, the Hamas government in Gaza has failed to pay the July salaries of its 40,000 employees in the civil service and security forces,” Reuters reporter Nidal al-Mughrabi wrote in a recent story on the group’s financial woes. “Hamas leaders promised full payments in August, but not all employees received their wages as scheduled on Sunday.”

The financial crisis was sparked by Iran’s reduction – and then suspension – of aid, primarily because the group has not sponsored rallies in favor of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

But Hamas finds itself caught between a rock and hard place, as Syria’s embarrassing and brutal crackdown on protesters extended to a Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Latakia. Assad’s naval gunships and armed forces pounded the camp, killing an unknown number of residents and forcing more than 10,000 Palestinian refugees to flee. Syria has since been accused of covering up the incident.

“On the one hand, Hamas does not want the Syrian regime to disappear,” Syrian political scientist Bassam Ezbidi told The Media Line, a Jerusalem-based news agency. “But on the other hand, how can it justify its strategic alliance with a state that kills Palestinians? Hamas has always regarded itself as a resistance movement which represents the Palestinian people, and that’s the bottom line.”

Financial struggles are a hit that Hamas has been unwilling to fully acknowledge. Despite the group’s claims that it is only having “financial liquidity” programs, Hamas’s reliance on Iranian aid vastly exceeds its revenues from all other sources. Taxes on merchants and goods from Israel and tunnels accounted for about a tenth of the group’s $540 million budget last year. Iranian aid is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

There has also been a sharp decline in funding from the Muslim Brotherhood, another major supporter of the Palestinian terrorist organization, as the Brotherhood allocates funds to political forces of the Arab Spring.

Financial support isn’t the only thing that Iran and Syria offer Hamas. The group has withstood tremendous diplomatic pressure from outside sources, particularly since it violently seized the Gaza Strip in 2007. Iran and Syria have helped the group sustain its campaign of terror through weapons shipments and advanced military courses.

In 2006, Syria proclaimed its unabashed support for Hamas, promising to raise funds for the group and establish direct phone links with it. “We are not afraid of anyone in our support for the Palestinian cause,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said at a joint press conference with Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahar. Huge Iranian shipments of weapons passed through Syria on their way to Hamas, including 50 tons of weapons which were seized by the Israeli navy in March.

Despite a common interest in harassing Israel, Hamas’ brotherly relationship with Syria has soured at a rapid pace. Hamas refused to support the crackdown on fellow Sunni protesters in Syria, putting it at odds with the country’s non-Sunni leadership and Iran’s Shiite government. In May, Hamas fought back against rumors that it would move its offices from Damascus to Cairo, even arguing with reports on the move from its ally, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although these rumors proved to be false, the negativity between the two parties has been an open secret in diplomatic circles and even on the Palestinian street.

Outside pressure on the group has been matched by internal stresses.

Islamist groups are pushing Hamas to Islamize Gaza more rapidly and thoroughly, at times carrying out violent actions. Salafi Islamists like Jaljalat and Jaish al Islam call for an Islamic Emirate based in Gaza, creating a base for an unending war with Israel.

These groups also believe that Hamas doesn’t go far enough in resisting its enemy. On online forums and in rallies, they accuse Hamas of “leaving the path set by the group’s great founders,” including the liberation of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and “defending the Quran.” Instead, they claim, Hamas has grown too close to disbelievers and uses “fake” scholars who go so far as to justify the killing of Muslims. Worst of all, they are accused of abandoning the jihad against Israel.

Hamas has maintained an uneasy relationship with these Salafi groups, at times cooperating for attacks but often cracking down on them. They have even smashed smaller groups like Jund Ansar Allah, who denounced Hamas, declared their own Emirate, and started to impose a stricter form of Shariah in a corner of Gaza.

Many Gazans, on the other hand, are resentful of the material prosperity of the Hamas elite or in its harsh imposition of certain Shariah restrictions.

Many among Gaza’s budding middle class are Hamas members, a fact which the group denies but is sparking resentment among many people. “Hamas has become rich at the expense of the people,” The Associated Press quoted one Palestinian saying. The story noted that Hamas rose to power by “tending to the poor – through charitable aid, education and medical care – along with its armed struggle against Israel.”

The imposition of Islamic law has been both harsh and cynical, with Hamas activists sometimes using the excuse of religion to violently break up protests against Hamas rule. Restrictions on women and public displays of affection have been applied, sometimes half-heartedly, sparking protests from secular groups about religious coercion and Islamists about the slow pace of Islamization.

Hamas has also felt pressure to balance between Western considerations and local concerns. A leader of a fellow militant group, the Popular Resistance Committee, wants greater Islamization in society, but recognize the “foreign considerations” at play. “If the West weren’t applying pressure, Hamas would probably enact more Islamic laws,” he said, according to a report by the International Crisis Group. In effect, Hamas pushed its agenda as a movement into the government, using rumors and haphazard enforcement to create a self-censorship in Gaza.

In addition to pressure on its core in Gaza, thousands of Hamas supporters outside of Gaza have faced a campaign of arrest, according to the Islamist group’s news site. Primarily, this has been an effort by its Fatah rivals who have sought to control Hamas’ growth and activity in the West Bank.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Food Bacon Ben and Jerry’s Not Going to Happen Because It’s Not Kosher

    Bacon Ben and Jerry’s Not Going to Happen Because It’s Not Kosher

    Ben & Jerry’s Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise that the ice cream brand will not add bacon to any of its products because that would not be kosher. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig meat. Almost all Ben & Jerry’s [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.