[On January 25, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas won 76 seats of the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council in a landslide victory over the ruling Fatah party. The Final Call explores three differing viewpoints that provide insight into the volatile mixture of ideas and attitudes in a region characterized by unpredictability and conflict since Israel's creation in 1948.]
Dr. Kaukab Siddique is an Associate Professor of English at Lincoln University and the publisher and editor-in-chief of New Trend Magazine, an Islamic publication dealing with current events and issues relevant to the worldwide Muslim community. He is the author of several books and head of Jamaat-al Muslimeen, based in Baltimore, Md.
Dr. Kaukab Siddique
FC: What are your thoughts on what is being reported as a clear landslide victory by Hamas?
KS: Hamas’ dominance in Palestine has been quite evident during the last five years. Israel’s assassinations of its leaders failed to stem its popularity. In fact, the more the Israelis tried to destroy it, the more it grew in popularity. The election victory is a serious setback for Israel, coming on the heels of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the brain damage suffered by [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon. Hamas’ landslide victory is quite genuine.
FC: Were the results a vote for Hamas and against the current Palestinian Authority leadership, or was it a demonstration against the American/Israeli alliance in foreign policy?
KS: The elections were primarily an internal affair. The Palestinian people have made a choice. They have shown that they trust the Islamic movement. By contrast, the Fatah Party’s leadership is corrupt, un-Islamic and untrustworthy. Of course, in Palestine, the issue of U.S.-Israeli policy blends with the domestic issues. One reason for the secular regime’s corruption was that it was reliant almost entirely on handouts from the U.S. and EU. The Fatah leaders have always believed that the U.S. is the key to a solution of the Palestinian “problem.” By contrast, Hamas believes that Islam is the solution.
FC: Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as stating: “Before our very eyes, Hamastan has been created.” What do the results portend for the Israeli government, especially given the instability and poor health of Ariel Sharon of the Kadima party?
KS: Israel today is the pariah of the international community. If Hamas organizes and consolidates its power as a government, Palestine could become the rallying point of the Islamic and oppressed people of the world. The Israelis, with U.S. help, will try very hard to make the Hamas government isolated and lacking in resources. It’s a form of blackmail, meant to squeeze Hamas to recognize Israel, or fail. Will Hamas bow before American power and Saudi money? That’s the key question facing the Muslim world.
FC: Can you clarify the “two state” solution that is supposedly being advocated by George Bush, why it seems plausible to some and opposed by others?
KS: The U.S. wants Israel to be recognized as a legitimate country and Palestine to be formulated in such a way that it would be a defenseless, client state, totally helpless before and dependent on Israeli power and American-Saudi economic resources [not very different from the Bantustans in South Africa under apartheid]. The “two state” solution simply means that Arabs, Muslims and Africans should accept the “right” of Europe and America to set up an artificial country, armed and funded by the U.S., in the heartland of Islam.
Such a solution would be the victory of imperialism. Islam does not accept the victory of the oppressors. The Qur’an puts it very clearly that occupation of Muslim land cannot be accepted. It says: “Drive them out from where they drove you out.”
FC: Where does this leave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas?
KS: Abbas is seen by the majority of Palestinians as an Israeli agent. He often sleeps in Tel Aviv and has the protection of Israeli intelligence services. His time is over. The Israelis arrested hundreds of Hamas activists before the elections to help Fatah win, but it didn’t work.
FC: Will Hamas be forced to back down on some of the more strident rhetoric and positions towards Israel?
KS: Hamas is not monolithic. There are elements in it that are very much influenced by the U.S. and its surrogates, such as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. There will probably be an intense internal dialogue, perhaps even a tussle, to change the direction of Hamas. The U.S.’ strategy is that “moderate” Islamic people should be encouraged, and these are seen as the best solution for the growing influence of “extremists.”
Observers say that one reason the U.S. allowed the elections to go through was the danger the Americans saw in further radicalization of the Palestinian people. There was a danger that if Hamas did not win, there would be big gains in support by Islamic Jihad and even al-Qaeda. The key to the future lies in the struggle within Hamas. But Allah is the best of Planners.
FC: Thank you.
Interviews conducted by Final Call Online Correspondent Ashahed Muhammad
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