«Lisa van der Hulst lisavanderhulst s0914959 MA Thesis International Studies Prof. mr. dr. Berger January 2015 10380 words Table of Contents ...»
Representativeness A major difference between the materials that Hezbollah publishes and those that Hamas publishes, is that many of the Hezbollah texts are created by one charismatic leader, Hassan Nasrallah. To take Nasrallah as the main representation of Hezbollah’s self-identity requires justification. Opinion polls among Hezbollah members reveal that Nasrallah is generally perceived as beyond human, 12 incorruptible and applying what he preaches to his own life. At the beginning of 2010 97% of the Lebanese Shia had confidence in Nasrallah.36 Although some question Nasrallah’s popularity since the Syrian civil war, charging him with fuelling sectarianism37, in practice he is still massively popular. If we compare early 2010 to May 2011, when the Syrian War had begun and Nasrallah had already made clear he supported Assad, his popularity increased in Lebanon although it dropped slightly among Shia (from 97% - 2% - 24% to 95% - 15% - 24% among Shia, Sunni and Christians respectively.)38 Furthermore, he was named Lebanon’s person of the year 2013 in a poll conducted by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.39 Hamas officially has a leader, Khaled Meshaal, but the organization has a different structure, which will be outlined in more detail in the section below on decision-making processes within Hamas.
36 Pew Global(4Feb2010)‘Mixed Views of Hamas and Hezbollah in Largely Muslim Nations’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/02/04/mixed-views-of-hamas-and-hezbollah-in-largely-muslimnations/.
37 For example Assaf, M.(13Sept2013)‘Since Hassan Nasrallah brought Hezbollah into Syrian Conflict, Supporters have Questioned his Leadership’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/13/since-hassan-nasrallah-brought-brought-hezbollah-into-syrian-civilwar-supporters-have-questioned-his-leadership/.
38 Pew Global(17May2011)‘Views of Extremist Groups and Suicide Bombing’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/05/17/chapter-4-views-of-extremist-groups-and-suicide-bombing/.
39 Press TV(31Dec2013)‘Nasrallah named Lebanon’s person of 2013’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/12/31/343041/nasrallah-named-lebanons-person-of-2013/.
The hypothesis that the Syrian war affected Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s sense of interconnectedness is literally denied four times in A7, B6 and B12. Still, most the officials confirmed that there was some disagreement over the Syrian issue.
Strikingly, www.hamasinfo.net regularly publishes articles from Qatari news websites alSharq and al-Jazeera. The articles from al-Sharq in particular are highly critical or even insulting the resistance axis.40 On its website www.electronicresistance.net, Hezbollah has a subheading ‘Axis of Resistance’ which indicates the centrality of this alliance. The heading features articles on the resistance in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
In general, Electronic Resistance regularly republishes articles that were published in the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar first.
Although many articles on al-Manar come with a caption that al-Manar is not responsible for the texts and that it reflects the view of the writer only, al-Manar does not publish any articles that completely contradict the view of Hezbollah.
Physical cooperation Out of all categories of connectedness, references to an alliance between Hamas and either Hezbollah or Iran or both appear most frequently in publications by both Hamas and Hezbollah since the Syrian
War. According to a publication of December 2012:
‘Thus, despite the interruption of the relationship of Hamas with the Syrian regime, this did not lead to a cut in the relation of the movement with Iran (…) Until the moment, Iran is still interconnected with the politburo of Hamas because of the question about both rocket- and financial needs. For Hamas, ‘the relation with Iran is strategic and can never be dispensable’, as one of the officials of the movement says. A Hamas official says that after ‘the completion of the war on Gaza despite what has been in the media, the Iranian financial and military support to the Strip is unchanged.’’41 However, Hezbollah often refers to an alliance with ‘the Palestinian resistance’, which is not just Hamas but also for example Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. And Hamas has repeatedly downplayed the uniqueness of the resistance axis by stressing their relations with other Arab countries, like Qatar.
Moreover, during the most crucial moments Hamas and Hezbollah did not fully cooperate.
Hamas did not help Hezbollah in the war with Israel in 2006 and Hezbollah did not join in during Israel’s major offensive against the population of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, in November 2012 and the summer of 2014. If the two organizations had fought side by side against their common enemy at those moments, would they have accomplished their ultimate goal? Military training, financial assistance and oral commitment is a rather small gesture compared to actually coming to the rescue on
40 B11.41 See A7.
14 a crucial moment. However, in A1 Nasrallah argues that the Palestinians have enough resources and fighting power and that is why Hezbollah fighters do not have to fight along with them; providing weapons and training should be enough to do the job.42 The fact that Hamas and Hezbollah have often not physically cooperated means that present non-cooperation is not necessarily a sign that relations between the two have cooled.
Spiritual connectedness According to the discourse analysis Hezbollah’s transcendental self-identity with the Palestinian resistance partly stems from the role of al-Quds in its divine cosmology, which has always been stressed by the Shia imams and Grand Ayatollahs and which Nasrallah uses in his speeches to create a spiritual backdrop for Hezbollah’s resistance. It can also be explained by the Shia tendency to support the downtrodden in general, likening them to the martyred imam Hussain. The Palestinian cause is presented as one of Hezbollah’s ‘constant positions’, ‘because it is part of our religion, our religious commitment, our culture, our civilization, our morals and values and our past history, present time and future.’43 Nasrallah therefore keeps speaking about supporting Palestine as an eternal religious duty.
‘Any other disagreement, ideological, religious, political, whatever other issues we might disagree on, our commitment must always be to Palestine, its cause and the Palestinian people, irrespective of other disagreements.”’44 No references to transcendental self-identity with Hezbollah were found in the materials published by Hamas, neither before nor since the Syrian War.
Sameness Using the three phases of social movement theory (identifying the (sources of) the problem; designing a solution; and handling its consequences), different levels of sameness were identified. Although Hamas and Hezbollah are also national organizations with their own national problems, the source of their main problems is the same: Western-backed Israeli colonization.45 Therefore they share an objective. The recurring solution in the interviews, speeches and news articles created by the two organizations is muqāwama ‘resistance’ and ṣumūd ‘steadfastness.’ As Sadiki points out, ‘[d]espite belonging to Islam’s two different sects, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hizbullah both operationalize the 42 See A1.
45 Nasrallah confirms this in every speech he gives and Hamas defines its main goal in the 1988 charter and in the 2006 party line. (The Jerusalem Fund ‘Hamas Charter (1988)’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/www.thejerusalemfund.org/carryover/documents/charter.html?chocaid=397 and Palestine Legislative Council Change and Reform Bloc ‘Political Program, Change and Reform Bloc’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.islah.ps/new/index.php?page=viewThread&id=128.) 15 notion of muqawamah with frequent and almost identical consistency of interpretation, meaning and application.’46 However, whereas Nasrallah maintains that Israel is a cancerous tumor that can only be stopped by eradication, Hamas has dropped the destruction of Israel in its 2006 election manifesto and turned to a more pragmatic approach, de facto recognizing Israel within the pre-1967 borders.47 This matches Hovdenak’s48 findings that Hamas has undergone a metamorphosis in the first decade of the new century. He describes how Hamas deradicalized ideologically and religiously from the nineties on and became more flexible politically. Lebanon on the other hand currently experiences little direct colonization49 and is not afraid to spoil opportunities to become a recognized state. Whereas other Palestinian political parties often prove ready to give up parts of land in exchange for more freedom, Hamas and PIJ stand relatively firm concerning negotiations with the enemy. According to the Islamist interpretation Palestine is a waqf that nobody is entitled to give up.50 PIJ’s approach of nonnegotiation with Israel perhaps resembles Hezbollah’s approach best. Still, PIJ does not seem to have replaced Hamas as the principle representative of the Palestinian resistance for Hezbollah and Iran.
‘Rifai [PIJ representative in Lebanon] did not believe the visit “on this level and at this time, meant that Islamic Jihad will be replacing Hamas for the Islamic Republic. Although the latest battle increased the strength of the relationship, the media goes too far in its projections.” Concerning the relationship with Iran, “simply, one could say for sure that no one will replace anyone else; everyone has their own role,” Rifai told Al-Akhbar.’51 So Hamas and Hezbollah also identify the same solution for their shared problem: resistance and steadfastness, although Hezbollah applies these concepts more strictly whereas Hamas applies them more pragmatically.
Finally, in carrying out muqāwama and handling its consequences we can find similarities as well: both Hamas and Hezbollah use Islamist normativity; both decided to participate in the national elections as political parties and both looked for help abroad, from the same axis of resistance, in order to liberate their land. Welfare activity is an important part of the resistance for both organizations52, as it puts the ideology of resisting inequality between hegemon and victim into practice. Both employ a strategy of total civil resistance which includes culture, politics, media, economics and violence. This violence leads to international rejection of both organizations: they are on the terrorist lists of the US, Israel and Europe. Hamas and Hezbollah however employ the same definition of jihad versus 46 Sadiki 2010:357.
47 Palestine Legislative Council Change and Reform Bloc ‘Political Program, Change and Reform Bloc’ last accessed 29Oct2014, http://www.islah.ps/new/index.php?page=viewThread&id=128. See also A19.
48 2009:60. Hovdenak’s work is exemplary as it is to a large extent based on fieldwork interviews with Hamas officials. He sheds light on the many sides of Hamas, through interviews with its men and women in higher and lower positions, with moderate or radical views.
49 See A10.
50 Hamas Charter 1988 article 11.
52 For example, 95% of Hamas’ budget goes to social services. (ICG (2003)‘Islamic Welfare Activism in the Occupied Territories’, last accessed 9Jan2015, http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/files/middle%20east%20north%20africa/israel%20palestine/islamic%20soci al%20welfare%20activism%20in%20the%20occupied%20palestinian%20territories.ashx: 13.) 16 terrorism. Contrary to some other Islamist organizations, like PIJ or ISIL, for Hamas and Hezbollah jihad is not related to restoring the Caliphate. It is another word for resistance and is therefore limited to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine53, in which Judaism is opposed to both Islam and Christianity: according to Hamas and Hezbollah the two legitimate religions in Palestine that are threatened by Judaization. On the other hand, terrorism is violence against people who are not
oppressors and it is inspired by the Devil. In the words of Nasrallah:
‘Resistance means those jihadi heroic operations which target the occupation forces. As for the operations that target (…) people of all factions and nationalities, mosques, churches, schools, international ministries, markets, these are criminal terrorist operations. They are organized collective killing operations. They are war crimes which cannot be mistaken by resistance operations. The resistance can’t be held responsible for such operations.’ 54 Both Nasrallah and Meshaal link their own anti-imperialist struggle to those of other peoples in the past, notably the Vietnamese people.55 In order to fully grasp their perception of interconnection, light must be shed on the non-Islamic Vietnamese resistance movement led by Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh at the time argued for full societal resistance against the French imperialists, the Japanese and later the American aggressors, in a way very similar to the current resistance ethos of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Sadiki argues that Islamist resistance cannot be compared to secular leftist resistance, because in the Islamist context resistance becomes ‘a way of thinking, being, and acting, and an ever-widening site of holistic struggle in which the AK-47 is not, in the scheme of resistance, more important than piety, charity, schooling, propaganda or music.