Whereas in 2008 Hamas brashly punched a hole through Egypt’s border defenses, unleashing an embarrassing stampede of Palestinians into Egyptian shops, Interior Minister [Fathi] Hamad says Hamas now “coordinates fully” with Gaza’s sole Arab neighbor. Hamas even poses as a guardian of Egypt’s national security, not least by killing al-Qaeda’s self-proclaimed preachers and other adherents in Gaza. “Our task now is governance, to consolidate stability rather than continue resistance,” says Hamad.
Yet a day after speaking these soothing words, the interior minister offered a very different political horizon. Between towering bodyguards from Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, he delivered an apocalyptic address to a summoned assembly of clan elders. It was angels that chased Israel’s army from Gaza in last winter’s war, he thundered, adding with a numerological flourish that whereas Israel beat twenty-two Arab nations, Gaza’s Islamic resistance had routed the enemy in just twenty-two days. The Jewish state, he concluded, would disappear in 2022.
Such reverses in rhetoric reveal a movement struggling to reconcile two competing audiences: the “international community,” which calls for Hamas to be more moderate, and a core constituency that grows suspicious at any sign it might be selling out. Much as Communist regimes tacked “Democratic” to their names to disguise totalitarianism, Hamas officials use the word “resistance” to hide the waning of their armed struggle. The culture minister, when he attends theatrical productions, speaks of Resistance Culture. The minister of economy hails recent openings of cafés and restaurants as triumphs of the Resistance Economy. “As long as we don’t raise our hands in surrender and continue to struggle, that’s resistance,” he said.
Hamas has failed to achieve the prime requisite for a more normal life: ending the siege. [continued…]