RECOMMENDED READING: “Upheavals In Hamas In Wake Of Arab Spring: Center of Leadership Shifts To Gaza”By
MEMRI has posted an article titled “Upheavals In Hamas In Wake Of Arab Spring: Center of Leadership Shifts To Gaza” that looks at significant developments in Hamas and its leadership. The article begins:
Introduction Though the popular revolutions in the Arab world have not reached Gaza, the Arab Spring has nevertheless had a significant impact on the Hamas movement and the status of its leaders. The changes and developments in the Arab world have compelled the movement, headed by Khaled Mash’al, to take a more pragmatic stance vis-à-vis Israel and a more conciliatory tone vis-à-vis its rival Fatah, while, at the same time, turning its back on the elements that were once its staunchest allies, namely the Syrian and Iranian regimes. This policy of Mash’al’s sparked intense opposition within Hamas, leading to internal clashes between him and the Hamas leaders in Gaza, such as Isma’il Haniya and Mahmoud Al-Zahhar. In the near future, Hamas is to reelect a new Political Bureau head after Khaled Mash’al has announced his retirement. These elections will take place in the shadow of internal differences over the political course that was taken by the movement under Mash’al’s leadership. At the moment, there are two top contenders for Mash’al’s post: Isma’il Haniya, who represents the ‘inside’ Hamas (i.e., the Hamas leadership inside Gaza), and Moussa Abu Marzouq, who represents the ‘outside’ Hamas (i.e., the Hamas leadership outside Palestine) – and the identity of the winner is likely to impact the future course of the movement. This report discusses the reasons for Mash’al’s retirement, the outcome of the internal elections in Hamas, which began in April 2012, and the implications of these developments in terms of the movement’s power structure and orientation.
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A post from late September reported that Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political leadership, had decided to step down from his position. According to a BBC profile, Mr. Meshaal (aka Khaled Mishal) joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971:
“Mr Meshaal was born in 1956 in the village of Silwad, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Meshaal has been increasingly important since Sheikh Yassin died. His father, like many other Palestinians, travelled to the Gulf emirate of Kuwait in the 1960s for work. His family followed after the area fell under Israeli occupation in 1967.At school, Mr Meshaal became involved in Palestinian and Islamic activism. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971. Mr Meshaal continued to take interest political Islam while studying physics at Kuwait University and he founded a student organisation called the List of the Islamic Right. After graduating in 1978, he spent a number of years teaching physics in Kuwait. In 1987, Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Gaza founded the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in response to a mass uprising against the Israeli occupation. Mr Meshaal became increasingly involved with Hamas over the next few years, leading what was known as the Kuwait contingent of Palestinians who lived and worked there.
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A post from May 2009 provides further detail on Mr. Meshaal’s early activities in the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood.
The Hamas charter states that it is ” is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an early media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations . In 2007, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons and in 2008, an Israeli TV station reported that Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” had traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. Hamas is supported financially and politically by the global Muslim Brotherhood and a NEFA Foundation report has documented the Hamas fund-raising activities of the Union of Good, a coalition of Islamic charities linked to the Brotherhood that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. Previous posts have also discussed the worldwide campaign orchestrated by the global Brotherhood against Israeli actions in Gaza during the 2008-2009 conflict with Israel.
It should be noted that Mussa Abu Marzuq (aka Mousa Abu Marzook), one of the individuals identified above add a possible replacement for Mr. Meshaal, is a former leader in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.