Egypt’s decision last Wednesday to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization is forcing Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to reassess its affiliation with its Egyptian sister organization.
The new status of the Brotherhood does not apply to Hamas, Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Yasser Othman told Ma’an news agency on Monday, but added that Hamas’s conduct towards Egypt will determine his country’s treatment of it.
“The criterion for implementing the law on anyone is their behavior toward Egypt and the extent of their intervention in internal Egyptian affairs,” Othman said.
Israel, the US, the EU, Canada, Japan and others consider Hamas, which is avowedly committed to destroying Israel, to be a terrorist organization. Iran, Turkey and Russia do not. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 1987, came to power in the Gaza Strip by ousting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group in a violent overthrow in 2007.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas have been strained since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi on July 3. Morsi is now being indicted by an Egyptian court for colluding with Hamas in Gaza to harm Egypt’s national security. Since the ouster, the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has remained largely closed.
Egypt’s establishment daily Al-Ahram called the decision to ban the Brotherhood “an earthquake” for Hamas, quoting Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum as saying that his movement is “proud” of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood school of thought.
Fatah rushed to jump on the Egyptian bandwagon. On Sunday, its central committee called on Hamas to “join the national movement and stop intervening in Egypt.” Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said that Hamas’s refusal to cut its ties with the international Muslim Brotherhood proved that “it couldn’t care less about the interests of our people.
“This Hamas position proves once again that its priorities were and continue to be realizing the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood and not the interests of the Palestinian people and their just national cause.”
But Fatah seemed to be alone among Palestinian groups in its opposition to Hamas. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the second-largest member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that Hamas is part of the Palestinian national movement and should not be forced to forgo its ideology.
“We do not call on Hamas or any other national force to forgo its ideological tenants. We call on everyone to build their ties with the Arab and Islamic surroundings based on the highest interests of our Palestinian people and not based on ideological considerations.”
Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official based in Gaza, said that Fatah’s allegation that Hamas members are registered in an international Muslim Brotherhood registry is “the height of stupidity.
“Hamas is a Palestinian organization with no organizational connection to the Muslim Brotherhood to be severed,” Bardawil told Hamas newspaper Felesteen on Sunday. “They are demanding something nonexistent.”