Arab media, like Arab society, is torn over its attitude toward Hamas following the latest escalation of violence emanating from Gaza. While Israel remains the ultimate enemy, criticism of the Islamic movement’s behavior can be easily detected between the lines.
Reporting on the situation usually begins with Israeli attacks on Gaza, presenting Hamas’s rocket launching into Israel as a response.
“Gaza under fire,” reads the Wednesday headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq al-Awsat, reporting a “large Israeli attack” on the Gaza Strip targeting “civilian homes for the first time in years, cars, and agricultural land … the Islamic movement and other Palestinian factions retaliated by targeting Beersheba and other Israeli towns.”
“The sight of [air] strikes and charred bodies in Gaza, as well as rocket launches at Israeli towns, recalled memories of the last war against the Strip, announcing the complete collapse of the ceasefire.”
The headline of Al-Hayat, a London-based daily, adopts a pugilistic expression used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Operation Protective Edge. “Israel ‘removes its gloves,’ and so does Hamas,” it announces.
“It is time for a Palestinian Spring,” reads the editorial of Arab Nationalist daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, printed in London, which describes the situation in its front page headline as “Great Israeli aggression and the resistance announces its bombardment of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.”
‘It is unacceptable that Gaza civil servants are working under this treacherous bombardment by the PA, which is depriving them of their salaries,’ wrote Abu Marzouk
“Palestinians do not expect their Authority, bound by agreements of security coordination with Israel, to raise the meager weapons carried by their police against the Israelis,” read the editorial, which was nothing but a scathing critique of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s perceived collusion with the Jewish state. “But they do expect the PA to rise in its rhetoric and decision-making to the level of heroism of this people and defend its honor.”
Some news outlets, most notably Qatar’s pro-Hamas TV channel Al-Jazeera, begin their coverage with Hamas’s direct hits, only to boast the operational success of the “resistance.”
“Palestinian resistance targeted Tel Aviv and its suburbs on Wednesday morning with its long-range missiles, as Israeli jets continued to bombard positions in the Gaza Strip, launching 160 airstrikes on headquarters and homes of resistance commanders,” read the lead paragraph on the channel’s website article.
But what is noteworthy, perhaps, is the general lack of attention given to the Gaza conflagration on the Arab editorial pages. In the midst of Ramadan, with the Islamic State (formerly ISIL) widening its grip on Syria and Iraq — the latter struggling to maintain its territorial integrity — the violence in Gaza and Israel is viewed by many as an unwarranted distraction.
In one exception, Saudi columnist Hussein Shabakshi in an op-ed titled “The dealers of resistance” lambastes Hezbollah and the Islamic State for cynically using the “defense of Palestine” as a rallying cry, without actively engaging Israel.
“The project of defending Palestine and Jerusalem, and other such slogans raised in yearly processions, speeches and poems … has fallen,” wrote Shabakshi on Tuesday in A-Sharq Al-Awsat. “In reality, there is nothing but a purely sectarian project taking place in a very sensitive region.”
Hezbollah and the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi are both engaged in a sectarian battle in Syria, neither willing to lift a finger for their Palestinian brethren, he continued.
“None of them is willing to take a single step against the true enemy, which everyone agrees about, Israel,” Shabakshi wrote. “What a lie.”
With Hamas on its own, political bureau deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk was forced to justify the new war imposed on Gaza in a Facebook post, all the while blasting Ramallah for its lack of empathy.
“God only knows that the people of Gaza did not wish for war, nor did they ask for it. It was imposed on them, just like the siege and destruction … and now their brothers [in the West Bank] are heaping further punishment on them, depriving them of budgets and using various excuses, most notably that it would draw external pressure,” wrote Abu Marzouk early Wednesday morning.
“It is unimaginable that PA television is teaching the women of Palestine to cook while they watch the succession of spilled Palestinian blood,” he continued. “It is unacceptable that Gaza civil servants are working under this treacherous bombardment by the PA, which is depriving them of their salaries.”