Many Hamas officials have commented on the surge of Palestinian terrorism and violence centered in Jerusalem since its eruption earlier this month. But few have articulated its rationale from the perspective of Hamas — an Islamist terror group avowedly committed to destroying Israel — as comprehensively, and publicly, as its deputy political bureau chief Mousa Abu Marzouk.
Abu Marzouk’s views are particularly noteworthy since Gaza — where Hamas has ruled since seizing control from the Palestinian Authority in a violent 2007 coup — has remained largely outside the cycle of Palestinian violence, apparently deliberately.
True, Gazans have clashed with IDF troops and burst through the border fence on several occasions; the IDF killed at least six of those attempting to cross the border fence during a demonstration on October 9; the IDF also responded with targeted aerial strikes to two rocket launches from Gaza the following day. Nevertheless, according to IDF intelligence, Hamas has been actively preventing escalation within the Gaza Strip, even while calling for a day of rage last Friday. While encouraging attacks on Israelis elsewhere, Hamas in Gaza, it would seem, has decided to sit this one out.
In many respects, the “Jerusalem Intifada,” as it is often referred to by Palestinians, is the realization of Hamas’s policy for Jerusalem and the West Bank, where it ultimately aims to gain control at the expense of both Israel and the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. Since its failure to achieve all of its declared objectives in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer, Hamas has been busy trying to export its vision of “resistance” to the West Bank.
“We are in the middle of the Jerusalem Intifada which has its goals, policies and tools,” wrote Abu Marzouk on his Facebook page on October 11.
“We do not want to pay with the blood of our children and women and then not realize the goals for which we rose up. There are pages on social media … which call for rocket launches [from Gaza] to divert the intifada’s orientation to a different arena … [By doing so] the intifada will go by without us winning the battle of missiles, and will only portray us before the world as the aggressors, and them as the victims. Their crimes in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and the West Bank will continue and all sights will turn toward Gaza.”
The purpose of the “Jerusalem Intifada,” he said, is not only stopping Jews from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but also ending “property confiscation, road closures, and settlement construction.”
“Neither our sights, nor our concern, nor the media, should be diverted from our people’s uprising in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” he added. “The other arenas should support this movement as best they can through incitement and other assistance.”
Castigating Abbas for providing security cooperation with Israel in recent years, Abu Marzouk asserted that Israel had utilized the relative calm to “change Jerusalem’s character” and try to implement separate prayer times for Jews and Muslims on Temple Mount. (Israel has repeatedly denied claims that it intends to change the status quo at the Temple Mount.)
Hamas may be refraining from taking an active part in the violence, but it is certainly not passive. “Were the blessed knives not blessed?” cried Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri at a Gaza rally on October 9, brandishing a commando knife. “We tell Netanyahu and all leaders of the occupation: this is our choice. The knife is our choice.” Muslim clerics across the Gaza Strip have been allowed, perhaps encouraged, to preach similar messages.
Eight Israelis have been killed, and many more injured, in over 30 stabbings and other terror attacks this month. In the first of those attacks, a Hamas terror cell from Nablus gunned down Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, killing them in their car as they drove in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Hamas continues to dig terror tunnels under the border with Israel, and test-launched missiles into the Mediterranean Sea earlier this year. While it replenishes its strategic missile cache, and sensing the momentum of violence drop over the weekend, the organization on Sunday called for “the activation of the intifada and its development to the utmost extent possible to protect Al-Aqsa and confront the Israeli crimes.”
Other Hamas officials have protested what they called wider Arab and international neglect for the Palestinian cause, and cited that as a trigger for the current violence. Youssef Rizqah, a political adviser to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, penned an article titled “Corrupt international community” on October 15, in which he accused world powers of standing idly by while Israel abuses the defenseless Palestinians.
“Following the speeches of world leaders such as Obama at the UN General Assembly … we’ve noticed not the least interest in the Palestinian issue and the just demands of the Palestinians. Obama did not mention Palestine in his speech once, while pouring words on terrorism and Iran. Mahmoud Abbas, under Arab and international pressure, has failed in amending the international indifference by retracting his reported ‘bombshell.'”
“This neglect, and this indifference, have served as the first fuse to ignite the popular intifada … as a natural response to the corruption of the leaders of the international community and its institutions,” Rizqah wrote.
The “reconciliation government” — ostensibly uniting Hamas and Fatah in a technocrat cabinet formed last year — exists in name only. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat’s idea of sending a PLO delegation to Gaza to relaunch reconciliation talks never got off the ground, apparently thwarted by Hamas, which said it “was never informed” of the idea. Just one year ago, Abbas accused Hamas of trying to both overthrow his regime in the West Bank and take his life, imploring Qatari leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to stop supporting the group.
The accusation of international abandonment voiced by government adviser Rizqah was also central to Abu Marzouk’s interview on al-Jazeera on October 13. The First Intifada, he asserted, erupted in 1987 when the Palestinian issue was absent from the world stage. The second, in 2000, took place when a holy site (the Al-Aqsa Mosque) was “encroached upon.”
“This intifada has brought together both elements,” he said. “The world has forgotten Palestine, which was not mentioned on the UN podium except by the emir of Qatar and Abu Mazen (Abbas) … This intifada will be deeper and more comprehensive than the two previous ones.”
In that interview, Abu Marzouk made overt the Hamas aim for this round of violence to force all Israeli settlers out of the West Bank, and complained that Abbas was making this harder to achieve. “The most important goal of this intifada is for there not to remain one settler or one settlement in the West Bank,” he said. “Were it not for the so-called security coordination, there would be no settlements outside the [security] fence. The Palestinian people is capable of banishing all the settlers, and would do so now were it allowed to.”