Fatah official praises Hamas ‘moderates’

Going against his party’s line, Jibril Rajoub admits that Egyptian media exaggerates Hamas’s role in Sinai unrest

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Jibril Rajoub (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)
Jibril Rajoub (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90/File)

Hamas’s “moderate” political leadership holds little sway over decision-making in the Gaza Strip, a senior Fatah official said Sunday.

In a surprisingly conciliatory interview with London-based daily Al-Hayat, Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub added that Egyptian media tended to exaggerate the role of Hamas in harming Egyptian security.

“I know the [Egyptian] media exaggerates Hamas’s role in the anarchy taking place in Egypt, but some Hamas officials lambaste the Egyptians,” Rajoub said, referring specifically to comments by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Despite this, we are prepared to serve as a bridge not only between them and the Egyptians but with the entire world, on the basis of pluralism.”

Rajoub’s statements appeared to go against the grain of Fatah’s efforts to publicly delegitimize Hamas in the Arab media. Just last week, a political adviser to Palestinian Autority President Mahmoud Abbas, Nimer Hammad, told an Egyptian news channel that he had evidence that Hamas operatives had stormed Egyptian prisons during the early days of the popular uprising in January 2011, freeing members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas, for its part, claimed in July that Fatah had established a special unit tasked solely with defaming it in Egyptian media.

But Rajoub said he spoke on the phone with Hamas deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouq only two days ago, describing him as “brave and moderate.” Abu Marzouq and his superior, Khaled Mashaal, are however unable “to influence movement leaders inside Gaza,” Rajoub told the daily.

The current crisis between Hamas and the Egyptian government was entirely Hamas’s fault, Rajoub added, claiming that “Hamas is the one besieging a million and a half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, not Egypt.” The PA was willing to send presidential guards to reclaim responsibility over the Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt “tomorrow,” if Hamas only allowed them to operate freely, he said.

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in July 2007, violently ousting all Fatah elements from the territory and deploying its security forces to the sole border crossing with Egypt at Rafah.

Rajoub denied in the interview that talks between Israel and the Palestinians were the cause for a deadlock in reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, claiming that Hamas itself supported rapprochement with Israel.

“Hamas presented itself to the Americans and the Israelis, submitting its ‘application documents’ through Qatari intermediaries,” Rajoub said.

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