The offensive waged by Hamas against Israel from the Gaza Strip has sparked intense criticism in the Arab media, reflecting the movement's deteriorating status in the Arab world.
Alongside condemnations of the Israeli counterattack and international calls to end it, Arab media voiced sharp and extensive criticism of the Hamas leadership's handling of the crisis. Such reactions came both from Hamas' natural rivals and from its former allies in the resistance axis, from which it has been expelled – reflecting Hamas' isolation in the Arab world.
Media in Saudi Arabia and in Al-Sisi's Egypt – the countries considered to be the leaders of the Arab world's moderate axis and the main rivals of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement, to which Hamas belongs – accused Hamas of taking unreasonable and irresponsible steps, of trading in the blood of the people of Gaza, and of exposing them to inevitable attacks. The Egyptian press was particularly vociferous in its criticism of Hamas and especially of the head of its political bureau, Khaled Mash'al, who recently called on the Egyptian army to come to the Palestinians' aid. An Egyptian pro-MB journalist even wrote that the Egyptian army has local problems to deal with, more pressing than the liberation of Jerusalem.
The media in Syria, which is likewise resentful of Hamas and its leaders due to their support for the rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad, also slammed this movement, saying that it has abandoned the resistance in favor of a Western plan to destroy the Arab world, and that Mash'al has chosen to manage the war not from Gaza but rather from Doha, the capital of Qatar, a country known for its support for the MB and "in whose palaces the Israeli and Western intelligence cells nest."
This report will focus on criticism of Hamas in the Arab press of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Egyptian Columnist To Khaled Mash'al: Leave Your Hotel In Qatar And Come Fight From Gaza
After Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al criticized Egypt's Gaza policy by saying, "We expect the Egyptian army [to use its] spirit of heroism for the sake of its Arab nation," many columnists in the Egyptian media responded with fury. For instance, in an article titled "Why Isn't Khaled Mash'al Giving His Life In Gaza?", columnist Hamdi Razaq argued that, while Egypt is defending the Palestinian cause, Hamas has "sold" it to the MB, and Mash'al himself is enjoying a life of luxury in Qatar. He wrote: "Where is your spirit of heroism, Abu Walid [i.e., Khaled Mash'al]? Join your brothers. Leave Doha's hotels, which you have enjoyed, and go down into the trenches and fight the Zionist enemy that murders the fruits of our loins. Mash'al, we are tired of defending the [Palestinian] cause that you have sold for cheap to an MB gang whose way you followed even though they have lost their [own] way. We want neither a reward nor gratitude from you. Brother Mash'al, Egypt is in a state of war. We have enough problems [of our own]. We are sufficiently [busy with] the plots of your brethren, the members of your movement. You have bankrupted us. We are starving for bread while you eat delicacies on the tables of Doha's lowlifes... Egypt understands this message well and intends to extinguish the war you sparked, Mash'al... Remember the stature of the commander of the Egyptian army, who loses sleep to defend our children in Gaza and who opened the [Rafah] crossing to save them, while you languish in your bed in Doha!"
Egyptian Columnist: Hamas Is Losing Its Legitimacy
In an article titled "Gaza Is not All Hamas", Dr. Nagla Al-Sayyid, a columnist in the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that Hamas was losing its legitimacy because it was trading in the blood of Palestinians while exploiting the financial aid it was receiving to promote its political and ideological interests: "How terrible it is to see children, women and elderly people falling victim to the Zionist enemy that is committing crimes against humanity. [These crimes are being committed] against a defenseless people that is under fire – [both] the fire of its Israeli enemy and the fire of Hamas, which trades in the blood of the innocents who have died and are still dying at the hands of the Zionists. I believe that Hamas has begun to lose its legitimacy since [the events] exposed its sly games and its collaboration with the MB and with takfiri [organizations] with the aim of taking over the Sinai. All the Hamas leaders are doing – as they sit securely in their hiding places while leaving the people of Gaza alone under the fire of the Israeli shelling – is collecting donations in order to use them in the service of their ideas and the political [faction to which] they belong, while allowing the real enemy, the oppressive Zionist enemy, to fight innocents. Unfortunately, Hamas has not learned a lesson from the past. Through its support for the MB, its ideological and political affiliation with [this movement], its stance against the Egyptian people and its deliberate harming of this people, [Hamas] has harmed the Palestinian cause and have proved itself to be an imbecilic and failed movement.
Dr. Nagla Al-Sayyid (image: Al-Gumhouriyya, Egypt, July 12, 2014)
Pro-MB Egyptian Intellectual: A Starving Civilian Deprived Of Rights Cannot Take Part In Liberating Jerusalem
Further criticism of Hamas came from Mahmoud Sultan, an editor at the Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun, which has supported the MB since Morsi's ouster. In his daily column, Sultan claimed that the Arabs cannot be expected to help the Palestinians while they deal with their own everyday hardships, and that, before liberating Palestine, they must be liberated from their own tyrannical rulers: "Liberating Jerusalem starts here, with the liberation of Arab peoples – first and foremost, from tyranny and from political, financial and administrative corruption. [Liberation] will begin when the Arab individual has value and carries weight in his own country. Liberating Jerusalem will be [a kind of] journey carried out by the Arab citizen once he has food worthy of human consumption, as well as health and education systems that make him a strong and useful member [of society], instead of a human burden hardly worthy of consideration... How can a hungry citizen deprived of healthcare and a proper education, who cannot sleep safely in his own bed, is physically unwell and who has nothing to feed his children be asked to become a soldier in the campaign to liberate Jerusalem?
"Liberate Jerusalem by [first] liberating yourselves. Start with your own capitals, and the gates of Palestine will open to you, and with Allah's help, you will pass through them safely."
Egyptian Writer Compares Hamas, MB, Hizbullah To Hitler
In a July 14, 2014 article on the liberal website Elaph.com, Egyptian writer and journalist Kamal Gabriel compared Hamas to Hitler, saying that not only has it caused significant damage to the Palestinian people and their cause, it has damaged them more than Israel has. He wrote:
"It is indeed tragic when a dictator or a criminal gang takes over a people and makes it a hostage and a tool for antagonism towards the [entire] world. Hitler in Germany and Saddam [Hussein] in Iraq did this [in the past]; Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are doing it now; and the 'Destructive Brotherhood' [i.e. the MB] almost did it in Egypt.
"These Palestinian gangs plunder the cause of the oppressed Palestinian people by repeatedly reenacting the story of Samson, who brought down the [Philistine] temple on his and everyone else's heads. They do this in their own country and in every country that hosts them – in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait. These organizations have become a curse on the Palestinian people..."
"Oh, you unpatriotic soul! Can't you sympathize with Hamas, like always?!" (Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egypt, July 10, 2014)
'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' Editor: Hamas Trades In The Blood Of Its People
Salman Al-Dosari, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, claimed that Hamas trades in the blood of its people: "Those who follow Israel's attacks on Gaza are flabbergasted by the limited number of Israeli losses versus the vast number on the Palestinian side. Hamas, for its part, has never published any data on its enemy's losses. Nobody [in Hamas] is asking if the loss of [Palestinian] life is justified. [Hamas considers it] more important to encourage the voices [calling out] the slogan of resistance, which sounds nice but does not take into account the horrible consequences.
"[The story of Hamas] is the story of Hassan Nasrallah and his resistance to Israel, which ended in the destruction of half of Lebanon [in 2006]... When has Hamas ever stopped trading in the blood of its people?!"
Salman Al-Dosari (image: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 13, 2014)
Saudi Writer: Beware The 'Savage Leaders' Of Hamas, MB
Saudi columnist Nasser Al-Sarami lashed out at Hamas and urged his readers not to be fooled by the slogans of jihadi organizations such as Hamas and the MB: "The same sights are repeating themselves in Gaza once again: an abduction followed by mutual rocket fire, which triggers an Israeli invasion of Gaza. The result is always dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded from among the weak Palestinians, and minimal damage on the Israeli side... We are all with the victimized Palestinian people, but no-one in his right mind can watch all this killing and blood and praise slogans that do not protect against bombings or prevent invasions...
"[We see] the same mistakes, exploitation and recriminations regarding the incompetence of others, while the calculations of the so-called [Muslim] Brotherhood or jihadi movement or the resistance are irrational and illogical, and are not based on reality. This is nothing but a failed display of metal sheets flying through the air and landing randomly somewhere inside Israel...
"While the poor, defenseless people... stand exposed to rockets and tanks, the jihadi and Brotherhood leaderships flee to the fortified holes they prepared for themselves. This, in addition to the leaderships that are based in countries outside the conflict zone, hundreds of miles away... This is the [Muslim] Brotherhood, the leaders of Hamas and the savage organizations. Beware of them!"
Saudi Journalist: Hamas Is Sacrificing The People Of Gaza
Dr. Amal 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Hazzani, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote in a similar vein that Hamas sacrifices the people of Gaza while falsely claiming victory over Israel. "Adding fuel to the fire of the Gaza victims is the repeated media hypocrisy and the disgusting tear-jerking speeches that we don't stop hearing every time Hamas decides to sacrifice some of the people of Gaza. Only rarely do they speak the truth. The Arab street doesn't want to hear anything aside from curses against Israel, and that is easy, because we've been cursing it for over 60 years. But what is disheartening is that the blood of the Gazans has become a bargaining chip in the hands of [Binyamin] Netanyahu and Khaled Mash'al…
"The Arabs titter on Twitter when they see a picture of Israeli soldiers hitting the ground as a missile passes, although this is natural behavior. They also laugh at the reports that Israelis rush to take cover in the shelters. This, while the Israeli bombings pulverize the Palestinians' homes over their heads and they die under the ruins... They laugh in derision [when they read] reports about Iron Dome missing a Qassam missile – but what they fail to realize is that this dome is a strategic project in whose development the [Israeli] government invested without stint, and which has so far intercepted over 85% of the missiles [fired] from Gaza, and this percentage is expected to climb. Let the numbers talk and clarify how many dead and wounded there are on each side, so tomorrow one of these sides [i.e., Hamas] does not emerge to declare a divine victory despite the corpses of the Gaza children."
Syrian Ba'th Party Communiqué: Some Hamas Leaders Are Abandoning The Resistance In Favor Of American Interests
Hamas also came in for criticism in Syria, which has expelled the movement's leaders from Damascus due to its support of the anti-Assad rebellion. For example, a communiqué issued by the national leadership of Syria's ruling Ba'th party stated that the Hamas leadership, just like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, had abandoned resistance and was collaborating with the American plan to promote chaos in Syria. It said: "What whetted the Zionist entity's appetite [to commit] this aggression [in Gaza] was [its desire to] exploit the fact that some Hamas leaders recently left their cause in the hands of the extremist leaders of Arab reactionary [forces], and, on orders from the MB gang that ruled Egypt at the time, signed a contemptible MB-brokered 12-year ceasefire with the Zionist enemy. These [Hamas] leaders intended to abandon the resistance plan in order to turn to the American 'constructive chaos' technique and use it against Syria, the genuine supporter of resistance... The true fighters in Gaza rejected everything aside from cleaving to the resistance option, in stark contrast to a few [Hamas] leaders who speak to the Palestinian people from the palaces of Doha, located only a few hundred meters from the American [army] base."
Saudi Columnist: The MB – An Organization Founded By The British And Cultivated By The U.S.
Salim 'Aboud, a columnist on the pro-regime news website sma-syria.com, claimed that, as long as Mash'al was based in Qatar, a country that collaborates with the West, this raised doubts about him and his movement. He also attacked the MB, accusing it of seeking to destroy the Arab world. He wrote: "Khaled Mash'al's presence in Damascus awarded him a certificate of good conduct, and portrayed him as a fighter in the resistance axis not only to the Palestinian Arab public but to the entire world. However, his presence in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the major American bases in the region are located and in whose palaces the Israeli and Western intelligence cells nest, [is a fact that], in itself, raises numerous questions regarding Mash'al and the Hamas organization.
"It should be emphasized that Khaled Mash'al is nothing more than a member of an organization called the Muslim Brotherhood, set up by British intelligence and currently cultivated by the United States. The old-new task that has been entrusted to [the MB is] to destroy the Arab world under glittering headlines and false slogans. Let Khaled Mash'al tell us: Is Doha a capital of surrender or a capital of resistance?…
"What is happening in Gaza is painful to Syria and saddens the Syrians. If the Gazans are currently fighting the Zionist enemy, they are doing so with the weapons that Syria provided to all the resistance factions, including Hamas, rather than with Qatari, Saudi, Gulf or Turkish weapons."
Mash'al lives a life of luxury in Qatar (images: Sma-syria.com, July 11, 2014)
Syrian Columnist: Hamas Has Lost Its Glamour As A Fighting Organization
'Ali Al-Siwan, a columnist for the official daily Teshreen, claimed that Mash'al was willing to make concessions to Israel because of the latter's support for the "political Islam" camp, namely the MB. "When Khaled Mash'al said [to Israel], 'if you retract [the 2012 understandings] then we will too,' his voice was hoarse. He did not sound the way he did during the Israeli attack on December 27, 2008... Mash'al leaves the initiative for escalation or calm in Israel's hands... The dramatic nature of his position stems from the fact that Hamas is part of the political Islam that begat ISIS's caliphate state...
"Khaled Mash'al's statement – 'if you retract [the understandings] then we will too' – conceals a large measure of willingness to negotiate with Israel. This means that Hamas is gradually slipping down the scale of concessions – a decline that feeds off the regional momentum of backing down from national responsibility regarding the central national Arab cause, [namely] Palestine!... The question is mainly posed to Hamas and its political bureau. [Hamas] has repositioned itself in the political Islam camp, thus losing its former prestige as a combative organization, greatly reducing Palestine's ability to recruit [support], and downgrading it to the level of [an organization fighting] a border dispute."