Arabs see Gaza war stoppage as Hamas victory despite destruction

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Arab reactions to what seems to be the end of the Gaza war, for now, has been schizophrenic in that there has been widespread condemnation of Israel’s attacks and the resulting destruction in response to Hamas rocket fire, but pride and claims of victory for the Islamist movement.

Key Hamas backer, Qatar, through the popular Al Jazeera media channel supported Hamas’s narrative since the latest conflict in Gaza began, with its website continually leading with pictures of Palestinian victims and alleged Israeli atrocities.

The Al Jazeera website carried the tag, “Gaza triumphs” for articles dealing with the war.

According to an advanced copy of a report provided to The Jerusalem Post by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), the channel’s pro- Hamas stance was demonstrated by its reporters, hosts and anchors on social media.

Ahmed Mansour, host of Al Jazeera’s Without Borders program, wrote a statement on Facebook on July 9 that still appears to adequately demonstrate the pride that many Arabs have for the group in its ability to stand up to Israel.

“Israel is stupefied and confounded by the rockets of the Palestinian resistance that struck deep in Israel and reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, despite the siege of Gaza by [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi and his government…” Mansour wrote.

“If the resistance is provided with arms and allowed to deal with the cowardly, petrified and stunned Israel, then Israelis will either live in shelters or flee the country,” he boasted.

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which tends to support Hezbollah and the Iran axis, ran a headline including a similar phrase to Al Jazeera’s: “Gaza Triumphant.”

Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, told the Post on Wednesday that “a sharp divide has opened up between the so-called ‘moderate’ Arab governments – which want to see Hamas destroyed more than Israel does – and Arab publics which see Israel as the primary aggressor and sympathize, to one degree or another, with Hamas.”

Hamid, the author of the book Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, believes that the Middle East has reverted back to the time, before the Arab uprisings, “when Arab public opinion could be ignored at will with insulated Arab strongmen at the helm.”

“What everyone can probably agree on though is that Hamas turned out to be a much more effective fighting force than was expected, and, of course, that Hamas wasn’t destroyed,” he said.

“Hamas’s survival will be spun by its leaders as evidence of victory and this is always the challenge in asymmetric warfare: how do you deny victory to groups that don’t conceive of victory in conventional terms?” The key factor, says Hamid, is to what extent Hamas will be able to claim victory by pointing to an easing of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and an improvement in living conditions.

“Hamas has to be able to make the case to its constituents that it was worth it,” he said, adding that the situation is further complicated by the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, predicting it will be difficult for it to be carried out in practice in Gaza.

Taufiq Rahim, a Dubai-based political analyst, told the Post, “The view from the Arab world on the carnage is unanimous in only one way: despair at the death in the streets of Gaza.”

“In all other ways the reaction differs based on whether its from the people or those in power, from the Gulf or the Levant, from the secularists or the Islamists,” said Rahim. “If there is one thing that Hamas has shown it is that the divisions in the region today are as sharp as ever.”

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