Since the so-called Arab Spring gained momentum throughout the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, there has been a more turbulent relationship between two rival Islamist organizations that have aligned their history: the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah and the Sunni movement Palestinian Hamas.
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood under former president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, which did not last long, led Hamas to consolidate its ties with Cairo, causing a growing divergence that caused a rift between Hamas on one side and Hezbollah and their allies traditionally associated with Iran and Syria on the other.
Only a short time ago, the two Islamic resistance groups began to seek a rapprochement.
This shift can be attributed to the aspiration of both Hezbollah and Hamas to maintain their positions of influence in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories respectively.
FLEXIBLE INTERPRETATIONS OF ISLAMIC RESISTANCE
Hizbollah and Hamas emerged in the 1980s, each of which considers itself an Islamic militant organization, and have long been allies, but differ in their religious orientation.
The political ideology of Hezbollah is closely linked to the concept of the mandate of the jurist, launched by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran.
According to this concept, an eminent Islamic jurisprudent with absolute authority should assume the position of supreme political leader of the Islamic state awaiting the return of the Twelfth Imam, who is believed to have been present in the absence under the doctrine of the Twelfth Shia.
Hamas is a Sunni organization whose political ideology is based on the views of the Muslim Brotherhood, who see Islam as the solution to political and social problems.
This is clearly demonstrated by the basic slogan “Islam is the solution” that has been repeatedly used by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in its campaigns.
Despite their differences in religious opinions, Hamas and Hezbollah share certain convictions, namely the acceptance of ijtihad, a rational interpretation of the fundamental Islamic sources that help to make their political thinking adaptable.
As a result, neither Hezbollah nor Hamas will accept basic Islamic sources in a literal or coherent manner, but will be reinterpreted.
Furthermore, the concept of resistance has been a central element in the identity of the two organizations since their inception.
Three factors played a crucial role in the emergence of Hezbollah: first, Shiite Muslims in Lebanon were marginalized economically and politically in the post-independence period and therefore responded to the revolutionary ideas of Shiite Islamism, which began to expand in the country since the 70s.
Secondly, the Iranian revolution in 1979 had a catalytic effect on the development of Hezbollah, to which Tehran provided financial and military support since its early days.
Hezbollah, in turn, was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising and soon began to present itself as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that had established an extensive network in the Palestinian territories since the 1940s.
The concept of Hezbollah and Hamas is superimposed on resistance in two ways:
the two organizations directly link resistance to the fight against Israel, and both have a military wing operating outside the Lebanese state in the case of Hezbollah and outside the PA in the case of Hamas.
Military resistance is the most important aspect of the resistance identity of Hezbollah and Hamas.
The possession and maintenance of independent military capabilities is a fundamental objective of the two organizations, as it allows them to maintain their positions of influence.
Furthermore, Hezbollah and Hamas claim to be engaged in non-military resistance, placing them in the context of cultural or political resistance.
Despite the similarities between the Hezbollah and Hamas concepts on resistance, there are differences in the interpretation and application of the two organizations to this concept.
These differences are not related to their Shiite or Sunni Islamic political beliefs, respectively, insofar as they are related to the contexts in which they operate and the strategic interests they seek.
This dynamic radiated flexibility in their perceptions of resistance, both adapted to changing environments while attempting to legitimize their practices and maintain an independent position in armament.
HEZBOLLAH: REINTERPRETING THE RESISTANCE TO KEEP INFLUENCE
Since its foundation, Hezbollah has redefined its concept of resistance several times.
Initially, the party described the resistance target as the liberation of southern Lebanon from the Israeli occupation, which lasted from 1982 to 2000.
When Israel withdrew unilaterally in May 2000, the party considered this a victory for the resistance and for Lebanon as a whole.
However, the Israeli withdrawal also entailed the risk of abandoning the original justification that Hezbollah used to maintain its weapons.
As a result, the party insisted that Israel was still occupying Lebanese territory, but the Shiite organization also expanded its definition of resistance to include deterrence against Israel, arguing that its weapons would help protect Lebanon from the constant threat Israeli.
Hezbollah even managed to include this dual concept of resistance, liberation and deterrence in the ministerial declaration of the Lebanese government of 2005, the first government to which the party participated.
In 2013, Hezbollah again expanded its concept of resistance between further political changes.
At that time, the party was officially involved in the Syrian conflict in support of President Bashar al-Assad, in a decision contrary to the long-standing affirmation of the party that was fighting for the oppressed.
Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, has reformulated the organization’s resistance concept by describing military operations as a battle against the threat posed by Salafi jihadists.
Therefore, he said that party interference in Syria would contribute to Lebanon’s stability.
Reinterpreting the resistance based on changing circumstances, Hezbollah managed to maintain room for maneuver.
Adapting to new threats to legitimize its military agenda in the eyes of its grassroots base, as well as in the eyes of other groups in Lebanon, an important step in a divided society.
Furthermore, by reinterpreting the dynamics of resistance, Hezbollah managed to maintain its military wing and, consequently, its influence in Lebanon.
HAMAS: RESISTANCE AS A STRATEGY FOR CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
Hamas has made little changes to its basic concept of resistance since its foundation in 1987.
But like Hezbollah, he used the idea of resistance in a flexible way.
He focused on the resistance, or on the concentration on the situation, especially in the delicate circumstances, such as during the Palestinian elections, when Hamas assumed the responsibilities of the government, as well as its attempts to reconcile with its rival, the secular Fatah movement.
(Fatah controls the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and recognizes Israel in 1993 in the context of the Oslo Accords).
Some specific examples deserve to be highlighted.
References to the resistance largely missed Hamas’ political program in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections.
During the election campaign, Hamas tried to attract a large segment of voters from various political fields in the Palestinian territories, which do not support the military struggle against Israel.
In contrast, Hamas used the concept of resistance in a very different way after taking military control of Gaza in 2007.
The movement has institutionalized resistance within the framework of the political sector. His armed wing, the brigades of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, became responsible for ensuring the external stability of the political system in Gaza against both Israel and Fatah, as well as internal stability in the face of violent Salafist groups.
The Hamas government in Gaza recognizes the difficulty of being in government and in a resistance movement.
On this basis, Hamas has made a distinction between tactical resistance and strategic resistance.
While Hamas tactically accepted the premise of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, the movement is still strategically seeking the liberation of all of Palestine on the basis of pre-1948 borders. This distinction between Hamas tactics and strategy allows control of spasms. which are an integral part of his dual role in Gaza.
In the context of adapting its concept of resistance to different situations, Hamas has also launched the concept of popular resistance.
This idea was raised for the first time in 2011, after the reconciliation talks with Fatah, and its only leader is Khaled Meshaal, head of the Hamas political office.
Meshaal saw popular resistance as a non-violent civil war aimed at Israel, the popular dimension of this approach was linked to the demonstrations that hit the Arab world at the time.
This position was intended to show Hamas’s willingness to compromise with Fatah, who embarked on diplomacy rather than armed resistance.
In early 2018, Hamas revived the idea of popular resistance, coinciding with the massive return to Gaza, of the Gaza Strip, initiated by Palestinian civil society activists.
Supporters of this initiative have demanded that the Palestinians return to the 1948 territories.
Hamas made a significant appeal to the Palestinians to peacefully join these moves.
In contrast to the concept of popular resistance, the document of principles and policies launched by Hamas in 2017 – the first political document published by the movement from its letter of 1988 – highlights the fact that armed resistance remains the main objective of the movement .
At the same time, the document explains that escalation or reduction of resistance is part of the conflict management strategy.
It is true that armed resistance is the key element in the Hamas approach, however, when other forms of resistance, such as popular resistance, contribute to strengthening the position of the movement inside or outside the Palestinian territories, Hamas deliberately focuses on it rather than armed resistance.
A TRANSARNAL ALLIANCE OF SEARISM JOINTS TO THE PARTIES
Hezbollah and Hamas have long been close allies.
Before the Arab uprisings in 2011, the two sides were joining political and military cooperation and close alignment with Iran and Syria.
Historically, Hezbollah has prevailed in the partnership, providing military training to Hamas fighters, formulating political recommendations to the movement and encouraging its media platforms to support Hamas and the Palestinian cause.
The relationship between the two organizations was so solid that many senior Hamas officials occupied offices and residences in the southern suburb of Beirut, known as Hezbollah’s stronghold.
The party’s influence on Hamas has been fundamentally rooted in its closer ties with Iran and in its ability to form an important link between Hamas and Teheran.
Before 2011, Hezbollah and Hamas also collaborated on a broader alliance with Iran and Syria, which is the center of resistance or resistance.
The axis of resistance was not based on sectarian bases, but rather on the orientations of its joint members against the West and Israel, and their criticism of the friendly alignment that links some Arab countries with the United States.
However, members of the resistance axis were able to pursue their goals independently, as long as they adhere to the broader framework and orientation of the Alliance.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas received military and financial aid from Iran.
Iranian support took on special significance for Hamas following the international economic embargo and the political isolation imposed on the movement after winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.
This support became more vital when Hamas militarily conquered Gaza in 2007.
THE SEPARATION OF HAMAS FROM THE RESISTANCE AXIS
After the Syrian uprising that broke out in March 2011, it turned into a large-scale war between protesters and the regime, there was a rift between Hamas on one side and the Syrian leadership and resistance on the other.
The first signs of this divergence emerged in the first half of 2012, when Hamas began to publicly criticize the Assad regime for resorting to military repression against the Syrian opposition.
When the conflict intensified, Hamas moved his political office from Damascus (where it had been founded since 1999) to the Doha capital of Qatar.
These decisions have raised differences of opinion within the movement.
The Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades expressed their particular dissatisfaction with having left Syria, because the move caused a sharp drop in the financial and military support that Iran was supplying to Gaza, and in particular to the wing military.
But apart from Assad’s violent response to the Syrian opposition, Hamas’s decision to break with Syria was fundamentally linked to regional developments, particularly in Egypt.
The rise of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood eventually led the Hamas movement to sever its ties with Syria and the rest of the resistance.
It should be noted that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is the mother organization of the Hamas movement, which has been considered to be of great benefit, politically and economically, by the arrival of the Muslim Brother in power in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.
Hamas hopes that a close alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood would strengthen its international legitimacy and put an end to the economic and political isolation of Gaza.
It was expected that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would replace their former allies, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
After Hamas broke away from the resistance axis, the cooperation between it and Hezbollah fell into the lower gendarmerie.
While the contacts continued at a low level, the two sides exchanged public criticisms of secession.
Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council stressed that Hezbollah’s military support for the Assad regime has nothing to do with resistance, warning that the party will lose its credibility in the Arab world. 2
In contrast, Hezbollah accused Hamas of betraying the cause of resistance against Israel and was very close to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 3
Despite the deterioration of relations for a while, relations between Hezbollah and Hamas improved in the first half of 2017.
Since then, meetings have been renewed between senior officials on both sides, particularly the October 31, 2017 meeting, Hassan Nasrallah, deputy head of Hamas’ political office, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut.
This reconciliation came on the back of the rapprochement between Hamas and Iran.
The main reason behind this change was the overthrow of former Egyptian President Morsi “in a military coup” in July 2013.
After this change of government, a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood was launched, and Hamas was in a critical position.
Egypt has closed its borders with Gaza, so it is very difficult for Hamas to manage the sector and meet the needs of the Palestinians, despite receiving financial support from Qatar.
We indicate that the Qatari have supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and remained the second most important sponsor of Hamas (after Iran) in Gaza after 2006.
changes in the political leadership of Hamas in 2017 have allowed the movement to relaunch its relations with Iran.
First, in February 2017, Yahya al-Sunwar was elected as the new head of Hamas’ political leadership in Gaza, the founder of the movement’s military wing, and has considerable support among its ranks.
He is also considered an intransigent and refuses a two-state solution with Israel.
He spent more than 20 years in Israeli prisons until he was released with a prisoner exchange agreement in 2011.
In 2015, the United States added it to the list of global terrorists.
Because of close ties with the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades, Hamas found it easier to normalize its relations with the Iranians.
Secondly, in May 2017, Ismail Haniyeh was elected as the new head of Hamas’ political office.
He replaced the veteran leader Khaled Meshaal, who was considered moderate.
After the election of Haniyeh, the Political Bureau, traditionally located outside the Palestinian territories, was transferred from Qatar to Gaza.
The reconciliation between Hezbollah and Hamas benefits both organizations, especially Hamas.
The renewed relations gave him the opportunity to limit his isolation and the consequences of his fatal decision to support the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the axis of resistance.
The resumption of friendly relations could also help alleviate the dire humanitarian and economic conditions in Gaza.
But despite the benefits of this rapprochement, Hamas has learned from his past mistakes and is now trying to avoid going too far by relying on a partner again.
For this reason, despite the relaunching of ties with Iran and Hezbollah, Hamas has recently improved its relations with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Hezbollah also reported reconciliation with Hamas.
In recent years, the party has lost its popularity and legitimacy in the Arab world.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2014 found that the percentage of respondents across the region who expressed opinions unfavorable to Hezbollah increased significantly between 2007 and 2014 – from 41 to 83 percent in Egypt, from 44 to 81 in Jordan, and from 20 to 55 percent in the Palestinian territories.
Interestingly, Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria probably played a part in the decline in popularity.
The survey showed that the popularity of Hamas in the Middle East and North Africa declined between 2013 and 2014.
Despite these potential complications, Hezbollah hopes that reconciliation with Hamas will give it greater legitimacy to Arabs outside the Lebanese Shiite community, since Hamas shares Sunni roots with the majority of Arabs and that the Palestinian cause continues to enjoy considerable support throughout the Middle East.
The Shiite Islamist group, Hezbollah, should help it approach the Sunni Hamas movement to get rid of the sectarian stigma that has been stigmatized since it made its decision to provide military support to the Assad al-Assad regime in Syria.
But it is likely that Hamas will avoid approaching Hezbollah and Iran as it was before 2011.
In the last year, in particular, Hamas has sought to maintain greater independence by building ties with, or maintaining rivalry with, different (sometimes conflicting) countries, including Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar, Algeria and Malaysia. .
It is interesting to note that Yahya al-Sunwar, who has long been considered pro-Iranian, has worked pragmatically to strengthen relations with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
There is no doubt that the relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas will continue to be important to both sides, but it is likely that Hamas will try to maintain at least some room for maneuver in some way.