Good Relations with Hamas Advance Moscow’s Desire for Involvement in the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Feb. 14 2019

Although an official visit to the Kremlin by Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s senior leader, has been postponed, the Russian foreign ministry has made clear that it will host him another time. And Haniyeh’s intended visit should come as no surprise, since his predecessor, Khaled Meshal, was a regular guest in Moscow. Micky Aharonson explains how staying on cordial terms with the terrorist group fits into Russia’s broader Middle East strategy.

Unlike the United States and the European Union, Russia doesn’t regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. Russia’s stance is that Hamas’s rule in Gaza is legitimate since the organization was democratically elected. . . . Just several weeks ago, Russia voted against a U.S. proposal in the UN to condemn Hamas terrorist activities. Moscow then went a step farther by actively seeking to broker talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Russia’s stance regarding Hamas is based on a general strategy of bolstering anti-Western movements, especially those that are anti-American. This approach dates back decades, to when the USSR supported [America’s adversaries] in Vietnam and Afghanistan. This policy reflects Russia’s “zero-sum-game” [rationale that], wherever the U.S. is present, Russia is by default excluded. Wherever Russia can increase its influence, U.S. influence must therefore be reduced. Indeed, Russia is making headway in regions and countries where the U.S. is in the process of shrinking its involvement, [such as] Libya and Syria. . . .

Another reason for Russia’s support of Hamas is Moscow’s longstanding desire to take a leading role in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As an interim measure, Russia is working to promote intra-Palestinian reconciliation among the various factions. . . . Moscow views its roles in intra-Palestinian and Israel-Palestinian affairs as important to strengthening its position in the Arab and Muslim worlds. . . .

After meeting in June 2018 with Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chairman of the Hamas politburo, the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced that Moscow would not [accept] the anticipated Trump administration peace plan, . . . but instead advance plans of its own. [This decision] serves the interests of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Russia is [likewise] trying to focus the international community’s attention on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, arguing that a solution to the conflict is crucial to the stability of the entire Middle East.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat