A Hamas Ideologue Bares His Movement’s Secret Designs and Dilemmas
Since elected to rule the Palestinians, the leaders of Hamas sound sometimes as though they are talking in different voices – depending on the place and occasion. While one appears to accept 1967 borders, another stands by the “right of refugees” (1948) to return” – another formula for Israel’s destruction, like the demand for a Palestinian state ranging from “the river to the sea.”
The tactic is transparent: Hamas, a designated Islamic terror group whose politburo chief resides in Damascus hopes to disarm the more susceptible countries of the West by apparently confused signals to end its government’s isolation and get frozen financial aid back on stream.
But in their internal discourse, Hamas’ policy-makers are unwaveringly consistent in their aims.
Prof. Abdel al Sather Qassam, university lecturer at Nablus a-Najah University, is a little-known figure to the outside world. However Israeli intelligence rates him as Hamas’ senior strategic ideologue and a highly influential voice in the Palestinian terror movement at large.
Last week, he gave a group of leaders of the umbrella terrorist coalition in Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees leader, by video broadcast from Nablus, a stern talking-to with some important new guidelines. One member of his audience was Jemal Semhadana, the PRC chief who was recently appointed commander of the new Hamas security service. Israeli intelligence monitors routinely listened in to the broadcast. debkafile runs the gist of the Hamas professor’s briefing – obtained from our intelligence sources – because of his unusual frankness and the relevance of his guidelines for the immediate future.
Prof. Qassam makes no distinction between Palestinian organizations, whether leftist, jihadist or semi-criminal, treating them as a single military force which, he maintains, for the war on Israel is a single entity which operates in unison.
He admits to severe damage sustained by the Palestinian armed movement in the past year as a result of by systematic IDF military operations in Palestinian areas and the hindrance posed by Israel’s West Bank Wall (still only partially built.) According to the Hamas academic, the wall shot a large hole in the balance of terror the Palestinians had gained through its suicide terror attacks.
Al Qassam puts his finger on the Palestinian terror movement’s primary predicament, the inability to make the transition from terror attacks to guerilla warfare. He reproves the Palestinians for their childish and primitive grasp of the nature of guerrilla war, because of which ” We (the Palestinians) of all the organizations share the same difficulty in mounting a challenge to Israel from the West Bank.”
Dipping into history, the professor draws a comparison between the 1948 war, which was fought in Palestinian towns and neighborhoods, and the current conflict, which is being fought by Palestinians in Israel towns. If the Palestinians hope seriously to achieve a balance of strength with Israel, they must quickly restore the balance of fear and terror”. To illustrate the point, he remarked: “Each 100 kilos of explosives brought into an Israeli town is equivalent to hundreds of thousands of tons of IDF ordnance.”
“See what happened in 1996,” he says. “The 50 kilos of explosives Hamas managed to bring into and blow up in Tel Aviv, sent all the world’s leaders, those of Israel and Arab states, running to Sharm el-Sheikh.”
The Hamas ideologue regrets that today, this ten-year old method would not have the same effect. Today, we are not just up against Israel, but “the army of informers and collaborators which swamps the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The Nablus academic makes three suggestions to overcome this difficulty:
1. Disband all the Palestinian security organs; they were originally created by the Americans and British for collaboration with Israel.
2. Leave only the police to enforce law and order and no other security service.
3. Send all the armed Palestinian organizations (terrorist groups) underground, reverting to their mode of operation before the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed. “No resistance movement can survive if it is not under cover; no war can be effective in the open,” Prof Qassem intones. He ridicules the recent flamboyant street marches of masked men armed to the teeth and firing off rounds in the air and dismisses them as “fools and ignoramuses – or traitors.”
His most emphatic injunction is this: “We can only attain effective strikes against Israel as a clandestine force” fighting from the dark.
With regard to the Palestinian missile offensive, the Hamas academic has this to say: “The Palestinians’ biggest mistake was to start the Qassam missiles campaign against Israel from the Gaza Strip, instead of from the West Bank. We suffer more damage from these missiles than the Israelis, but the shock we inflict on them is equal to the damage and losses we suffer.” Now he urges the original mistake corrected by moving the missile offensive to the West Bank with all speed.
In the Hamas ideologue’s view, the Palestinian missiles miss their mark because their warheads are too weak and their aim inaccurate. It is important now to focus on obtaining missiles or rockets with improved range, precision and explosive power.
(This injunction to Hamas was the source of last week’s warning by Maj.-Gen Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence AMAN, that Hamas is engaged in an intense effort to develop home-made Grad rockets which are more accurate than the Qassam missiles and whose of 20-22 km is almost double.
Professor Qassam ends his speech on a regional note: He diagnoses the changes overtaking the Middle East at present as inimical to Israel and the United States.
“America deployed its most superior military force in Iraq – and finds itself on the defensive across a broad region from Pakistan to Palestine. Iran stands at the center, wielding its nuclear program as an instrument for defying the world order America seeks to dictate.”
The Hamas ideologue is certain the scales are weighted against the United States and Israel.
For the time being, the Palestinian academic’s advice to Hamas is to let matters be – only directing an occasional placatory statement towards the West and Israel. This period of calm, he asserts, is destined to blow up in a huge explosion, which the Palestinians are busily preparing.