While Israel was observing Holocaust Remembrance on Monday, the US was celebrating the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, seen to be a huge success for the US Administration and a victory for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The news certainly brought a very patriotic mood to New York, and according to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, “New York City’s spirits has never been stronger.”
Hamas, fresh off its reconciliation agreement with Fatah, made a statement condemning the killing of what they call a “holy warrior.” Most Islamic countries have not made statements about the killing, however the Jerusalem Post reported that an anonymous official in Yemen expressed hopes that his death would “root our terrorism.”
Surely Hamas’ statement will not gain them favor with the US Administration, which has reiterated that they see it as a terrorist group whose unwillingness to recognize Israel is unacceptable. Hamas could have chosen to remain quiet with its discontent, or it could have expressed that it would have been better for the US to have brought him to trial – but it didn’t, so it has necessarily aligned itself with the more radical Islamic groups who have denounced the killing and even vowed its revenge.
It is perplexing that Hamas chose to do this at a time when the international community is hopeful for its potential to unite the Palestinians, moderate its positions and cooperate with the Palestinian Authority towards a peace agreement with Israel. Furthermore, I doubt that condemning Bin Laden’s death improves its standing among Palestinians in Gaza, who are more interested in jobs and security.
Maybe Hamas leaders think the stance will find favor with the countries that support them, such as Iran and Syria – but Syria is currently in hot water, and its government recently asked Hamas’s leadership there to leave the country due to its silence – seen as compliance – during the popular uprisings. Either way, as things look right now, Khaled Mashal will likely need to relocate and if Hamas wants to avoid being looked upon as another Mubarak or Assad, it is going to have to think about how to align itself – especially once it signs the reconciliation agreement with Abu Mazen on Thursday in Cairo.
As Israel continues to build itself the reputation of being obstinate and taking actions that preclude any chance for a two-state solution, Hamas has the opportunity to change its image to one of rationalism. While both American and Israeli authorities are on high alert fearing possible attacks in revenge of Bin Laden’s killing, it would be wise of Hamas to take the opportunity to concentrate more on ending the Occupation and building a Palestinian state for its people, than on not recognizing a country that already exists.