The Middle East: Bin Laden’s death – a telling statement from Hamas and nervous silence from Egypt and Jordan

From The Middle East the reactions came quickly from two of the actors – Israel and the Palestinian authority. From Prime Minister Netanyahu – “resounding victory for justice, freedom, and the values shared by all democratic countries fighting shoulder to shoulder against terror.” and “the State of Israel shares the joy of the American people on this historical day, that of bin Laden’s ouster.” Israeli President Peres stated that “bin Laden was the great murderers and was destined to be hanged. This is a great achievement for the American security establishment, a great achievement for the U.S. president, this is a great achievement to the free world.”

“Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods — the violent methods — that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world,” PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.

After, and probably as a reaction to that of the PA Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued a telling statement: “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.” Although Haniyeh noted doctrinal differences with bin Laden’s al-Qaida he added that “we condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

With this statement from the’ liberal’ part of Hamas one can only come to the conclusion that it cannot be viewed as anything but terrorists that the world would be better without. And if there are some (and there are…) who would like to frame it that Hamas is a moderate group of Islamists, think again. This statement will also plays into the hands of extremist, religious and otherwise, in Israel and elsewhere that who would likes nothing more then paint Islam as the roots of terrorism.

The attempt by the PA to get the UN member states to recognise Palestine as a state in the UN General Assembly will, by the statement from Hamas and the deal between the PA and Hamas face more effective resistance from Israel. It is still highly likely that the PA will receive a majority in UNGA, but that they will loose some states that are currently ‘on the fence’. We are mainly talking about EU-members, Canada, Australia and Japan. But for Palestine to be added as a full member to the UN is has also to be recommended by the Security Council. If any of the five permanent members veto or if the necessary nine votes in favour are not met, it does not happen. And to achieve this PA needs every vote that they can get, especially from the EU. A weak support in UNGA will make it so much more easy for USA to use its veto on behave of Israel.

No state in the Arab world can be seen as friendly to Bin Laden and his ideology. But where is the rest of the Arab world? When we are met with a stunning silence to his death of Bin Laden should we start to worry? The oh-so-quite from Egypts caretakers government, the silence from Jordan ?

I think we should not put to much stock into this silence. It does not mean the Egypt and Jordan are secret supports of Bin Laden, but it is instead a signal that these two Arab governments are nervous and weak. They are waiting for possible reactions to Bin Ladens death from its respective populations before making any announcement. This lack is backbone can also be seen as an indication, from the perspective of Arab governments, as to the level of dislike that they perceive exist in parts of their populations to USA and the growing strength of religious extremists.


About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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